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7.10 Personal pronouns

Pronouns are a set of short words which stand for or replace nouns or noun phrases. In particular they stand for nouns which have already been mentioned or which are so well to the speaker and the listener that they do not need to be repeated in full.

The so-called "personal" pronouns are used to refer to the speaker ("I", also called the first person), the person addressed ("you", also called the second person), and other persons or things which just happen to be mentioned ("he", "she", "it", also called the "third person").

These personal pronouns have distinct forms to indicate number, case and in the third person, gender. We have already met the nominative form of these personal pronouns in our verb tables; we can now add the accusative and the dative forms:

Singular     Plural
ich  I     wir  we
du  you (informal)     ihr  you (informal)
Sie  you (formal)     Sie  you (formal)
er  he     sie  they
sie  she      
es  it      

English speakers need to take particular care when translating the English pronoun it. As all German nouns have one of three genders, so too do pronouns - a masculine noun must therefore have a masculine pronoun regardless of whether it is a living thing or an inanimate object. For example:

  • Der Hund mag die Katze. Er mag die Katze.
    (The dog likes the cat. It likes the cat.)
  • Die Katze mag den Hund. Sie mag den Hund.
    (The cat likes the dog. It likes the dog.)
  • Hier ist das Pferd. Es heißt Shergar.
    (Here is the horse. It is called Shergar.)
  • Hier ist der Kaffee. Er schmeckt gut.
    (Here is the coffee. It tastes good.)

Accusative of the personal pronoun

Singular     Plural
mich  me     uns  us
dich  you (informal)     euch  you (informal)
Sie  you (formal)     Sie  you (formal)
ihn  him     sie  they
sie  her      
es  it      

We have already met several examples of the accusative of the personal pronoun in set phrases in earlier chapters:

  • Das freut mich.
    (That pleases me.)
  • Es freut mich, Sie kennen zu lernen, Herr Deisler.
    (I'm pleased to meet you, Mister Deisler.)
  • Grüß dich!
    (Literally: I greet you.)
  • Die Frau mag uns, Sebastian.
    (The woman likes us, Sebastian.)

Once again you should to be careful of German genders when you translate the English pronoun "it":

  • Der Hund mag die Katze. Der Hund mag sie.
    (The dog likes the cat. The dog likes it.)
  • Die Katze mag den Hund. Die Katze mag ihn.
    (The cat likes the dog. The cat likes it.)
  • Ich mag das Pferd. Ich mag es.
    (I like the horse. I like it.)
  • Hier ist der Kaffee. Ich kaufe ihn.
    (Here is the coffee. I'll buy it.)

Dative of the personal pronoun

Singular     Plural
mir  to me     uns  to us
dir  to you (informal)     euch  to you (informal)
Ihnen  to you (formal)     Ihnen  to you (formal)
ihm  to him     ihnen  to them
ihr  to her      
ihm  to it      

Examples of how to use the dative of the personal pronoun will be given in the next section, when we look at verbs which take the dative case. Once again however, the problem of translating English "it" in the dative should be noted:

  • Der Hund spielt mit der Katze. Der Hund spielt mit ihr.
    (The dog plays with the cat. The dog plays with it.)
  • Die Katze spielt mit dem Hund. Die Katze spielt mit ihm.
    (The cat plays with the dog. The cat plays with it.)
  • Ich spiele mit dem Pferd. Ich spiele mit ihm.
    (I am playing with the horse. I'm playing with it.)

Weiter!Chapter 7.11: Verbs taking the dative case

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