Pronouns are small words with large implications. We often focus on learning big words, long impressive nouns, and strong, clear verbs when learning a new language, but it’s impossible to have a conversation without pronouns. If you are a German learner, this guide will cover different types of German pronouns and how they matter so stick around.

Pronouns have gotten more of the attention they deserve in recent years. Personal pronouns, in particular, have become more important as the world becomes more accepting of gender diversity.

People are increasingly using their preferred personal pronouns in their social media profile bios or introducing themselves to them. People care about this, and using someone’s proper pronoun is a sign of respect.

According to studies, function words such as pronouns account for roughly half of the most commonly used words, despite accounting for only 0.1% of all words!

Pronouns are an excellent starting point for learning all of the function words that are essential in every language. After all, it’s no surprise that words like “I,” “you,” and “that” are among the most commonly used.

What is a pronoun

A pronoun is derived from Latin and means “for noun” because it replaces a noun. German pronouns, like those in English, serve a variety of functions. Mastering them will provide you with a plethora of conversational options.

German pronouns and English pronouns are technically very similar. In practice, German ones are more complicated, but it’s not their fault. It’s because they can change depending on the case, and if you are learning German, you have probably noticed that German cases can make things a little complicated.

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German subject pronouns

Personal pronouns (both subject and object pronouns) constitute the largest group of pronouns. Assume you are taking a German class online and your friend John isn’t there.

“John isn’t in class,” you can say. “John is sleeping,” you can say, or “John isn’t in class.” He’s sleeping.” Because we’ve already established that we’re talking about John, the pronoun replaces him.

German (singular)EnglishGerman (plural)English
duYou (personal)ihrYou
SieYou (formal)SieYou (formal)

No one can deny the importance of pronouns when it comes to improving German grammar. Learning grammar takes time. You need to look for strategies to improve your grammar skills at a gradual pace.

German direct object pronouns

Assume you are wondering whether John will ever get out of bed and make it to class. So you dial John’s number. You can also call him. Notice how his pronoun changed as he became the sentence’s object, specifically the accusative object?

German direct object pronouns change in the same way. “Er schläft” becomes “Ich werde ihn anrufen” (I will call him).

German (singular)English meaningGerman (plural)English meaning

German indirect object pronouns

When our friend John does not respond, you decide to go see him after class to hand over your notes. Both of those pronouns look the same in English (him + him), but they look different in German because the second him is in a different case called dative.

Compare these two sentences and notice how the pronoun changes in German (ihn + him).

SubjectObject (Accusative)Object (Dative)
EnglishHe doesn’t answer.I’ll go see him.I’ll give him my notes.
GermanEr antwortet nichtIch werde ihn besuchen.Ich werde ihm meine Notizen geben.

The function of the verb identifies the dative case. In general, dative implies that you give something to someone or do something for their benefit (or harm). In German, verbs such as “geben” (to give), “antworten” (to answer), “danken” (to thank), “schaden” (to harm), and “wehtun” (to hurt) use the dative case.

In general, you use the dative case when you give something to someone (a gift, an answer, thanks, etc.) or do something to them (harm, hurt, etc.). These are the different pronoun forms.

German (singular)English meaningGerman (plural)English meaning
mir(to) meuns(to) us
dir(to) youeuch(to) you
ihm(to) himihnen(to) them
ihr(to) herihnen(to) them
ihm(to) itihnen(to) them

Possessive pronouns in German

A possessive pronoun, as the name suggests, denotes possession.

German (singular)English meaningGerman (plural)English meaning

Relative pronouns in German

The use of relative pronouns connect a subordinate clause to a main clause. Multiple main clauses can be used in a row. For example:

English: I have a friend who missed class again today. He needs my notes, which consist of multiple pages. You guessed it. I’m talking about Karl, whom I introduced to you earlier.

German: Ich habe einen Freund, der heute schon wieder den Unterricht verpasst hat. Deshalb braucht er meine Notizen, welche mehrere Seiten lang sind. Richtig geraten. Ich spreche von Karl, den ich euch vorhin schon vorgestellt have.

Indefinite pronouns in German

Indefinite pronouns are any pronouns that refer to a general person, thing, or amount rather than a specific person, thing, or amount. This category contains general words that cannot be defined precisely. It includes “Everything” and “anything”.

German (singular)English meaning
irgendjemand, irgendweranyone
keiner, keine, keinno one
jeder, jede, jedeseveryone
anderer, andere, anderesother
etwasa little
viele, etlichemany

Definite pronouns in German

Definite pronouns refer to a specific thing. They include phrases like “this”, “that”, and “those”.

German (singular)English meaningGerman (plural)English meaning

Interrogative pronouns in German

Question words are interrogative pronouns. They are extremely useful and necessary for asking any type of question that isn’t a yes or no.

German (singular)English meaning
werwho (nominative)
wem(to) whom (dative)
wenwhom (accusative)
wessenwhose (genitive)

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Learning a new language can be challenging at first, but it is extremely rewarding in the long run. If you just keep going, you will soon get to the fun parts of learning German. Keep visiting this guide again and again till you get all the German pronouns.

Be consistent in your learning approach. For example, if you want to learn German to take up professional opportunities, you need to learn how to write an email in German. If you require professional help, getting yourself enrolled with italki is just the right option. Book your lessons now!

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