In spoken German, it is very common to answer basic mundane yes-or-no question with an elliptical construction like this:

»Willst du noch ein Bier?«

»Ja, will ich.«

This works for haben, sein, the modal verbs, and a seemingly random selection of basic verbs like machen, kennen, wissen, sehen, verstehen and so on. But it absolutely doesn’t work for others for example for duschen or schlafen.

»Duschst du?«

* »Ja, dusch ich.«

This doesn’t work at all and one would use machen instead of duschen. I have tried to deduce a rule for this but all attempts (transitive, intransitive, telic,...) have failed.

Is there any way to describe for what kind of verbs it works and when and why it doesn’t?

One thing I know is that it generally does not work for verbs that have a separable prefix so we can exclude those from the analysis.

  • +1. Interesting. But I guess it wouldn't be possible to say "ja, schlaf ich" anyway, regardless of the grammar rules :)
    – c.p.
    Jul 20, 2013 at 13:48
  • telisch -> telic
    – Em1
    Jul 20, 2013 at 14:03
  • 2
    It definitely works with all auxiliaries and all modal verbs. But there are main verbs, which also work like "essen" -> Isst du einen Apfel? - Ja, esse ich.
    – bouscher
    Jul 20, 2013 at 14:26
  • Sounds unusual. I would rather use "Ja, ich will eins." and "Ja, ich dusche."
    – mvw
    Jul 21, 2013 at 10:36
  • Don't forget the "Ersatzhilfsverb" tun - "Gehst du ins Kino? - Ja, tu ich."
    – tofro
    Apr 7, 2016 at 18:51

1 Answer 1


It appears to me that this form is possible whenever there is an implied object (or, for sein, a complement) that could take the first position:

Willst du ein Bier? – Ja, (das) will ich.
Siehst du die Joggerin dort? – Ja, (die) sehe ich.
Hast du den zweiten Harry-Potter-Band? – Ja, (den) hab’ ich.
Schreibst du ihm? – Ja, (dem) schreibe ich.
Trinkst du Wasser? – Ja, (das) trinke ich.
Sind die beiden krank? – Ja, (das) sind sie.

I would even say that verbs with separable prefixes work just as well, though of course you have to include the separated prefix:

Holst du die Kinder ab? – Ja, (die) hol’ ich ab.
Siehst du das ein? – Ja, (das) seh’ ich ein.
Schaust du dir die Unterlagen noch mal an? – Ja, (die) schaue ich mir an.

This construction does not work with intransitive verbs that don’t take an indirect object, either:

Schläft sie? – Ja, sie schläft./Ja, (das) tut sie.
Kommst du? – Ja, ich komme./Ja, (das) mache ich.

Reflexive verbs don’t work, either, because the reflexive pronoun can’t be in front of the verb (unless used emphatically, but then you wouldn’t want to elide it):

Versteckst du dich? – Ja, ich verstecke mich./Ja, (das) tue ich.
Versteckst du dich (und nicht die Ostereier)? – Ja, mich verstecke ich.

  • 1
    Nice ideas. I think this is quite close... however, I can't really make my peace with the object-restraint. - Fährst du zum Bahnhof? Ja, fahr' ich, wieso?.... this works for me and there is no object in there... so maybe we have to say complement? And then, also the definition "reflexive" is tricky:... "Machst du dich schick?""Ja, mach' ich." This is the same "reflexiveness" as the one used in the verstecken-example but here it works. And then there is the issue with perfect tense:
    – Emanuel
    Jul 21, 2013 at 9:30
  • ... Hast du dich angezogen? Ja, hab' ich? Technically, the verb (action) is sich anziehen while haben is just a helper. So I think we would need to say that the rules apply for the conjugated verb, no matter what the actual action in the sentence is... anyway +1
    – Emanuel
    Jul 21, 2013 at 9:31
  • @Emanuel: “Object” was too narrow, it seems. Still, there has to be something that could take the first position: “Ja, (dahin) fahr’ ich.” – “Ja, (das) mache ich.” – “Ja, (das) habe ich.” For complex tenses, it is going to work always, because you can replace the non-finite part of the verb with all its extensions by das: “Wirst du X lieben, achten und ehren alle Tage deines Lebens, in guten wie in schlechten Zeiten, in Gesundheit und Krankheit, bis daß der Tod euch scheidet?” – “Ja, (das) werde ich.”
    – chirlu
    Jul 21, 2013 at 19:50
  • 1
    The complex time part actually seems like a nice argument for people who claim that Präsensperfekt is a mode rather than a tense... because here, the participle is treated like any other modal verb complement... auf jeden Fall danke!
    – Emanuel
    Jul 21, 2013 at 20:49
  • "Gehst Du auch zur Post?", "Ja, geh' ich". Sep 15, 2017 at 15:34

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