Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Linguistic special verbs for state of the universe

I've been having problems with getting my Spanish and German versions of the same construct right (or at least, similar constructs, but maybe they only seem similar because I don't grasp them correctly). In English, we describe the state of the world using phrases like "It is XXXX", where "it" is understood, absent some topic of conversation that might compete for its attention ("it" is very jealous!), to be the beginning of what I think of as a "special construct" in English. "It is cold", "It's not safe to talk to them when they're arguing", etc. In some cases, Spanish uses phrases with the verb hacer for this idiom, e.g. "hace frio" for "it is cold". In some cases, German uses "es gibt" (it gives) for this idiom, e.g. "Es gibt Berge". In both languages, I *think* there are circumstances where one would conjugate ser/sein instead of using the idiom. If someone fluent in either/both languages would clarify for me when each usage is appropriate, I would be appreciative. Given that I occasionally communicate with people in German and Spanish, getting it right would be helpful :)

Also, to people who have studied linguistics, is there a name for that "it is" idiomatic construct?

This reminds me of that old LISP joke: "State-of-the-universe-p?" "Yes, the universe has a state"...


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