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 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.