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Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns are words like ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, ‘we’, ‘you’, ‘they’, ‘him’ and ‘her’.

Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns change from case to case, just like articles. However, genitive personal pronouns are used so rarely they have been left off the table on the next page.

English personal pronouns

  • He is my brother (here, he is the subject of the sentence and is in the nominative case).
  • I don’t like him (here, him is used instead, because it’s the direct object – this is the accusative case).
  • She goes out every day (here, she is the subject of the sentence and is in the nominative case).

Thinking of he/him and she/her can help you work out whether you need the nominative or accusative in German too.

What do I need to know to get started?

To know which pronoun to pick, you need to know two things:

  • Which personal pronoun you need (I/you/he, etc)
  • What case your pronoun is going to be in (nominative, accusative or dative)

 

Personal pronouns reference table

Nominative case Accusative case Dative case
I ich mich mir
You (singular) du dich dir
He er ihn ihm
It es es ihm
One (*) man einen einem
We wir uns uns
You (plural) ihr euch euch
They sie sie ihnen
You (formal) Sie Sie Ihnen

 

‘One’ (*) sounds very formal in English but not in German. It is used where in English you would use ‘you’ in a general sense, eg ‘You can go shopping in Bluewater’ or ‘It would scare you’ – meaning people in general, not just the individual you’re talking to.

For example, in the sentence ‘Sarah doesn’t like him’:

  1. Find the correct row for the pronoun you want – we are looking for ‘him’, so we start in the ‘he’ row, which is ‘er’.
  2. Follow it across to the correct case – ‘him’ is in the accusative, so we use ‘ihn‘.
  3. Put the pronoun into your sentence – ‘Sarah doesn’t like him’ is ‘Sarah mag ihn nicht’.

In the sentence ‘John gives the letter to him’:

  1. Find the correct row for the pronoun you want – we are looking for ‘him’, so we start in the ‘he’ row, which is ‘er’.
  2. Follow it across to the correct case – him is in the dative as it has the idea of ‘to him’, so we use ‘ihm‘.
  3. Put the pronoun into your sentence – ‘John gives the letter to him’ is ‘John gibt ihm den Brief‘.

Nominative examples

  • Ihr seid sehr intelligent -> You (pl) are very intelligent.
  • Man kann hier gut essen -> One can eat well here.

Accusative examples

  • Ich liebe dich -> I love you.
  • Ich sehe ihn jeden Tag -> I see him every day.

Dative examples

  • Sie hat mir Make-up geschenkt -> She gave me makeup as a present.
  • Er kommt mit uns in die Stadt -> He’s coming into town with us.

Common mistakes made by English speakers

  1. Always sticking with the nominative forms.
  2. Using ‘du’ where they should use ‘man‘.

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