The following sentences, which I have taken from some simple texts, appear be about the existence (or non-existence) of something:

Heute ist viel Verkehr.

In meinem Kurs sind acht Schülerinnen und fünf Schüler.

Heute gibt es Hähnchen. Das nehme ich.

Es gibt keine Eintrittskarten mehr.

Dort gibt es günstige Angebote.

Es gibt viele Probleme auf der Welt.

Die Fahrkarten gibt es nur am Automaten.

The first two sentences use a construction with the verb sein; the remainder use es gibt. Could they just as easily be switched around without altering the meaning? Could the idea in the second sentence, for example, have been expressed as

In meinem Kurs gibt es acht Schülerinnen und fünf Schüler.

Could the idea in the final sentence have been expressed as:

Die Fahrkarten sind nur am Automaten.

If the answer is that they could have been expressed using the alternative construction, what might influence a native speaker to put an idea one way rather than the other?

1 Answer 1


No, those constructions cannot be used in exchange for another.

In some of your examples, es gibt indicates that someone gets something or that something is provided:

Dort gibt es günstige Angebote.

Es gibt keine Eintrittskarten mehr.

Heute gibt es Hähnchen.

Die Fahrkarten gibt es nur am Automaten.

In these cases, it would be incorrect to replace es gibt with a form of sein.

There is another use case of es gibt, which would be translated as "there is". Here, es gibt could be replaced with a form of sein:

Auf der Welt sind viele Probleme.

However the form with the expletive es (Es sind viele Probleme auf der Welt) is not idiomatic.

  • In the second example the subject is acht Schülerinnen und fünf Schüler; it says something about students, which implies that they exist, but that's not actually stated. In the first example I'm not sure what the subject is, heute or viel Verkehr; the sentence seems strange either way. Regardless, the same logic applies, making a statement about something implies the "something" exists without actually stating it. (In natural language at least, formal logic might be different. Saying things like "If I exist then I am hungry," would get tiresome.)
    – RDBury
    Commented Nov 10, 2020 at 12:50

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