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Looking up the use and examples of “auf etwas Beschlag legen” on dwds.de, I found the following sentence:

Bei seiner Rückkehr wurde er verhaftet, vor ein Gericht gestellt, und auf sein Vermögen wurde Beschlag gelegt.

The overall meaning of the sentence is clear, but the sentence structure is difficult to understand. I think this is because there are words dropped (ellipsis). Here is my attempt to recreate the whole sentence:

Bei seiner Rückkehr wurde er verhaftet, - No words dropped. This is a passive clause in the simple past tense.

[wurde er] vor ein Gericht gestellt – This is also a passive clause in the simple past tense. Since wurde er is repeated, it can be dropped.

Auf sein Vermögen wurde [es] Beschlag gelegt – “Subjectless passive” clause in the simple past tense with es as the dummy-subject. Since es is not in the first position (before wurde), it must be dropped.

Have I got this correct?

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  • 1
    Interesting. I have never heard of the expression auf Beschlag legen before, and without the context I wouldn't have an idea what it (possibly) means. – Björn Friedrich Mar 13 at 13:05
  • Since der Beschlag seems to mean "metal fittings", the closest equivalent I can think of is "to keep smt / someone in irons" (i.e. schackles) – Satish Vasan Mar 13 at 18:17
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Yes, that's correct.

One could argue about whether "Beschlag" is the subject in the last clause. I see how you understand it as part of the predicate, because "Beschlag legen" can be seen as a verbal expression of its own and not just legen plus object Beschlag, and that seems valid to me.

If you add an attribute to Beschlag, it has to be in nominative like "Beschlag" is in this sentence, so for all intents and purposes, you can see it as the subject of the sentence.

Auf sein Vermögen wurde sofortiger Beschlag gelegt.

Other possible word order for this sentence (as you correctly implied):

Es wurde Beschlag auf sein Vermögen gelegt.

The variant

Beschlag wurde auf sein Vermögen gelegt.

which does use "Beschlag" as the subject, does sound a bit odd, but not totally wrong.

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  • Auf sein Vermögen wurde [es] Beschlag gelegt. is wrong. – Olafant Mar 14 at 2:41
  • @Olafant: ... sure, and it says so in the question ("es must be dropped"). I think this is mostly a question on how to teach German grammar. If the "omitted es" helps to understand, I guess it's a valid teaching tool. – HalvarF Mar 14 at 10:22
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I have never heard of the phrase Beschlag legen auf. Might be a regional thing. However Duden lists it as a fixed phrase. 1

In your example phrase the last part could be changed to

Beschlag wurde auf sein Vermögen gelegt.

Beschlag is the subject.

The rest of your analysis is correct.


1) I would rather expect something like

und sein Vermögen wurde beschlagnahmt.

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