I have seen a few examples where one uses an infinitive with the pronoun es.

Namely, in the movie Downfall (Der Untergang), Hitler says:

Es bleiben im Raum: Keitel, Jodl, Krebs und Burgdorf.

Never before the day I watched that movie, had I ever seen an infinitive used with es. Could someone explain he chose bleiben over the finite-verb bleibt?

  • 1
    I just added the full quote. Beyond that, he didn't say anything that pertains to the question. He was addressing four people, and said "Es bleiben im Raum..." then listed the names of the four people as I added to the question a few seconds ago.
    – Dustin
    May 27, 2013 at 9:06
  • 1
    now it makes more sense and it is gramatically correct. can't say you why, but bleiben is mostly used for a undefined timespan if theres no additional note about timespan (Sie bleiben bis Montag). Es is a special case, i dont think theres a grammatical explenation for that
    – Postback
    May 27, 2013 at 9:11
  • Thank you, although I still don't understand why the infinitive was used, and not the finite form that agrees with the subject.
    – Dustin
    May 27, 2013 at 9:13

2 Answers 2


It is not the infinitive form, but present tense, 3rd person, plural:

Keitel, Jodl, Krebs und Burgdorf bleiben im Raum.

"Es" is only used as a syntactic expletive and not as a subject.

  • Thanks! I still don't fully grasp the concept, however. Is this type of construct only used in the imperative?
    – Dustin
    May 27, 2013 at 9:53
  • I'd like to Google it for more information but the search terms I've tried have produced no results.
    – Dustin
    May 27, 2013 at 10:01
  • 1
    I feel "It rains" is related.
    – wnrph
    May 27, 2013 at 10:51
  • 2
    @Dustin: The concept behind simply is end focus (of the short list of people). It works the same way as in English: "X, Y and Z are staying behind." can also be changed to "Staying behind are X, Y and Z." (Although this variant is not used very often.) In German, you need the "es" for syntactic reasons. Both in German and English this construction tends to have a bureucratic or military ring to it.
    – Mac
    May 27, 2013 at 11:15
  • 1
    The word order is modified to emphasize the action instead of the subject and does not necessarily contribute to the commanding mode. Independent of the word order, the speaker talks about other persons in the present tense in the expectation that what he is saying will be done. You can find similar constructs in English as well, e.g. when a parent says to its child: "You are staying in your room." Even if the statement is not expressed as a grammatical imperative ("Stay in your room!"), it is to be understood as a command.
    – jarnbjo
    May 27, 2013 at 16:56

Ich bleibe
Du bleibst
Er-Sie-Es bleibt
Wir bleiben
Ihr bleibt
Sie bleiben

It's not completely obvious but @jarnbjo's 3rd person plural rule is the correct explanation.

"Es fehlen zwei Karten. Schaut doch noch mal unterm Sofa nach." -- That is just a descriptive statement.

"Es glauben mehr Menschen an Gott als an ...."

"Es fahren nach Mitternacht keine Züge mehr."

In the context of the movie scene, the construct is used as an imperative, i.e. an order.

"Es bleiben im Raum: Keitl, " etc.

It's not an unusual construction at all. The shift foreman will frequently use it like this.

"Es sind morgen in der Frühschicht: Müller, Berger und Schmitz. Die anderen können ausschlafen."

  • the imperative is only implied though... grammatically this is just a description of the situation. As such it is not any different from the other examples you gave.
    – Emanuel
    May 27, 2013 at 16:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.