German Pronouns Guide: How and When to Use Pronouns in German
Wir wollen ein neues Haus kaufen. Das Haus ist sehr schön. Das Haus ist in Stuttgart. Das Haus ist sehr groß. Das Haus ist perfekt für uns!
We want to buy a new house. The house is very beautiful. The house is in Stuttgart. The house is very big. The house is perfect for us!
You don’t have to know a lot of German to know that these sentences do not sound very poetic. We said “das Haus” five times!
But don’t worry, there is a way to make this better! We can replace the noun “das Haus” with the adequate pronoun.
Look at this:
Wir wollen ein neues Haus kaufen. Es ist sehr schön. Das Haus ist in Stuttgart. Es ist sehr groß. Es ist perfekt für uns!
If you don’t want to sound like a text from a book for first-graders and more like a German native speaker, you will need to learn German pronouns.
First of all, what are pronouns? To explain it in the simplest way, they replace nouns in sentences.
There are a few different types of pronouns used in the German language. And that’s not all — some of them will also change through the four different German cases. But we will talk more about that in the end when you’re ready for a more advanced lesson in pronouns.
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Personal pronouns are the type of pronoun that you will use most often when speaking German, such as when you want to say “I”, “you”, “they,” or “us.” We use them to refer to ourselves, other people, beings, or things.
Here are the German personal pronouns:
Remember: Don’t capitalize “I” in German like we do in English!
Here is a handy cheat sheet with the German personal pronouns that you can download and use when you need a quick reminder.
Three different types of “sie”
If you looked closely at the table above, you probably noticed that we have three different types of “sie:”
- sie – meaning she (written with a lowercase “s”)
Kommt sie heute? (Is she coming today?)
- sie – meaning they (also with a lowercase “s”)
Kommen sie heute? (Are they coming today?)
- Sie – the formal form (always written with a capital letter and can be used for formal in singular and also in plural)
Sie (the form with the capital “s”) is an interesting form because you will not find it in the English language. It’s used in the German language when addressing people that are older than you, are of a higher rank, or are generally someone you want to show respect to, for example your teacher, your boss, or your friend’s mom. And it is always written with a capital letter “S.”
Herr Weber, kommen Sie heute? (Mr Weber, are you coming today?)
Möchten Sie noch etwas bestellen? (Do you want to order something else?)
Frau Kamm, Sie sind die beste Lehrerin! (Ms. Kamm, you are the best teacher!)
If you want to say that something is yours, hers, or ours, then you will have to use the possessive pronouns.
Possessive pronouns for masculine and neutral nouns
Here are the possessive pronouns in German. We will use this form when the noun after the pronoun is either masculine or neutral.
|Possessive pronoun (masculine or neutral)
|Das ist mein Haus. This is my house.
|Das ist dein Hund.This is your dog.
|Hier ist sein Bild.Here is his picture.
|Das ist ihr Pulli.That is her pullover.
|Ist das sein Spielzeug?Is this its toy?
|Das ist unser Kind.This is our kid.
|Ist das euer Garten?Is this your garden?
|Hier ist ihr Auto.Here is their car.
|Herr Maler, ist das Ihr Buch?Mr Maler, is this your book?
Possessive pronouns for feminine and plural nouns
As already mentioned, there is one very important thing you need to remember. The previous table is valid only if the thing that’s mine, yours, or ours is a masculine or neutral noun. If the person or thing after the possessive pronoun is a feminine or plural noun, we will have to add an additional ending “-e” at the end of the pronoun. Not too difficult, right?
So for feminine and plural nouns, the possessive pronouns will look like this:
|Possessive pronoun (feminine or plural)
|Das ist meine Wohnung.This is my apartment.
because die Wohnung is a feminine noun
|Das ist deine Katze.This is your cat.
because die Katze is a feminine noun
|Hier sind seine Bücher.Here are his books.
because die Bücher is plural
|Das ist ihre Bluse.That is her blouse.
because die Bluse is a feminine noun
|Sind das seine Spielsachen?Are these his toys?
because die Spielsachen is plural
|Das sind unsere Kinder.These are our kids.
because die Kinder is plural
|Ist das eure Wiese?Is this your lawn?
because die Wiese is a feminine noun
|Hier ist ihre Bushaltestelle.Here is their bus stop.
because die Bushaltestelle is plural
|Herr Maler, ist das Ihre Bücher?Mr. Maler, are these your books?
because die Bücher is plural
There are more than just the personal and possessive pronouns — for example, there are reflexive pronouns. But what do they reflect?
Here’s the official explanation: Reflexive pronouns are used when the subject and the object are the same person. In simpler terms, you use reflexive pronouns when you are doing something on or to yourself.
Ich kämme mich.
(I am combing myself.)
Here, you are both the subject — you are doing the action, you are combing. And you are also the object — you are receiving the action, that is, you are being combed. And that’s the situation when we use a reflexive pronoun. In the sentence from the example it’s mich (myself).
Here are the German reflexive pronouns:
|Ich kämme mich.I am combing myself.
|Du duschst dich.You are showering yourself.
|Er putzt sich die Zähne.He is brushing his teeth.
|Sie schminkt sich.She is putting on makeup.
|Es zieht sich an.It is getting dressed.
|Wir treffen uns mit Freunden.We are meeting with friends.
|Ihr verspätet euch.You are late.
|Sie entschuldigen sich.They are apologizing.
|Beeilen Sie sich.Hurry up.
Remember: As you can see in the examples above, in English we can often omit the reflexive pronoun when translating the sentences.
Verbs that go with reflexive pronouns
In German, we have some verbs that always require reflexive pronouns and some that will ask for it occasionally. Here are some of the verbs and example sentences with reflexive pronouns:
|to be upset (literary – to annoy yourself)
|Ich ärgere mich.I am upset.
|get yourself dressed
|Er zieht sich an.He is getting dressed.
|Wir beeilen uns.We hurry up.
|Sie duscht sich.She is showering.
|Wir entschuldigen uns.We apologize.
|catch a cold
|Du hast dich erkältet.You caught a cold.
|be happy, rejoice
|Freut ihr euch darüber?Are you happy about it?
|Er kämmt sich nicht gerne.He doesn’t like to comb his hair.
|put makeup on
|Sie schminkt sich jeden Morgen.She puts makeup on every morning.
|meet, get together with someone
|Können wir uns morgen treffen?Can we meet tomorrow?
|fall in love
|Ich habe mich verliebt.I fell in love.
|sich die Zähne putzen
|brush your teeth
|Du putzt dir zweimal pro Tag die Zähne.You brush your teeth twice per day.
Demonstrative pronouns are here to replace a previously mentioned noun in a sentence, meaning they help you make clearer sentences. Just like in English, demonstrative pronouns in German point to, emphasize, or distinguish something specific within a sentence.
- Gefällt dir der Mantel?
Do you like the coat?
- Dieser hier!
Some of the most used demonstrative pronouns are:
dieser – this one
der – the one
jener – that
derjenige – the one
derselbe – the same one
Remember: der/die/das are not just definite articles, but also demonstrative pronouns!
There are also different forms for masculine, feminine, neutral, and plural. Here is the table with all of the German demonstrative pronouns:
Let’s check out a few examples:
Diese Straße führt zur Schule.
This street leads to the school.
-Hat sie ein neues Auto?
-Nein, das ist dasselbe vom letzten mal!
-Does she have a new car?
-No, it’s the same one from last time.
Das ist derjenige, der das gemacht hat!
This is the one that did it!
-Möchten sie diese Schuhe anprobieren?
-Nein, lieber die dort.
-Do you want to try on these shoes?
-No, rather the ones there.
Indefinite pronouns express something, well, indefinite! We will use them when talking about something general or nonspecific.
Here are some of the German indefinite pronouns:
|Kann jemand mir helfen?Can somebody help me?
|Das kann jeder machen!Anyone can do that!
|Hast du auch etwas gehört?Did you also hear something?
|Ist irgendjemand hier?Is anyone here?
|Möchten Sie noch irgendetwas sagen?Do you want to say anything else?
|Hier darf man nicht parken.It’s not allowed to park here.
Remember: In German, “man” is not the same as “Mann.” “Man” means someone, anyone and has only one letter “n.” But “der Mann” is a noun meaning “man” in English and is written with a capital letter and two letters “n.”
The interrogative pronouns are used to make questions. That’s why they are also called question words.
Here are some of the German interrogative pronouns:
|Wer ist dieser Mann?Who is this man?
|Wessen Buch ist das?Whose book is that?
|Welcher Mantel gefällt dir besser?Which coat do you like better?
|Was ist das?What is this?
|Wie geht es dir heute?How are you today?
|Wann kommen die Gäste?When are the guests coming?
|Wo befindet sich deine Wohnung?Where is your apartment located?
|Warum kommst du immer zu spät?Why are you always late?
Pronouns in different cases
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just learn all the pronouns. Some of them, such the personal and possessive pronouns, will also change in the different grammatical cases.
If the words “cases,” “dative,” or “declension” don’t ring a bell, feel free to skip this part and come back later when you are ready. No hard feelings, but this is a tricky part of German grammar. If you are not already familiar with it, this next section about pronoun cases will be confusing.
But if you already had your fair share of battles with the German cases, continue to this part where we will explain what the different pronouns look like in the four German cases.
Since this is definitely a topic for more advanced learners, I won’t go into too much detail here. If you are still unsure about the cases and how to use the pronouns correctly, I recommend checking out my course about the four German cases where I also talk about the different German pronouns.
Review of German cases
Here is just a very quick review of the German cases:
Nominative – Good news: you already know all the pronouns in the nominative case! The nominative case is the one we just learned, so we can jump right to the next one.
Accusative – The accusative case is used as a direct object, after some prepositions (like durch, für, gegen, ohne, um) and some specific verbs (like sehen, kaufen, or besuchen).
Dative – The dative case is used for the indirect object in the sentence, used after some prepositions (aus, bei, mit, nach, seit, von, zu, gegenüber, außer) and some verbs (like helfen, antworten, or danken).
Genitive – If you know something about the genitive case, you are probably familiar with the fact that it’s the wild child of German cases — always a little different and even more complicated. It’s used mostly to express possession. But since it is not used very often, and especially not with pronouns, we will omit it in this explanation and include only the first three.
Personal pronouns with cases
Possessive pronouns with cases
To wrap it all up
I hope that your takeaway from this article is that – whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced learner – the German pronouns are a must-know! And it depends on your skills and language learning goals to decide how deep into the rabbit hole you want to go.
If you are just starting out and this whole thing seems very confusing, why not take it one step at a time and start with the first course in my series for German learners where we will learn about the personal and possessive pronouns in German.
After that, you can continue to the next level with the A1.2 course where we will expand our knowledge and learn even more of the German pronouns.
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