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I am learning German reading Karl Marx' Das Kapital, mostly to make it fun. But in the second paragraph, I could not understand the following sentence:

Es geschah dies nicht nur des Zusammenhangs und der Vollständigkeit wegen.

I do not understand what dies is doing here. I believe the sentence translate to ~"It did not happen only because of coherence and completeness", but then I do not think it'd need dies.

So I ask, what is dies doing here? Pun intended.

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3 Answers 3

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You can change the sentence into

Dies geschah nicht nur des Zusammenhangs und der Vollständigkeit wegen.

without changing the meaning.

Dies means this and refers to something that was said earlier in the text.

You don't need the es. It's a placeholder for the subject. But since we have dies as the subject, es is unnecessary.

By using the es, you just pull the dies out of the focus. You're not talking about dies geschah vs. something else geschah. The subject stays the same. Instead you're talking about the reason for or purpose of what happened. That's the topic of the sentence.

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  • Thank you for the answer! Not sure I should make this question here, but is es the subjective of the verb, but dies refer to es? Like "it sung, the whale to the orchestra!" instead of "the whale sung to the orchestra!",
    – Schilive
    Oct 26, 2023 at 17:24
  • Sorry, but I don't understand your comment. dies refers to the previous sentence "Der Inhalt jener früheren Schrift ist resümiert im ersten Kapitel dieses Bandes." and to nothing else.
    – Olafant
    Oct 28, 2023 at 6:29
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You misunderstand the role of "es" in the sentence. You actually translated "dies" as "it" (it is closer to "this"). Search the site for "es", which in your example sentence is only used because of the choice of word order, which creates emphasis. With standard word order, you would have this:

"Dies geschah nicht nur wegen des Zusammenhangs und der Vollständigkeit."

In your example, the "es" is needed because Marx chose a particular word order and the verb must be at second position in a German sentence. Since the first position needs to be filled, Marx used the "Vorfeld-es" to do so. The "es" has no meaning, it only fills that position in the sentence.

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  • I think they translated "es" as "it" and ignored "dies" because they couldn't figure out its role.
    – Carsten S
    Oct 26, 2023 at 9:13
  • @CarstenS That's what I'm saying. "dies" in the German sentence = "it" in the translated sentence.
    – user6495
    Oct 26, 2023 at 9:17
  • I was referring to the second sentence in your answer.
    – Carsten S
    Oct 26, 2023 at 9:20
  • @CarstenS Me too.
    – user6495
    Oct 26, 2023 at 10:15
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Reading it as an isolated sentence, the use of both "es" and "dies" is redundant. Marx could have written

  1. Dies geschah nicht nur des Zusammenhangs und der Vollständigkeit wegen.

or

  1. Es geschah nicht nur des Zusammenhangs und der Vollständigkeit wegen.

However, Marx's formulation has a certain purpose. Here is an extended qoute.

Quote 1.

Der Inhalt jener früheren Schrift ist resümiert im ersten Kapitel dieses Bandes. Es geschah dies nicht nur des Zusammenhangs und der Vollständigkeit wegen. Die Darstellung ist verbessert.

This makes clear that Marx used "dies" to emphasize that the sentence refers to the preceding one, i.e. "dies" stands for summarizing an earlier text in the first chapter.

Variant 1 would be the standard way to express this. Actually Marx uses a variant 1 style sentence on p. 301:

Quote 2.

Die Herrn Fabrikanten suchten die natürliche Wirkung dieser Umstände zu steigern durch eine allgemeine Lohnherabsetzung von 10%. Dies geschah sozusagen zur Einweihungsfeier der neuen Freihandelsära

Also variant 2 could very well be used in quote 1 (and mutatis mutandis in quote 2), but it does not put as much emphasis to the reference to earlier work as variant 2 or Marx's formulation.

So why didn't Marx use variant 1 in quote 1? I do not think it has a deeper reason. Perhaps he did it because the phrase "es geschah" is a standard and a bit pathetic beginning. See here.

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