These two questions (1, 2) are close to what I’m trying to pin down. But I want to know if there is any significant difference between “es ist/sind” and “da ist/sind”.

For example, I found these two examples in the dictionary:

Geh vorsichtig um mit den Kartons, da sind zerbrechliche Sachen drin.
„Ist jemand im Badezimmer?“ – „Nein, es ist niemand drinnen“.

But can I say it, for instance, the other way round:

Es sind zerbrechliche Sachen drin.
Da ist niemand drinnen.

Are es and da interchangeable in this construction? If not, what’s the difference?

1 Answer 1


Actually no, you cannot interchange the words. But you can use both variants.

Da refers to the object in question, the box or the bathroom, respectively.

Geh vorsichtig um mit den Kartons, dadrin [=in den Kartons] sind zerbrechliche Sachen.

Ist jemand im Badezimmer? - Nein, dadrinnen [=im Badezimmer] ist niemand.

Es, in contrast, is something different. It is an expletive subject. It does not have any meaning, and only exists for grammatical reasons.

Geh vorsichtig um mit den Kartons, es sind zerbrechliche Sachen dadrin [=in den Kartons].

Ist jemand im Badezimmer? - Nein, es ist niemand dadrinnen [=im Badezimmer].

As you see I still use da in those sentences. You can indeed drop da- without changing the meaning but I didn't omit them to make clear that es is not a replacement for da.

So, what your actually doing is rewording the sentence.

Im Badezimmer ist niemand. => Es ist niemand im Badezimmer.

And as you mentioned Im Badezimmer before and don't want to repeat, you replace im Badezimmer mit dadrinnen.

Dadrinnen ist niemand. => Es ist niemand dadrinnen.

  • So in case of da ist/sind you kind of split "dadrin" in two halves "da [bla-bla] drin". Thus, dadrin sind zerbrechliche Sachen becomes da sind zerbrechliche Sachen drin?
    – stillenat
    Commented Oct 14, 2013 at 14:40
  • 1
    @stillenat Basically yes. But note that dadrin is colloquial for darin and you cannot split the latter one.
    – Em1
    Commented Oct 14, 2013 at 14:57

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