German Accusative Pronouns

Instructor: Penelope Heinigk

Penelope holds a doctorate degree in German and a professional teaching license in the state of Colorado. She has taught middle school through university, online and live.

In this lesson, we will learn about the accusative case, which indicates the direct object in the sentence. We'll also explore personal pronouns in the accusative form. At the end of the lesson, test your knowledge with a short quiz.

Case in German

When we delve into the nitty-gritty of German grammar, we start to run across some constructions that are quite different from the English language. One of these differences is the concept of case. There are four cases in German: nominative, accusative, dative and genitive. While English does not have marked cases, you will still get the benefit of refreshing your English grammar as we compare the two languages.

Cases represent the parts of speech within a sentence. They are an important part of German grammar, as they determine the endings of adjectives, indefinite articles and when to use which personal pronouns. Will people understand you if you use the wrong case? Possibly, but it could also lead to some pretty big misunderstandings, so it's best to try to get your cases right. To better understand German accusative pronouns, let's quickly review nominative and accusative case.

Nominative Case Review

The nominative case is used with the subject of the sentence. The subject is the person or thing performing the action of the verb (the 'doer' of the sentence). For example:

  • Frau Schmidt fliegt nach Rom. ('Mrs. Schmidt is flying to Rome.')

Frau Schmidt is the subject, the one flying to Rome, and is therefore in the nominative case.

Accusative Case Review

The accusative case is used to mark the direct object of the sentence. That is, the person or thing receiving the action of the verb. For example:

  • Ich sehe den Mann. ('I see the man.')

I (ich) is the subject of the sentence, the one doing the seeing. The man (Mann) is the direct object, the one being seen. The man (Mann) is in the accusative case.

Here is another example:

  • Die Frau kauft einen Rock. ('The woman is buying a skirt.')

The woman (die Frau) is the subject, the one doing the buying. The skirt (Rock) is the direct object, the thing being bought, and is in the accusative case.

Personal Pronouns in Accusative

In German, just as with English, we can replace the subject and direct object with pronouns in order to reduce repetition. For example:

  • 'The girl sees her father.'
  • 'She sees him.'

The girl (subject) is replaced by 'she' and her father (direct object) is replaced by 'him.'

Now, let's take a look at the pronouns in German. Here is a quick review of the nominative personal pronouns first:

Personal Pronoun Pronunciation Meaning
ich ish I
du doo you (familiar, singular)
er air he
sie zee she
es es it
wir veer we
ihr ear you (famililar, plural)
sie zee they
Sie zee you (formal)

Here are the pronouns again with the accusative added in:

Personal Pronoun Nominative Accusative Accusative Pronunciation
ich ich (I) mich (me) meesh
du du (you, singular familiar) dich (you, singular familiar) deesh
er er (he) ihn (him) eehn
sie sie (she) sie (her) zee
es es (it) es (it) es
wir wir (we) uns (us) uhns
ihr ihr (you, plural familiar) euch (you, plural familiar) oish
sie sie (they) sie (them) zee
Sie Sie (you, formal) Sie (you, formal) zee

Remember, the pronoun must agree in gender, number and case with the word that it replaces. When using pronouns, it is important to ask yourself these questions:

  1. What gender is the noun I'm replacing?
  2. What is the case of the noun I'm replacing (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive)?
  3. Is the noun I'm replacing singular or plural?

Where it might seem a little odd is when you are replacing objects or animals instead of people. Let's look at some examples to clarify:

  • Hans holt seinen Bruder ab. ('Hans picks up his brother.')
  • Hans holt ihn ab. (Hans picks him up.)

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