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German for Beginners

Lesson 2

German Personal Pronouns

Plus the formal versus the familiar you

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The German personal pronouns (er, ich, sie, es, du, wir, etc.) work in much the same way as their English equivalents (he, I, she, it, you, we, etc.). When we get to verb conjugation later, these words will be a key element that you should know very well. Even here we have included some sample verb phrases for many of the pronouns.

The pronouns listed below are in the nominative (subject) case. We will talk about their other forms and different cases in a later lesson. (Need help with grammar terms? See our German Grammar Glossary.)

A special word about the "you" pronouns!
German, much more than English, makes a clear distinction between formal you (Sie) and familiar you (first name, du) in social situations. (Unlike English, most European and other languages also have both a formal and a familiar you.) In this regard, Germans tend to be more formal than English-speakers and use first names only after a long period of getting to know each other (sometimes years). This is a good example of how language and culture are intertwined, and you need to be aware of this to avoid embarassing yourself and others. In the table below, the familiar you forms (du, ihr) are marked with the abbreviation "fam." to distinguish them from the formal you (Sie).

NOTE: German has three different forms of sie! Often the only way to tell which one is meant is to notice the verb ending and/or the context in which the pronoun is used. Even the capitalized Sie (you, formal) is tricky if it appears at the beginning of a sentence. Lower-case sie can mean both "she" and "they": sie ist (she is), sie sind (they are).

Also read the article and try our self-scoring quiz on du and Sie that is included in You and thou, Sie und du.

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die deutschen Pronomina
German Pronouns
Nominative Singular
Pronomen Pronoun Sample Phrases
ich I Darf ich? (May I?)
Ich bin 16 Jahre alt. (I'm 16 years old.)
The pronoun ich is not capitalized except at the beginning of a sentence.
du you
(fam.)
Kommst du mit? (Are you coming along?)
er he Ist er da? (Is he here?)
sie she Ist sie da? (Is she here?)
es it Hast du es? (Do you have it?)
Sie you Kommen Sie heute? (Are you coming today?)
The pronoun Sie always takes a plural conjugation, but is also used for the formal "you" singular.
Nominative Plural
Pronomen Pronoun Sample Phrases
wir we Wir kommen am Dienstag. (We're coming on Tuesday.)
ihr you
guys

(fam.)
Habt ihr das Geld? (Do you guys have the money?)
sie they Sie kommen heute. (They're coming today.)
The pronoun sie in this sentence could also mean "you" Sie. Only the context makes it clear which of the two is meant.
Sie you
(plur.)
Kommen Sie heute? (Are you [all] coming today?)
The pronoun Sie always takes a plural conjugation, but is also used for the formal "you" singular.
See the article and quiz You and thou, Sie und du for more about du and Sie.

QUIZ > Du/Sie - Self-scoring Quiz

MORE > You and thou, Sie und du
MORE > German Word Games, Exercises, Quizzes

NEXT > Lesson 3 - Nouns and gender

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Previous Lesson (German ABC's)
The German alphabet and its special characters.

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