I am a total beginner, and trying to learn some vocabulary, I am confused by use of es in front of "eilig" and am looking for some grammatical rule if it applies to other words also.


2 Answers 2


Tilman Schmidt's answer sums it up pretty well, some additional terminology might be useful though. The es here is what I call the "impersonal es". It doesn't refer to a particular thing but to the general environment, or nothing in particular; sometimes it's just a placeholder. English uses "it" in about the same way, for example: "It's raining today." "It's hard to figure out German grammar." The impersonal es is frequently seen in fixed phrases like this.

The meaning of haben here is derived mainly from other words in the sentence. Verbs used in this way are called light verbs. Both German and English have light verbs, but they don't agree on when they should be used or which verb should be used when they are. For example you can say Ich habe Hunger in German meaning "I'm hungry." Others involving haben are recht haben = "to be right" and zu tun haben = "to be busy". There are many other such phrases involving other verbs; machen is particularly notorious for it in German. I think all phrases involving light verbs qualify as fixed phrases.

In general, a fixed phrase is a phrase whose meaning depends on the exact wording. For example you wouldn't say Ich besitze Hunger to mean "I'm hungry". Fixed phrases often involve confusing or obsolete grammar, or vocabulary that isn't used anywhere else.

  • In my humble opinion, this isn't really from the pronoun and much rather from franchish, wherever it could mean extra. Of course this is meaningless in German and easily reinterpreted in analogy to "Es regnet".
    – vectory
    May 15, 2022 at 9:47
  • @vectory: I'm not sure what you mean by 'franchish', but I agree that the es isn't really a pronoun in this case. Wikipedia calls this kind of thing a Dummy pronoun, though I'm not convinced this is helpful terminology.
    – RDBury
    May 15, 2022 at 10:24

The "es" in the phrase "Hast du es eilig?" is part of the fixed expression "es eilig haben", which means "to be in a hurry". There are other similar fixed expressions like "es warm haben" (to be warm) or "es schwer haben" (to have a difficult time) but no grammatical rule that would allow or even mandate to insert "es" in front of words outside of such expressions.

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