Übersetzung und Grammatik https://www.lingq.com/learn/de/workdesk/item/9359807/reader/ I have read this sentence a

Übersetzung und Grammatik

I have read this sentence a gazillion times…
Auf vielen Bergen der Alpen liegt das ganze Jahr über Schnee und Eis.

I still cannot make the meaning in my mind be “singular” (liegt is used vs liegen which is what I keep expecting.)

Can anyone help me understand this subtlety of German Grammar??


This is a very tricky question :wink:

First, as a German I would never have thought about this. Immediatley, I found it natural.
At a second sight I’ve recognized why you are struggeling.

The subject ist “Schnee und Eis”. Now you have two options. You can see the words as single words. Then “liegen” would be correct. But you can also see it as one term. Then “liegt” is fine.

If you want to read more about this: http://www.canoo.net/services/OnlineGrammar/Wort/Verb/Numerus-Person/ProblemNum.html . See the paragraph “A und B » Verb im Singular o. Plural”.


I think it is like in English: ‘There is a table and four chairs in the room’ - we also use Singular although we are speaking about several objects.
But: ‘There are four chairs and a table in the room’ - here we use Plural because immediately after the verb we have a noun in Plural.
So it would be in plural in German in this case: Auf vielen Bergen liegen Steine und Eis

This is different in German:

“Da ist ein Tisch und vier Stühle im Raum.” is not correct.
Correct is “Da sind ein Tisch und vier Stühle im Raum.”

The difference is that “Schnee und Eis” is a set expression (a term). And therefore you can use the singular: “Schnee und Eis liegt auf den Bergen.” This doesn’t work for all nouns that are used with “und”. It only works for set expressions.
In the link I’ve given above you’ll find more examples.

Some examples:

  • Mutter und Kind
  • Blitz und Donner
  • Haus und Hof
  • Grund und Boden
  • Wasser und Brot / Brot und Wasser
  • Kind und Kegel

Schnee / Eis are uncountable, so singular.

Vielen, vielen Dank!!! Ausgezeichnet Thanks to all for an excellent discussion of this problem.

I have decided that my German friends are just plain and simple more clever and smarter that I will ever be with regard to grammar and how to create meaning with words. I appreciate everyone adding perspective on the issue. My problem was that I can see the solution both ways, as Vera pointed out, but I certainly better understand the issue from a German perspective. It should be less problematic now for me in the future. The real trick here is grasping the subject clearly for such a sentence. I am slow getting this but it is one thing that fascinates me about the German language—it is rich and powerful and full of wonder—from my perspective.

You will get there!

It’s just a question of time.

In this case the grammar relating to the German is identical to the English.

Oh the wonders of German! :slight_smile:

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Vielen Dank für die Ermutigung.

The subject of the sentence is “das ganze Jahr”, not “Schnee und Eis”. The whole year is singular. Liegen would not be correct in this sentence for that reason. “Ûber Schnee und Eis” is where the whole year lies, not the other way around. The whole year lying in snow and ice on many mountains of the Alps. It is confusing I know, but this distinction is very important imo

Hmm, interesting conception, but I really don’t think this can be right!? I’m pretty sure one might say things like “Schnee lag auf dem Boden” or “Es liegt Eis auf der Straße”, etc?? So it kind of has to be the ice and snow which is doing the funky action here, doesn’t it?

But what do the native speakers say…? :-0

It is correct. Subjects cannot be preceded by prepositional words like “über”. It is pretty clear to me that “Über Schnee und Eis” cannot be the subject of the sentence as it describes where the subject is. It might make more sense to english speakers if you rearrange things like this: “Das ganze Jahr liegt über Schnee und Eis auf vielen Bergen der Alpen”. You can also change the position of Über Schnee und Eis to the beginning of the sentence and Auf Vielen Bergen der Alpen to the end.

I think one very often uses “es” as an ersatz subject: “Es liegt Schnee (oder Eis) auf der Straße”, etc

I’m not a native speaker, of course. But to an extent these constructions do just become ‘automatic’ after enough exposure to the language…

(However when you stop and think about it in a more analytical way, it is…well…a little bit unclear!)

BTW I would see “das ganze Jahr über” as being rather like “tagsüber” - i.e. “during the whole year”…

Of course, but in this sentence that does not actually happen. “Es liegt” is almost equivalent to the english “There lies” so this isn’t particularly unusual in English either

Hmm, that would have made sense to me if über would have been infront of das ganze Jahr instead of coming after it. In my eyes, über belongs to Schnee und Eis

I just re-read Vera’s post above. She said:

“…The subject ist “Schnee und Eis”. Now you have two options. You can see the words as single words. Then “liegen” would be correct. But you can also see it as one term. Then “liegt” is fine…”

She is a native speaker of German…so…

Vera is wrong in this case, there’s no way around it. Sorry.

You are wrong there. That’s a set phrase meaning “all year round” or “throughout the year”.

I don’t think so

Of course, there are a lot of cases when “die deutschen Präposuitionen” take the place after a noun:
den ganzen Tag über, die Nacht über, den Winter über, meiner Meinung nach, das ganze Jahr entlang.
Es gibt auch so genannte Doppelpräpositionen: Von Anfang an, von dieser Zeit an etc.
The explanation von Vera about some set expressions is correct in this case.
“Schnee und Eis” is here like an inseparable object, that’s why the verb in singular is used .

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