German Personal Pronouns: Ultimate Guide on How to Use German Pronouns in 4 Use Cases

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re introducing someone, but your mind goes blank, and you can’t seem to find the right words? It happens to all of us sometimes. You stumble over your words, feeling embarrassed and tongue-tied…

If you’ve ever experienced a similar moment, fear not! Spring German (a project I co-founded) made a great explanatory video on this topic:

And in this blog post, we’ll explain everything you have to know about German personal pronouns to make sure you never find yourself at a loss for words again.

Effortless Conversation will explain different use cases and give you examples.

1. What are German personal pronouns?

Effortless Answers

German personal pronouns are words used to substitute nouns or noun phrases in sentences. They are also important if you want to emphasize the person speaking (1st person), the person being spoken to (2nd person), or the person/thing being spoken about (3rd person).

The personal pronouns in German have singular and plural forms, they change based on the grammatical cases (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive) and also based on formality.

The German personal pronouns are a really important part of German grammar and they also play a role in forming German sentences.

Now, let’s take a look at them one by one based on different aspects!

2. German personal pronouns in singular

The German personal pronouns in singular are the following:

EnglishGerman
Iich
you (informal)du
heer
shesie
ites
you (formal)Sie

Example sentences with all of the singular German pronouns:

  • Ich lese gern Bücher. [I like to read books.]
  • Du bist mein bester Freund. [You are my best friend.]
  • Er spielt Fußball im Verein. [He plays soccer in a club.]
  • Sie hat einen schönen Garten. [She has a beautiful garden.]
  • Es ist ein kleines Kätzchen. [It is a small kitten.]
  • Sind Sie bereit für die Prüfung? [Are you (formal) ready for the exam?]

Pay attention to the differences between sie and Sie: the German capitalization is an important part of the language. The lowercase sie is used as the third person singular (informal) and plural pronoun for all genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter).

Let’s say, here’s an example:

  • Sie spielen im Garten. (They are playing in the garden.)

While the capitalized Sie is the formal singular pronoun for You in German, and it’s used as a polite address when you’re speaking to one person. It’s basically the counterpart of the informal singular du.

Another example:

  • Können Sie mir bitte helfen? (Could you please help me? – formal)

3. German personal pronouns in plural

The German personal pronouns in plural are:

EnglishGerman
wewir
you/Youihr/Ihr
they (masculine/feminine/neuter)sie

And this is how they look like in real-life scenarios:

  • Wir gehen heute ins Kino. [We are going to the cinema today.]
  • Ihr seid die besten Schüler der Klasse. [You (plural) are the best students in the class.]
  • Sie spielen Basketball. [They play basketball.]

The difference between “ihr” and “Ihr” in German also lies in their capitalization, just like it’s the case with sie vs Sie:

The lowercase ihr is the second personal plural for you in German, and is used when addressing multiple people informally:

  • Wollt ihr mit uns kommen? (Do you want to come with us?)

The capitalized Ihr is the possessive determiner derived from the second person plural pronoun ihr and it means your when referring to something that belongs to multiple people:

  • Ich mag Ihre Ideen. (I like your ideas.)

4. Personal pronouns in German cases

Just like we mentioned it previously, the German personal pronouns change based on grammatical cases.

German singular personal pronouns in grammatical cases

Case1st Person2nd Person Informal2nd Person Formal3rd Person Masculine3rd Person Feminine3rd Person Neuter
NominativeichduSieersiees
AccusativemichdichSieihnsiees
DativemirdirIhnenihmihrihm
GenitivemeinerdeinerIhrerseinerihrerseiner

Example sentences in different grammatical cases in singular:

  • Mich interessiert die Geschichte. (History interests me.) – Accusative
  • Mir gefällt dein Kleid. (I like your dress.) – Dative
  • Deiner Freundschaft bin ich gewiss. (I am certain of your friendship.) – Genitive

German plural personal pronouns in grammatical cases

Case1st Person Plural2nd Person Plural3rd Person Plural
Nominativewirihrsie
Accusativeunseuchsie
Dativeunseuchihnen
Genitiveunsereuerihrer

Example sentences in different grammatical cases in plural:

  • Wir haben sie (plural) eingeladen. (We have invited them.) – Accusative
  • Euch wird geholfen werden. (You (plural) will be helped.) – Dative
  • Eurer Bemühungen wegen sind wir dankbar. (We are grateful for your (plural) efforts.) – Genitive

Note that the third person plural pronoun “sie” is the same in the nominative and accusative cases, but changes to “ihnen” in the dative case and “ihrer” in the genitive case

5. Guide to German personal pronouns: when to use them?

After all of this, you might still wonder: when do I use German personal pronouns? Well, in this ultimate guide, you can find 6 use cases of personal pronouns in German with examples. Let’s see!

To substitute a noun or noun phrase

You can use them when you want to substitute an already known noun. For this, you can use the appropriate personal pronoun.

Like this:

  • Ich habe einen Hund. Er (der Hund) ist sehr lieb. (I have a dog. It (the dog) is very friendly.)

To indicate the object of a sentence

Another example when you want to show that the personal pronoun is the object of a sentence – it doesn’t matter if it’s a direct or indirect object of a verb.

Let’s see:

  • Ich sehe ihn (den Mann) nicht. (I don’t see him (the man).)

To indicate possession

Since we already mentioned it earlier, it’s also important to highlight this situation. You can use personal pronouns in German when you want to express possession.

These are possessive adjectives in German that are derived from personal pronouns used to show ownership:

  • Das ist mein (meiner) Buch. (That is my book.)

In reflexive constructions

And let’s not forget about reflexive pronouns in German (mich, dich, sich, uns, euch, sich). You can use them with German reflexive verbs:

  • Ich wasche mich. (I wash myself.)

6. How to use German personal pronouns?

Choosing the correct German personal pronoun also requires careful consideration of several factors.

a home library illustrating the correct usage of german personal pronouns

First of all, the person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) must be determined:

  • ich” and “wir” are used for the speaker(s) or writer(s),
  • du“, “ihr“, and “Sie” for the addressee(s), and
  • er“, “sie“, “es”, and “sie” (plural) for the person(s) or thing(s) being discussed.

The number (singular or plural) is also important:

  • singular pronouns “ich“, “du“, “er“, “sie“, “es“, and “Sie” are referring to one entity, while
  • plural forms like “wir“, “ihr“, and “sie” talk about multiple entities.

For 3rd person singular pronouns, the gender (masculine, feminine, or neuter) of the replaced noun must match:

  • er” for masculine nouns,
  • sie” for feminine nouns, and
  • es” for neuter nouns.

The level of formality plays a role, too.

Du” is used informally and “Sie” (capitalized) is better in formal situations.

The case (nominative, accusative, dative, or genitive) depends on the pronoun’s function within the sentence, whether as a subject, direct object, indirect object, or indicating possession. But I guess, by now, you can find everything you want in this blog post!

Just one more thing!

7. Practice German personal pronouns with our worksheets

Fill in the blanks with the correct German personal pronouns!

This was just part of the exercise and we have a lot more to offer. Click the button below and request full access to our Practice Worksheet Library!

8. Learn a language with Conversation Based Chunking Guide

Imagine being able to comfortably go through different situations with ease, whether it’s about introducing yourself and others, expressing possession, or addressing people with the appropriate level of formality.

Please, trust me in this one and don’t let the complexity of personal pronouns in German discourage you. You can use the Conversation Based Chunking method, and make it a habit to incorporate personal pronouns into your daily practice. It’s a method that is all about exposing yourself to real-life scenarios. And the more you use these German personal pronouns, the easier they will become!

Sign up now, and get your first German Conversation Based Chunking Guide!

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