German Dative 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 pronouns that are used with the dative case as the indirect object, object of dative prepositions, and object of dative verbs.

Our Pronoun Friends

Language would get pretty repetitive without pronouns. Imagine having to say a person's name every time you referred to them: Anna gave David a book. David really liked the book. David gave Anna some chocolate in return.

It's much better to say: Anna gave David a book. He really liked it. He gave her some chocolate in return.

Ah, that sounds much smoother. German, like English uses personal pronouns, however, the pronouns are a little trickier due to the concepts of case and gender. In this lesson we will take a look specifically at the pronouns as they appear and are used in the dative case.

Uses of the Dative Case

Before we jump into the pronouns, let's do a quick review of the main uses of the dative case:

  1. As the indirect object of the sentence. The indirect object answers the question 'to or for whom'?
  2. There are certain verbs that require an object in the dative: danken (to thank), gefallen (to be pleased), helfen (to help), etc. There are many more dative verbs.
  3. As the object of the designated dative prepositions: aus (from, out of), außer (except for, besides), bei (at,near), mit (with), nach (after, to), seit (since, for), von (from, by), zu (to, at)

German Pronouns

In German, the pronouns must agree in case, gender, and number with the noun that they are replacing. Sometimes this seems natural, like when you are replacing a male or female person with a pronoun, but it can seem quite odd for English speakers when replacing objects or animal that have been arbitrarily assigned a gender in German. For example:

  • Ich gebe dem Kind den Ball. (I give the child the ball.)
  • Ich gebe ihn ihm. (I give it to him.)

In the second example, both the direct and indirect object are replaced with pronouns. The masculine accusative pronoun ihn is used to replace Ball and the neuter dative pronoun ihm is used to replace Kind. Both pronouns agree in gender, number, and case with the nouns they are replacing.

Translation: Anna gives Dieter a glass of orange juice. She gives it to him.
OJ

Dative Personal Pronouns

Let's learn the dative personal pronouns and then look at some further examples.

Nominative Accusative Dative Pronunciation Meaning
ich mich mir meer (to or for) me
du dich dir deer (to or for) you
er ihn ihm eem (to or for) him
sie sie ihr ear (to or for) her
es es ihm eem (to or for) it
wir uns uns uhns (to or for) us
ihr euch euch oish (to or for) you
sie sie ihnen EE-nin (to or for) them
Sie Sie Ihnen EE-nin (to or for) you

Let's take a look at some more examples. Notice how the dative personal pronoun also agrees in gender and number with the noun that it is replacing:

  • Antworte der Professorin! Antworte ihr! (Answer the professor! Answer her!)

The female professor is replaced with the feminine dative pronoun ihr because antworten is a dative verb.

  • Ich wohne bei meinen Vettern. Ich wohne bei ihnen. (I live with my cousins. I live with them.)

The plural cousins is replaced with the plural dative pronoun ihnen because bei is a dative preposition.

  • Sie hilft dem Pferd. Sie hilft ihm. (She helps the horse. She helps it.)

The horse is replaced with the dative preposition ihm because Pferd is neuter in gender and helfen is a dative verb.

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