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German for Music Lovers

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Pronouns in German

First Person Singular:
the speaker
First Person Plural:
the speakers
ich
subject - nominative case - "I"
Note: this is not capitalized unless at the beginning of a sentence.
wir

subject - nominative case - "we"
mich
direct object - accusative case - "me"
uns
direct object - accusative case - "us"
mir
indirect object- dative case -
"to me, for me"
uns
indirect object - dative case - "to us, for us"
possessive adjective- "my"
possessive adjective - "our"

 

Second Person: the one(s) spoken to

In English, we use the all-purpose pronoun "you" to speak to others. It works for if there is one listener and when there are more than one. It is used with our closest friends and family members as well as with complete strangers. In German we must make distinctions among these various "you" 's.

"Sie" is used for a listener or listeners with whom one is NOT intimate. The pronoun "Sie" is both singular and plural, just like "you." "Sie" is always capitalized. Use "Sie" to speak to transportation workers, officials, salespersons, hotel and service personnel, teachers, doctors and nurses, professional colleagues, and so on. The use of "Sie" is courteous and respectful, not cold or unfriendly.

The other two pronouns imply a different relationship, one that is intimate or that is based on belonging to a certain group (classmates, club members, etc.). For such relationships, the pronouns "du" and "ihr" are used. The pronoun "du" is used to address only one listener (for example, your brother). To speak to both your brother and your sister, you would use the plural form "ihr."

The pronoun du is used to address one person.
The pronoun ihr is used to address more than one person.
Zappa & Havel at café
Frank Zappa mit Václav Havel
Die Toten Hosen ad for PETA
Die Toten Hosen

Sie, du and ihr are the nominative forms: like "I," "he" or "she," they can be used only as subjects.
The table below includes all the case forms of these pronouns.
Click here for more on "YOU".

(Click here for an explanation of case.)

Non-intimate

Intimate or casual singular:
one listener

Intimate or casual plural: two or more listeners

you

nominative, subject pronoun

Sie

du

ihr

accusative, direct object

Sie

dich

euch

to you,
for you

dative, indirect object

Ihnen

dir

euch

your

possessive adjective

Ihr (-e) (m/n/r)

dein (-e) (m/n/r)

euer, eure (m/n/r)

 

Third Person: the one(s) spoken about

The table below shows the personal pronouns in English and German. Using the masculine, feminine or neuter pronoun in German depends on the gender of the noun. All German nouns, those that refer to things as well as people, are masculine, feminine or neuter. When we learn a noun in German, we must also learn its gender and its plural form.

The gender of the noun does not matter in the plural; there is only one set of plural forms used for all genders.

masculine
männlich
feminine
weiblich
neuter
sächlich
plural
mehrzählig
nominative
he (it)

er

she (it)

sie

it (she/he)

es

they

sie

accusative
him (it)

ihn

her (it)

sie

it (her/him)

es

them

sie

dative
to/for him (it)

ihm

to/for her (it)

ihr

to/for it

ihm

to/for them

ihnen

genitive
his (its)

sein(e)(m/n/r)

her (its)

ihr(e)(m/n/r)

its (his/her)

sein(e)(m/n/r)

their

ihr(e)(m/n/r)

Click here to practice the nominative case forms.
Click here to practice the accusative case forms.
Click here to practice the dative case forms.


Other pronouns of interest

The indefinite pronoun is
"
man."

It is usually used as a subject, though it can be used as an object.
The indefinite or impersonal pronoun in English is "one," though "you" or "people" or "they" are often used as well.
One should not smoke. Man soll nicht rauchen.
You should sleep enough to stay healthy.
Man soll genug schlafen, um gesund zu bleiben.
People know they should vote.
Man weiß, daß man wählen soll.

 

 

Interrogative Pronouns

Nominative

wer?

who?
Accusative

wen?

whom?
Dative

wem?

to whom? for whom?
Genitive

wessen?

whose?

 

Relative Pronouns

The relative pronouns follow the pattern of the "der"-words, with variations in the dative plural and genitive case.
Like all subordinating conjunctions, they affect the word order, "booting" the inflected verb to the end of the clause.

masculine
feminine
neuter
plural

nominative

der

die

das

die

the one who ...

accusative

den

die

das

die

the one whom ...

dative

dem

der

dem

denen

the one to whom, for whom

genitive

dessen

deren

dessen

deren

the one whose ...

 

More on Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns introduce relative clauses that describe a noun in another clause.

Because they describe a noun, they agree with the noun in gender and number.

Because they represent that noun operating in a new clause, their case agrees with their function in the clause.

Because a relative clause is necessarily a dependent clause, the inflected verb is "kicked" to the end of the relative clause by the relative pronoun.

The antecedent (that's the noun that will be represented by the relative pronoun) may be any case.

Any of the relative clauses can be combined with the main clauses, because they match the gender and number of the antecedent.

The case does not have to match, however, because the case of the relative pronoun is determined by its function in the relative clause.

Masculine Singular

N

Hier ist der Mann, ... .
Here is the man,

A

Kennst du den Mann, ... ?
Do you know the man,

D

Ich spreche mit dem Mann, .. .
I'm speaking with the man,

G

Wie ist der Name des Mannes, ... ?
What is the name of the man,

N

der nach dir fragte
who was asking about you

A

den ich besucht habe
whom I visited

D

dem ich helfen will
whom I want to help*
(*dative verb)

G

dessen Frau mit uns arbeitet
whose wife works with us

Feminine Singular
Kennst du die Frau, ...

die nach dir fragte?

die ich besucht habe?

mit der ich arbeite?

deren Mann mit uns arbeitet?
Neuter singular
Wir sprechen mit dem Kind,

das uns besucht.
who is visiting us.

das wir besuchen.
whom we are visiting.

dem wir helfen wollen.
dessen Eltern mit uns arbeiten.
Plural, all genders
Hier ist das Haus der Nachbarn,
die nach dir fragten
die wir besucht haben.
denen wir helfen wollen.
deren Kinder mit unseren zur Schule gehen.

Die Moritat von Mackie Messer by Bertolt Brecht has a
lot of relative pronouns, along with links to
a related exercise.

The folk-tale Hiddensee has an exercise on relative pronouns as well.

Click here for another lesson on Pronouns in German.

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©A. Campitelli, Greensboro, NC 1999-2012

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