In German, personal pronouns, called “Personalpronomen“, exist in four different grammatical cases. For now, you’ll learn about German personal pronouns in the nominative case, which is arguably the easiest grammatical case to understand.
German personal pronouns
Personal pronouns are small words that replace the larger words or phrases for people, places, and things. They help to make sentences short and clear.
These are the German personal pronouns in the nominative case:
|1st person singular||ich||I|
|2nd person singular||du||you|
|2nd person singular (formal)||Sie||you|
|3rd person singular||er/sie/es||he/she/it|
|1st person singular||wir||ye|
|2nd person plural||ihr||you (all)|
|2nd person plural (formal)||Sie||you (all)|
|3rd person plural||sie||they|
The table above includes the formal personal pronoun “Sie“, which is used when addressing one or more adult persons of respect or any adult you don’t know well.
The nominative case is the grammatical case used for the subject of a sentence. In Germany, the sentence’s subject usually stands at the beginning of a sentence.
The use of German personal pronouns in the nominative case is thus quite straightforward and easy to understand. Have a look at the following sample sentences:
Ich bin eine Frau.
I am a woman.
Du hast ein Haustier.
You have a pet.
Er/Sie ist schon früh aufgestanden.
He/She got up early.
Es ist wirklich ein gutes Buch.
It really is a good book.
Wir frühstücken jeden Tag um 8 Uhr morgens.
We have breakfast at 8am every day.
Ihr kennt euch nicht.
You don’t know each other.
Sie sehen, dass ich beschäftigt bin.
They see that I’m busy.
Note that the translation for the last sentence could also be “You see that I’m busy” since “Sie” can mean “they” or be the formal version of “you” and “you all”.
Using German personal pronouns in questions
Personal pronouns appear in simple sentences, and equally in questions. Personal pronouns are never the first word in a question:
Was lernt ihr?
What are you studying?
Hast du heute Geburtstag?
Is it your birthday today?
Hat er dir gratuliert?
Did he congratulate you?
Do you know anything about German birthday traditions? If not, it might be time to find out, so you know what to expect if you happen to be in Germany for your birthday.
Let’s talk German!
Have a look at the following sample conversation and see if you can understand the role of the personal pronouns in each sentence:
Hi. Du bist aber früh.
Ja, ich bin mit dem Auto gekommen.
Ich habe gestern deine Schwester getroffen. Hat sie dir das erzählt?
Nein, wir haben uns nicht gesprochen.
Ah. Sehr ihr euch bald?
Ja, morgen treffe ich sie.
New German vocabulary used in this lesson
In this lesson, I’ve used a few German vocabularies that you might not know yet. Have a look at the list below and note down any vocabulary that is new to you.
- das Haustier, die Haustiere – pet
- das Buch, die Bücher – book(s)
- der Geburtstag, die Geburtstage – birthday(s)
- das Auto, die Autos – car(s)
- frühstücken – to have breakfast
- gratulieren – to congratulate
- beschäftigt – busy
- bald – soon
After internalizing the German personal pronouns in the nominative case, you’ll soon be ready to study the personal pronouns in the other three grammatical cases used in German. Those are the genitive, the dative, and the accusative.