Impersonal verbs

Impersonal verbs

Impersonal verbs are those that are used with the impersonal pronoun es. Here, the pronoun es performs the function of the subject without having a set meaning; it does not represent a particular noun.

You are familiar with sentences or clauses that describe weather phenomena:

Es regnet.
Es schneit.


Use of impersonal verbs: es gibt/es gab

Some verbs can be both personal and impersonal. An example is the verb geben, which can be personal, with the the dative- and accusative object, as in jemandem etwas geben, or impersonal, with the pronoun es and the accusative object. When we use the phrase Es gibt + accusative, we are expressing that something exists or is available.

Es gibt viele Angebote.
Auf dem Land gibt es keine Kinos.

In the simple past tense, es gibt becomes es gab:
Gab es das Rathaus früher schon? – Ja, das gab es.
Es gab  früher noch nicht so viele Autos.