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In the following sentence, shouldn't we be using "bleiben" instead? Because "wir bleiben" and hence "uns bleiben"?

Uns bleibt nicht viel Zeit.

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    Not much time is left for us.
    – xngtng
    Jun 26 at 16:02

3 Answers 3

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As RHa mentioned, the conjugation of the verb depends on the subject. The subject is in the nominative case. Uns is the dative or accusative form of wir (in general, in this sentence it's dative), as such it cannot be the subject.

This leaves Zeit. Since Zeit is in singular, we need the third person singular conjugation of bleiben.

This becomes more obvious by rearranging the sentence:

Viel Zeit bleibt uns nicht.

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  • any particular reason to choose one sentence arrangement over the other?
    – njzk2
    Jun 27 at 16:40
  • @njzk2 Not really, German is flexible in terms of sentence arrangements. If one wants to emphasize a particular element, one can put it to the front. But this would go along with tonal inflection, i.e. "Viel Zeit bleibt uns nicht", if you want to stress that there's not much time left and "Uns bleibt nicht viel Zeit" if you want to stress that it's us. That being said, The sentence from the OP is what I feel the "default way" to express it, but I babbled way too much than one should think about it. Jun 27 at 18:45
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Whether the verb is singular or plural depends on the subject.

The subject here is Zeit, which is singular. Therefore, it is bleibt, not bleiben. Uns is the (dative) object.

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The word "uns" is clearly a dative object in this sentence, which has some people here misled that "Zeit" is the subject. The answer by infinitezero reasons that the sentence can be rearranged to

Viel Zeit bleibt uns nicht.

However, this rearrangement is an illegal operation in this context, because it swaps the roles of subject and objects! This is why "Zeit" becomes subject is this rearranged sentence. Hence, infinitezero's answer is incorrect: it is not "Zeit" that determines the form of "bleiben".

In the original

Uns bleibt nicht viel Zeit.

the word "Zeit" is an accusative object, as also hinted at by the position at the end of the sentence. The subject, in fact, is not visible, because it is omitted for convenience of speaking (note the discussed sentence is colloquial). The full sentence would be

Es bleibt uns nicht viel Zeit.

Here, it becomes obvious what is subject, and why the verb goes as "bleibt". "Bleiben", used with this meaning, is called an "unpersonal" verb in german grammar (i.e. cannot be used with first or second person pronouns, neither in plural: "Ich bleibe nicht viel Zeit." is nonsense), and correspondingly "es" is an unpersonal pronoun, whose omittance in colloquial speech in not uncommon.

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    That Zeit is the subject in uns bleibt nicht viel Zeit is clearly shown by substitution of a plural: uns (mir) bleiben nur wenige Wochen, with the verb in the plural (which holds even for es bleiben nur wenige Wochen). Furthermore, that Zeit is nominative is shown by another substitution: uns bleibt kein anderer Weg. (Finally, the operation of swapping out one constituent in first position for another does not change the grammatical relations within a sentence: ich nehme den da, den da nehme ich.)
    – David Vogt
    Jun 27 at 10:51

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