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by Mehedi 

April 12, 2022

0 Comments

The personal pronouns are the basis to form sentences, which is why they are one of the first things we learn in German! This article will remind you what they are and explain how to use them and how they are formed in the nominative, accusative, and dative cases. 

We’ll also discuss the pronoun “man” and end with a short set of exercises to practice the personal pronouns. Let’s go! 

What Are Personal Pronouns?

See the table below:

Nominative

ichI
duYou (sg)
erHe
sieShe
esIt
wirWe
ihrYou (pl)
sie
Sie
they
you (formal)

Accusative

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michme
dichyou
ihnhim
sieher
esit
unsus
euchyou
sie
Sie
them
you (formal)

Dative

mirme, to me
diryou, to you
ihmhim,to him
ihrher, to her
ihmit, to it
unsus, to us
euchyou, to you
ihnen
Ihnen
to them
to you (formal)

The formal you “Sie” is always capitalized. We form the third person singular with "er" (he), "sie" (she) and "es" (it) in the nominative, “ihn”, “sie” and “es” in the accusative, and “ihm”, “ihr”, and “ihm” again in the dative. As you know, only the masculine form changes in the accusative.

Examples
Ohne dich kann ich nicht sein.I can’t be (can’t exist) without you.
Mit dir bin ich auch allein.With you, I am alone too.

These sentences were in the lyrics to one of the most beautiful ballads in history, “Ohne dich“ by Rammstein. Because the preposition “ohne” always takes the accusative, “dich” follows. The dative form of the personal pronoun “dir” follows “mit”, which always takes the dative. 

What is "Man"?

“Man” translates roughly to "one". It is very common in German; more so than the passive voice in everyday speech. We use it when we don’t know who performs a given action or is in a given state or it is not important.

Example
Man kauft Sachen, die zu teuer sind.One buys things that are too expensive.

It is understood in the sense of „people“, something people do. 

Kann man hier rauchen?Can one smoke here?

In the sense of “is smoking allowed”? 

Man is only used in the nominative singular. What happens when we have a subordinate clause? We want to say, “One buys things that are too expensive, because one has too much money.” In German, it would be

Man kauft Sachen, die zu teuer sind, denn einer hat zu viel Geld. 

Or:

Man kauft Sachen, die zu teuer sind, weil einer zu viel Geld hat. 

It’s not wrong to use „man“ twice, but it sounds unnatural.  

A more complicated example:

Man will zum Arzt nicht, immer geben sie einem Antibiotika.One doesn’t want to go to the doctor because they always give one antibiotics.

In German, the second part has “man” in dative because of the way the verb “geben” is used. Again, we don’t repeat “man” because it sounds unnatural. 

Personal Pronouns Can Reflect Number or Gender 

In the third person, we use personal pronouns (er, sie, es) to replace a noun that was mentioned earlier.

Example:

Ich habe einen Hund. Er ist sehr klein.

You should always make it clear which noun is being replaced to avoid misunderstandings. Just repeat the noun in case of doubt.

Example:

Mein Nachbar hatte einen Hund. Er ist weg. 

Here, the dog is probably meant, but we can’t be 100% sure who disappeared (the neighbor or his dog), can we? 

In impersonal forms, we use pronouns in the third person neuter (es), just like in English.

Example:

Es schneit. Es ist zu früh.It is snowing. It is too early.

Es can be used as a placeholder for a whole clause. 

Example:

Es freut mich, dass sie wieder kommen. 

In German, we use personal pronouns in the first person to say something about ourselves. The singular nominative is ich, accusative mich, dative mir. The plural nominative is wir, accusative and dative uns.

Examples:

Wir haben Durst. 

Uns ist heiß. 

Ich gehe ins Kino. 

Mir ist das egal.

To address other people, we use personal pronouns in the second person (du, ihr) or the formal Sie, always written with a capital letter.

Example:

Wie heißen Sie? Wie geht es Ihnen?

Woher kommst du? Welche Filme gefallen dir?

Könnt ihr bitte kommen? Darf ich euch helfen?

When do We use Pronouns in the Nominative?

The basic pronoun form is the nominative case. This is the subject of a sentence. We ask who or what is in a state or performing an action to find the subject (Wer/Was).

Example

Die Frau hat einen Freund. Sie ist in ihn verliebt. The woman has a boyfriend. She is in love with him.
Mein Kollege hat ein Geschenk bekommen. Er mag es sehr.My coworker got a present. He likes it a lot.

In the nominative case, personal pronouns replace a known or previously mentioned noun. “Sie” replaces “die Frau.” “Er” replaces “mein Kollege.”

The accusative case or direct object comes after specific prepositions and verbs. We use it for the person or thing receiving the action. In the above example, “ihn” replaces “einen Freund” and “es” replaces “das Geschenk.” To find out what or who is receiving the action, we ask “wen” or “was”.

Examples: 

In wen ist sie verliebt?Who is she in love with?
Was hat er bekommen?What did he get?
Bastian sucht seine Schuhe. Ohne sie kann er das Haus nicht verlassen.Bastian is looking for his shoes. He can’t leave the house without them (on).

The subject is “Bastian” and “er“. The direct object is “die Schuhe” and “sie.”

When do We use Pronouns in the Accusative?

We use pronouns in the accusative after verbs like “suchen” and after the prepositions ohne, durch, gegen, um, für, etc.  

Example:

Seine Mutter hat sie ihm weggenommen.His mother took them away from him.

On this note, a pronoun comes before the indirect object if it is the direct object. “Sie” comes before “ihm.”

When do We use Pronouns in the Dative?

The dative case is used to designate the indirect recipient of an action. It is used with specific verbs like begegnen, helfen, schmecken, antworten, danken, zuhören, and certain prepositions like mit, von, nach, zu, etc. In English, pronouns like “me” and “them” and prepositions like “to” and “for” indicate the indirect object. To ask who or what the indirect recipient of the action was, we use wem/was

Example

Ich habe Tom seine Speise gegeben, aber sie schmeckt ihm nicht.I gave Tom his meal, but it doesn‘t taste good to him.
Das sind meine Eltern. Ich habe ihnen geholfen.Those are my parents. I helped them.
Das sind meine Freunde. Leider kann ich mit ihnen nicht kommen.Those are my friends. Unfortunately, I can‘t come with them.

Personal pronouns can’t be used with the genitive case. 

Rule Recap

We form the third person singular with "er" (he), "sie" (she) and "es" (it) in the nominative, “ihn”, “sie” and “es” in the accusative, and “ihm”, “ihr”, and “ihm” again in the dative. Only the masculine form changes in the accusative.

We use the pronoun “man” when we don’t know who performs a given action or is in a given state or if it is not important. 

In the third person, we use personal pronouns (er, sie, es) to replace a noun that was mentioned earlier.

In impersonal forms, we use pronouns in the third person neuter (es), just like in English.

We use personal pronouns in the first person to say something about ourselves. The singular nominative is “ich”, accusative “mich”, dative “mir”. The plural nominative is “wir”, accusative and dative “uns”.

To address other people, we use personal pronouns in the second person (du, ihr) or the formal Sie, always written with a capital letter. 

The basic pronoun form is the nominative case. This is the subject of a sentence.

The accusative case is used to designate the direct recipient of an action.

The dative case is used to designate the indirect recipient of an action.

Exercises 

Enter the personal pronouns in the correct form (nominative, dative or accusative).

  • Was haben (sie)
  • gemacht? (sie)
  • Die Nachbarn haben (ich)
  • geholfen. (mir)
  • Der Mann hat (du)
  • etwas gefragt. (dich)
  • Wo hast du (er)
  • kennengelernt? (ihn)
  • Kann ich mit (ihr)
  • zum Supermarkt fahren? (euch)

Multiple choice. Choose the correct personal pronoun.  

1. _______________ esse gern Schokolade.

  a) Ich

  b) Du    c) Sie  

 c) Sie  

2. Hat______________ der Film gefallen? 

 a) dub)

 b) dir

 c) dich

3. ____________ versteht_______ doch, oder?

 a) Ihr, ich

 b) Sie, dich

 c) Er, er

4. Kann er___________von der Schule abholen? 

 a) ich

 b) dir

 c) both a and b 

 d) neither a nor b

Rewrite the sentences, replacing the nouns with pronouns.

Der Chef dankt der Mitarbeiterin.

Er dankt ihr. 

Das Kind zählt die Äpfel.

Es zählt sie. 

Die Touristen hören dem Reiseleiter zu.

Sie hören ihm zu. 

Die Lehrerin erklärt dem Schüler den Dativ.

Sie erklärt ihn ihm. 

Der Junge lernt das Gedicht.

Er lernt es. 

Thank you for reading our article on personal pronouns in the nominative, dative, and accusative. Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below! 

About the author 

Mehedi

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