Es vs. man

Impersonal sentences, in which we don't specify who does something, can be formed using either es (it) or man (one, you) + a verb in the 3rd person singular.

Es wird Kuchen gegessen. werden, Präsens

Cake is eaten.

Man isst Kuchen. essen, Präsens

Cake is eaten / One eats cake.

Man is mostly used in active sentences.

Man tanzt.

One dances / you dance / people dance.

Man spielt Mozart.

One plays Mozart / you play Mozart. (Note: man can be translated as “you” in the general sense, not referring to a specific person.)

When used in this sense, es appears in passive sentences, generally with werden + past participle.

Es wird getanzt.

There is dancing (literally: “It is danced”).

Es wird Mozart gespielt.

Mozart is played.

Note: es (impersonal “it”) can also be used in active sentences, often as part of fixed expressions.

Es geht mir gut.

I'm well (literally: “It is going well to me”).

Es regnet.

It's raining.

Es stellt sich heraus, dass er Talent hat.

It turns out that he has talent.

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