I came across this sentence:

Was gibt es denn so Spannendes, dass du mich extra morgens um acht anrufst?

This seems to be the structure similar to English: "... so adj/adv that + clause". I think its meaning can be translated as "What is that, that is so exciting that you call me at 8:00 in the morning?"

But clearly to me, Spannendes is not merely an adjective or adverb, due to postfix "es". If it were just adjective, there would be a "to be" nearby. If it were adverb, there would be a verb nearby. (here "geben" is not appropriate).

In German, we can replace "Adject + Noun" with simply "Adjective" (similar to english, e.g. "the rich", "the poor"), and capitalize that adjective.

But which noun does this adjective modify? It could be implied as "etwas" but then the whole grammar structure of the sentence is incorrect.

  • I'm having a hard time following. "Spannendes" clearly is a noun (as indicated by capitalization). In fact, it is a nominalized adjective and would be translated as "something exciting/fascinating". Note that your example is rather colloquial language.
    – user6495
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 9:20
  • Etwas isn't implied, but it's literally in there: Was …
    – Janka
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 9:26
  • @Janka I thought Was here is rather similar to "What" in English. Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 9:59
  • Only similar. Not the same. Es gibt etwas Spannendes. — Was gibt es Spannendes?
    – Janka
    Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 1:51

1 Answer 1


Spannendes is an adjectival noun; in the neuter singular, these denote things.

Sie lese nur Spannendes (=spannende Dinge), Geschichten über alte Bankiersfamilien oder über die Anfänge des Währungsfonds. (Zeit, 12.11.2015, via DWDS Korpora)

These adjectival nouns frequently stand in apposition to an indefinite pronoun:

etwas Neues, viel Interessantes, wenig Wichtiges, …

However, when they stand in apposition to a question word was, they have to be split from it.

Ich habe gestern (et)was Spannendes gelesen. (indefinite pronoun)
I read something exciting yesterday.

Was hast du gestern Spannendes gelesen? (question word)
What exciting thing did you read yesterday?

This is what happened in your example.

Ich habe gestern etwas so Spannendes gelesen, dass ich nicht einschlafen konnte.

Was hast du denn gestern so Spannendes gelesen, dass du nicht einschlafen konntest?

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