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German Possessive Pronouns: Get to Know the Possessivpronomen

Possessive pronouns are words like mine, yours and theirs. In this article, we walk through when to use the various forms of German possessive pronouns.

Having four cases and genders to work with means there’s a lot of endings you’ll be working with. To simplify it, we’re going to tackle each in bite sized chunks and cover ways you can more easily recall how to put these important pieces of grammar to use.

What are the German Possessive Pronouns?

As the name suggests, possessive pronouns show ownership. Unlike possessive adjectives (my, your, her) they can stand independently. The English possessive pronouns here are matched with their German counterparts:

Minemein
Yours (sg)dein1
Hissein
Hersihr
Itssein
Oursunser
Yours (pl)euer
Theirsihr

Using these bases, we’re going to go through the many potential forms of German possessive pronouns.

Genders and Cases


English and German possessive pronouns work in the same way but have grammatical differences. In German, gender is extended to all nouns rather than just referring to the gender of the speaker (his/her). They also mark neutral and plural genders.

You can see what I mean in the following table of nominative possessive pronouns:

Nominativ

Nominativ

Maskulinum

Neutrum

Femininum/ Plural

Ich

Meiner

Meins

Meine

Du

Deiner

Deins

Deine

Er/ Es

Seiner

Seins

Seine

Sie (f)

Ihrer

Ihres

Ihre

Wir

Unserer

Unseres

Unsere

Ihr

Eurer

Eures

Eure

Sie (pl)

Ihrer

Ihres

Ihre

Note: The -e is sometimes excluded from Ihres to form Ihrs in the neuter form.

 Examples:

  1. 1
    Das ist meiner. – That is mine. (Maskulinum)
  2. 2
    Dieses Buch ist ihres. – This book is theirs. (Neutrum)
  3. 3
    Diese Katze ist nicht seine. – This cat is not his. (Femininum)
  4. 4
    Diese Bücher sind deine. – These books are yours. (Plural)

Notice that the gender of the German possessive pronouns matches that of the noun rather than whoever owns it. Thus, his in example three is feminine because the noun “cat” is feminine, not masculine because of the pronoun “his”.

In addition to gender, you have to account for case when dealing with German possessive pronouns. German also has four cases – a bit more than we’re used to in English. These are the nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive. Putting these together with the noun’s gender will help you devise the correct form.

Akkusativ

Akkusativ

Maskulinum

Neutrum

Femininum/ Plural

Ich

Meinen

Meines

Meine

Du

Deinen

Deines

Deine

Er/ Es

Seinen

Seines

Seine

Sie (f)

Ihren

Ihres

Ihre

Wir

Unseren

Unseres

Unsere

Ihr

Euren

Eures

Eure

Sie (pl)

Ihren

Ihres

Ihre

You’ll notice that the only difference between the nominative and the accusative sets is the masculine form.

Where in nominative case the possessive pronouns end in -er, here they end in -en, just as with the articles der/den. One good thing about German is that the inflections on words use a relatively consistent system from set to set.

Examples: (nouns included in parentheses to reference gender)

  1. 1
    Hast du deinen vergessen (Schlüssel)? – Did you forget your (keys)? (Maskulinum)
  2. 2
    Es ist für meines (Kind). – It’s for mine (child). (Neutrum)
  3. 3
    Es liegt um seine (Nähe). – It’s around his (neighborhood). (Femininum)
  4. 4
    Habt Ihr ihre erinnert (Schuhe)? – Did you remember yours (shoes)? (Plural)

The accusative case is used for direct objects as well as with some prepositions (durch, gegen, um, ohne, für, bis, etc). This differs from the nominative which is used for subjects of a sentence.

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Dativ

Next, we’ll take a look at the dative case. We use the dative with indirect objects and a separate set of prepositions (aus, bei, mit, nach, zu, seit, etc). 

Dativ

Maskulinum/Neutrum

Femininum

Plural

Ich

Meinem

Meiner

Meinen

Du

Deinem

Deiner

Deinen

Er/ Es

Seinem

Seiner

Seinen

Sie (f)

Ihrem

Ihrer

Ihren

Wir

Unserem

Unserer

Unseren

Ihr

Eurem

Eurer

Euren

Sie (pl)

Ihrem

Ihrer

Ihren

Here, the -em final for masculine and neuter words enters the scene. We see the same conjugation with them as we would with the article dem. This is also the only instance where the feminine and plural forms diverge.

Examples:

  1. 1
    Du kannst auf unserem sitzen (Stuhl). – You can sit on ours (chair). (Maskulinum)
  2. 2
    Ich werde mit meinem anrufen (Handy). – I’ll call with mine (phone). (Neutrum)
  3. 3
    Sie gibt das Geld auf ihrer (Mutter). – She gave the money to hers (mother). (Femininum)
  4. 4
    Sollen sie nach euren kommen (Klassen)? – Should they come to yours (classes)? (Plural)

Genitiv

And with this we finally move on to the last case! The genitive is used with possession, some prepositions, and some idioms. The possessive genitive in German is essentially equal to etwas+von+jemand (the something of someone).

Unlike the other cases, only possessive adjectives (or dependent possessive pronouns) can be used here. These are words like my, your, her, and their.

Genitiv

Maskulinum/Neutrum

Femininum / Plural

Ich

Meines

Meiner

Du

Deines

Deiner

Er/ Es

Seines

Seiner

Sie (f)

Ihres

Ihrer

Wir

Unseres

Unserer

Ihr

Eures

Eurer

Sie (pl)

Ihres

Ihrer

There are only two different forms for this one – the masculine/neuter and feminine/plural. 

Examples:

  1. 1
    Das ist der Hund meines Bruder. – That is my brother’s dog. (Maskulinum)
  2. 2
    Wo ist das Spielzeug unseres Kind? – Where is our child’s toy? (Neutrum)
  3. 3
    Er kann nicht kommen, wegen seiner Frau. – He cannot come, because of his wife. (Femininum)
  4. 4
    Diese sind die Schuhe ihrer Schwestern. – These are her sisters’ shoes. (Plural)

Knowing this form is particularly important for meaning.

For instance, the first sentence might read, “That is the dog, my brother,” to someone unfamiliar with this case, which just doesn’t make sense. When you know the genitive, meines indicates the brother’s ownership and the correct meaning comes through.

How Do I Keep Track of All of These??

Unfortunately, memorization and practice are the best ways to solidify your German possessive pronouns. Luckily, many of these endings come out as a schwa (ə - like the ‘a’ in sofa) in speech.

I’ve been told by native speakers that by defaulting to this pronunciation, you can generally be understood in conversation. 

Writing is a different story. In this context, correct spellings become much more important. In order to help you remember all the various forms, I’ve included a little trick I learned in one of my own German classes.

Case

Maskulinum

Neutrum

Femininum

Plural

Nominativ

-(e)r

-e

-(e)s

-e

Akkusativ

-(e)n

-e

-(e)s

-e

Dativ

-(e)m

-(e)r

-(e)m

-(e)n

Genitiv

-(e)s

-(e)r

-(e)s

-(e)r

The table gathers of all of the endings according to gender and case. When they’re organized this way, you get the letters: rese, nese, mrmn, srsr. Looks like a bunch of nonsense, right?

But you can turn these into a mnemonic that will stick in your mind. The one I utilize is: rese (reesuh) nese (neesuh), Mister Merman, senior senior. Alternatively, you could try making up your own.

See also: German Relative Pronouns

Conclusion

To summarize, the possessive pronouns used in German depend on gender, number, and case.

They are especially important in written materials and exams where your grammar is more likely to be scrutinized.

It is good to keep in mind that these inflections are similar to that of other parts of speech (der/einen/wem). So, there is really only a single system to memorize with the use of different bases for different meanings.

About the Author Marion Maeurman

Marion studies English, French and Italian in Freiburg, Germany. She enjoys diving into new cultures and never misses the opportunity to somehow improve her language skills.