Demystifying German Pronouns: A Comprehensive Guide

Grover Laughton9 min
Created: Aug 31, 2023Last updated: Feb 15, 2024
German Pronouns

German pronouns are probably one of the most challenging topics learners face when mastering this language. It might be confusing since they slightly differ from the English ones. In today’s article, we’ll explore all the nuances of German pronouns, their types, cases, and usage examples. So buckle up, and let’s dive right into it.

What Are the German Pronouns: In a Nutshell

Like in English, German pronouns serve as substitutes for nouns. They replace the names of specific people, objects, or ideas within a sentence. Both German subject pronouns and object ones are employed to:

  • Avoid repetition by replacing previously mentioned nouns.
  • Indicate person (first, second, third), number (singular, plural), and gender (masculine, feminine, or neutral).
  • Adapt to different grammar cases to indicate their function within a sentence – whether they act as the subject, direct object, indirect object, or represent possession.

Understanding German pronouns is essential for clear communication. It is vital to know them and to be able to implement them in various contexts. Therefore, let’s move on and discuss more details of this crucial topic.

Pronoun Cases and Personal Pronouns German

Much like nouns, German pronouns change form depending on their grammatical case. It explains their role in relation to the verb and the other elements in a sentence. There are four main grammatical cases in German.

Nominative Case

In the nominative case, pronouns usually function as the sentence’s subject. They perform the action described by the verb. Questions that correspond to this case are “Who?” and “What?” Take a look at this subject German pronouns chart.

Person/NumberPronoun (German)PronunciationPronoun (English)
1st person singularich[ɪç]I
2nd person singular (informal)du[duː]you (informal)
2nd person singular (formal)Sie[ziː]you (formal)
3rd person singular (masculine)er[eːɐ̯]he
3rd person singular (feminine)sie[ziː]she
3rd person singular (neuter)es[ɛs]it
1st person pluralwir[vɪʁ]we
2nd person pluralihr[iːɐ̯]you (plural)
3rd person pluralsie[ziː]they

Here are some examples of sentences with subject pronouns in German in the nominative case.

Ich gehe zur Schule. (I go to school.)

Du bist mein Freund. (You are my friend.)

Er liest ein Buch. (He is reading a book.)

Sie singt gerne. (She likes to sing.)

Es ist ein kleiner Hund. (It is a small dog.)

Wir spielen Fußball. (We play soccer.)

Ihr seid Geschwister. (You all are siblings.)

Sie sind Lehrer. (They are teachers.)

Discover German Personal Pronouns

Accusative German Pronouns Table

In the accusative case, pronouns typically function as the direct object, receiving the action of the verb. In that case, pronouns answer questions such as “Whom?” or “What?” Here is the table:

Person/NumberPronoun (German)PronunciationPronoun (English)
1st person singularmich[mɪç]me
2nd person singular (informal)dich[dɪç]you (informal)
2nd person singular (formal)Sie[ziː]you (formal)
3rd person singular (masculine)ihn[iːn]him
3rd person singular (feminine)sie[ziː]her
3rd person singular (neuter)es[ɛs]it
1st person pluraluns[ʊns]us
2nd person pluraleuch[ɔʏ̯ç]you (plural)
3rd person pluralsie[ziː]them

To memorize them better, check out how to use them in casual sentences.

Er kennt mich. (He knows me.)

Ich sehe dich. (I see you.)

Sie besucht uns. (She visits us.)

Wir mögen euch. (We like you all.)

Das Kind liebt es. (The child loves it.)

Dative Case

Pronouns in the dative case often indicate the indirect object, the recipient of the action indirectly. Dative personal pronouns answer the question, “To whom?” Take a look at this table.

Person/NumberPronoun (German)PronunciationPronoun (English)
1st person singularmir[miːɐ̯]to me
2nd person singular (informal)dir[dɪʁ]to you (informal)
2nd person singular (formal)Ihnen[ɪnən]to you (formal)
3rd person singular (masculine)ihm[iːm]to him
3rd person singular (feminine)ihr[iːɐ̯]to her
3rd person singular (neuter)ihm[iːm]to it
1st person pluraluns[ʊns]to us
2nd person pluraleuch[ɔʏ̯ç]to you (plural)
3rd person pluralihnen[iːnən]to them

Here are some examples of using German pronouns in the dative case.

Ich habe ihr ihre Lieblingsblumen gekauft. (I bought her her favorite flowers.)

Sie haben uns angerufen. (They called us.)

Ich habe ihnen Freikarten für ein Konzert geschenkt. (I gave them free tickets to a concert.)

Ich habe ihm sein Lieblingsessen gebracht. (I brought him his favorite meal.)

Mutter gab ihnen ihre Leckereien. (Mother gave them their treats.)

Genitive Case

In the genitive case, pronouns indicate possession, belonging, or relationships between nouns. They answer the question, “Whose?” Sometimes, they are called possessive adjectives. Here is the table of German personal pronouns in the genitive case.

Person/NumberPronoun (German)PronunciationPronoun (English)
1st person singularmein[maɪ̯n]my
2nd person singular (informal)dein[daɪ̯n]your (informal)
2nd person singular (formal)Ihr[iːɐ̯]your (formal)
3rd person singular (masculine)sein[zaɪ̯n]his
3rd person singular (feminine)ihr[iːɐ̯]her
3rd person singular (neuter)sein[zaɪ̯n]its
1st person pluralunser[ʊnˈzeːɐ̯]our
2nd person pluraleuer[ˈɔʏ̯ɐ̯]your (plural)
3rd person pluralihr[iːɐ̯]their

Let’s explore some examples of using German pronouns in the genitive case.

Das ist mein Bruder John. (This is my brother John.)

Ich glaube, seine Schwester mag mich. (I think his sister likes me.)

Ich kann sein Spielzeug nicht nehmen. (I can’t take its toy.)

Ich möchte ihre Mutter kennenlernen. (I want to meet their mother).

Sein Sohn ist mein Freund. (His son is my friend.)

Comprehensive List of German Pronouns

Personal pronouns are the most extensive category. However, there are many other ones. So now, let’s explore other types of German pronouns and ways of using them in different contexts and conversations.

Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns in German are used when the subject and the object of a sentence refer to the same entity or person. These pronouns are vital in expressing actions where the subject both performs and receives the action. Take a look at this list of German pronouns.

Person/NumberPronoun (German)PronunciationPronoun (English)
1st person singularmich/mir[ˈmɪç]/[mi:ɐ̯]myself
2nd person singular (informal)dich/dir[dɪç]/[di:ɐ̯]yourself (informal)
2nd person singular (formal)sich[zɪç]yourself (formal)
3rd person singular (masculine)sich[zɪç]himself
3rd person singular (feminine)sich[zɪç]herself
3rd person singular (neuter)sich[zɪç]itself
1st person pluraluns[ʊns]ourselves
2nd person pluraleuch[ɔʏ̯ç]yourselves
3rd person pluralsich[zɪç]themselves

There are some common examples of using reflexive pronouns in simple sentences.

Er kann nicht aufhören, an sich selbst zu denken. (He can’t stop thinking about himself.)

Ich werde mir einen Kaffee kaufen. (I’m going to buy myself some coffee.)

Sie hat sich ein schönes Kleid gekauft. (She bought herself a beautiful dress.)

Du musst aufhören, dir die Schuld zu geben. (You have to stop blaming yourself.)

Manchmal ertappe ich mich dabei, wie ich mit mir selbst rede. (Sometimes I find myself talking to myself.)


Independent Possessive Pronouns in German

German possessive pronouns, similar to personal pronouns in the genitive case, are used to describe ownership and possession. These are the words “mine,” “yours,” “hers,” etc. Take a look at the chart below to see how German possessive pronouns change by gender and number.

1st personmeiner [maɪ̯nɐ]meine [maɪ̯nə]meins [maɪ̯ns]meine [maɪ̯nə]
2nd person (You, informal)deiner [daɪ̯nɐ]deine [daɪ̯nə]deins [daɪ̯ns]deine [daɪ̯nə]
3rd person (He/She/It)seiner [zaɪ̯nɐ]ihre [i:ʁə]seins [zaɪ̯ns]ihre [i:ʁə]
Formal (You)ihrer [i:ʁɐ]ihre [i:ʁə]ihres [i:ʁəs]ihre [i:ʁə]
1st person plural (We)unsere [ʊnzəʁə]
2nd person plural (You, informal plural)eure [ɔʏ̯ʁə]
Formal (You/They)ihre [i:ʁə]

And to solidify this knowledge, take a look at some example sentences. 

Diese Katze ist meine. (That cat is mine.)

Ich habe Katies Handtasche gefunden. Aber ich bin nicht sicher, ob es ihre ist. (I found Katie’s purse. But I’m not sure it is hers.)

Das Buch ist seins. (The book is his.)

Nicht anfassen, bitte. Das ist meiner. (Don’t touch it, please. This is mine.)

Du hättest das Spielzeug nicht mitnehmen dürfen. Es ist meiner! (You shouldn’t have taken the toy. It’s mine!)

Relative Pronouns

German relative pronouns are words used to connect clauses in a sentence, particularly to refer to a noun or pronoun mentioned earlier. They serve a similar purpose to English words like “who,” “whom,” “whose,” “which,” and “that.” Here’s the table of common German relative pronouns:

Nominativeder [de:ɐ̯] (who/which/that)die [di:] (who/which/that)das [das] (which/that)die [di:] (who/which/that)
Genitivedessen [dɛsən] (whose)deren [de:ʁən] (whose)dessen [dɛsən] (whose)deren [de:ʁən] (whose)
Dativedem [de:m] (whom/which)der [de:ɐ̯] (whom/which)dem [de:m] (which/that)denen [de:nən] (whom/which)
Accusativeden [de:n] (whom/which)die [di:] (whom/which)das [das] (which/that)die [di:] (whom/which)

As you can see, these pronouns also change according to gender, number, and grammatical case. Here are some examples of them in sentences:

Der Mann, der das Buch liest, ist mein Bruder. (The man who is reading the book is my brother.)

Die Frau, die dort steht, ist meine Lehrerin. (The woman who is standing there is my teacher.)

Das ist der Hund, der immer bellt. (That is the dog that always barks.)

Das ist der Freund, dem ich das Buch gegeben habe. (That is the friend to whom I gave a book.)

Das ist das Auto, das ich gestern gekauft habe. (That is the car that I bought yesterday.)

Demonstrative Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns in German, much like in English, are used to point out specific things or individuals. They replace nouns and are based on their proximity to the speaker and listener. In German, there are four main demonstrative pronouns. But their forms change by gender and number.

This/Thesedieser [di:zɐ]diese [di:zə]dieses [di:zəs]diese [di:zə] (these)
That/Thosejener [je:nɐ]jene [je:nə]jenes [je:nəs]jene [je:nə] (those)
That/Thoseder [de:ɐ̯]die [di:]das [das]die [di:] (those)
Whichwelcher [vɛlçɐ]welche [vɛlçə]welches [vɛlçəs]welche [vɛlçə]

Here’s how to use these pronouns in sentences:

Dieser Stuhl ist bequem. (This chair is comfortable.)

Diese Blumen sind schön. (These flowers are beautiful.)

Jener Mann ist mein Nachbar. (That man is my neighbor.)

Der Tisch dort ist neu. (That table over there is new.)

Die Frau dort ist meine Schwester. (That woman over there is my sister.)

Interrogative Pronouns

Interrogative pronouns in German are used to ask questions about unknown or unspecified elements. They stand in place of nouns or nominal phrases and help seek information or clarification. These pronouns are particularly used at the beginning of interrogative sentences. There are seven interrogative pronouns in German:

Whower [ve:ɐ]
Whatwas [vas]
Whichwelcher [vɛlçɐ]wessen [vɛsən]wem [vəm]wen [ve:n]
Whosewessen [vɛsən]
Whom (Indirect)wem [vəm]
Whom (Direct)wen [ve:n]
Which (General)welche [vɛlçə]

And here is how to implement these pronouns into casual conversations:

Wer ist das? (Who is that?)

Was machst du? (What are you doing?)

Wessen Auto ist das? (Whose car is that?)

Wem hast du das Buch gegeben? (Whom did you give the book to?)

Wen siehst du? (Whom do you see?)

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Despite the initial complexity, delving into German pronouns offers a nuanced understanding of language and communication. Yes, they may appear overwhelming at first, given the various forms based on case, gender, and formalities, but they hold the key to effective expression in German. We hope that today’s article helped you to figure out the most vital nuances of German pronouns. And we are looking forward to seeing you in the next one!


Are there any gender-neutral pronouns in German?

German traditionally lacks widely accepted and established gender-neutral pronouns like “they/them” in English. However, there have been discussions and efforts to introduce gender-neutral language in German in recent years. Some individuals and groups have proposed new pronouns like “xier,” “si,” “hen,” or “ier,” but these haven’t gained widespread usage or official recognition. Instead, many people are resorting to creative linguistic strategies, such as using the generic masculine pronoun “er” as an inclusive pronoun or using alternative sentence structures to avoid gender-specific pronouns altogether.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when using pronouns in German?

Some of the most widespread issues related to using German pronouns include using the wrong gendered pronouns, mixing up “sie” and “Sie” pronouns, overusing “es” pronoun, and using the informal “du” when addressing someone in a formal setting.

How do German pronouns differ from English ones?

German pronouns have different forms based on case (nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive) and gender (masculine, feminine, neuter). Moreover, they can change based on the formality level. For instance, the English pronoun “you” corresponds to three different German words: “du” (informal singular), “ihr” (informal plural), and “Sie” (formal singular and plural).

Do different dialects of German affect pronoun usage?

Yes, regional German variations can influence pronoun usage to some extent. While the basic “du” and “Sie” distinction remains consistent, specific dialects might have interpretations in pronoun forms or local terms for addressing others. For example, in certain dialects, the pronoun “du” might be replaced with “do” or “de” in informal situations. In Bavarian dialects, you might hear “du” replaced with “d’.” However, these dialect-specific variations are more relevant to spoken language and may not significantly affect written communication.


PromovaSep 12th, 2023
Yes, German pronouns can change based on gender and case. For instance, the third-person singular pronoun "he" has different forms in German depending on the gender of the noun it represents. "He" can be translated as "er" (masculine), "sie" (feminine), or "es" (neuter). Additionally, German pronouns change in different cases, such as nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive, affecting their forms in sentences.
Sean KaurSep 12th, 2023
I couldn’t stop, this article was great! Are there different forms of German pronouns based on gender or case?