German Personal 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 all about personal pronouns: what they are, how they are used, and all of personal pronouns used in the four cases in German.

Pronomen (Pronouns)

Language would become very repetitive without the use of personal pronouns. These personal pronouns take the place of specific nouns (the names of people, places or things). Basically, they are used instead of a specific name to avoid repetition and to help ease the flow of sentences, just like we do in English.

We usually inject personal pronouns into a sentence when the name of the noun has been previously mentioned, so that the reader will know what is being referred to. Consider this example:

''Anna bought a new car last week. She absolutely loves it.''

In the second sentence, there are two personal pronouns. The personal pronoun she takes the place of Anna while the personal pronoun it takes the place of car.

In German, we choose the right personal pronoun depending on various factors:

  • Number: singular ( I) or plural (we)
  • Person: 1st person (I), 2nd person (you) or 3rd person (he/she)
  • Gender: male (he), female (she) or neuter (it)
  • Case: subject (we) or object (us)

Cases

There are four cases in German: nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive. English relies heavily on word order to distinguish case. In German, however, the word order is more flexible because the case is more clearly visible within pronoun forms and endings.

Cases represent the parts of speech within a sentence. They are an important part of German grammar as they are responsible for which pronouns, adjective endings, and article forms are used. Will people understand you if you use the wrong case? Possibly, but it could also lead to some pretty big misunderstandings, so it is best to try to get it straight.

In a nutshell:

  • Nominative Case = the sentence subject; who or what is doing the action
  • Accusative Case = the direct object; who or what is receiving the action of the verb
  • Dative Case = the indirect object; answers the question, 'To or for whom?'
  • Genitive Case = showing of possession; answers the question, 'Whose?'

Please note that there are also possessive pronouns that are identical to the genitive personal pronouns, but they are used differently in a sentence. The genitive is now primarily a written form and rarely used in spoken German anymore.

There are also prepositions that require certain cases. While this is not a lesson on case, it is important to understand the concept of case when looking at all of the personal pronouns.

German Personal Pronouns in Their Respective Cases

Nominative Case

Nominative Pronouns Pronunciation Translation
ich ish I
du doo you
er air he
sie zee she
es es it
wir veer we
ihr ear you
sie zee they
Sie zee you

Accusative Case

Accusative Pronouns Pronunciation Translation
mich meesh me
dich deesh you
ihn eehn him
sie zee her
es es it
uns uhnz us
euch oish you
sie zee them
Sie zee you

Dative Case

Dative Pronouns Pronunciation Translation
mir meer to or for me
dir deer to or for you
ihm eehm to or for him
ihr ear to or for her
ihm eehm to or for it
uns uhnz to or for us
euch oish to or for you
ihnen EEHN-in to or for them
Ihnen EEHN-in to or for you

Genitive Case

Genitive Pronouns Pronunciation Translation
mein mine mine
dein dine your
sein zine his
ihr ear her
sein zine its
unser UHNZ-air our
euer OI-air your
ihnen EEHN-in their
Ihnen EEHN-in your

Important Considerations

Keep in mind that German pronouns must agree in case, person, gender, and number with the noun that they are replacing.

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