German pronouns: A short guide

German pronouns: A short guide

by Sandra Köktaş

Updated September 9, 2022

For some, German pronouns can be one of the many nightmares of learning German grammar. And still, the language cannot do without them. This means that German learners will have to memorize some tables and practice using pronouns, whether they like it or not. 

The first thing to know about German pronouns: There are a lot of them to learn.  And to make it worse, their forms change depending on factors such as case, number and gender. On the bright side, pronouns make sentences shorter and understanding easier. So they are worth the trouble. And to minimize yours (see the pronoun here?), we will give you a maybe not so sweet but nevertheless short guide to the most feared pronouns in German. 

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What are pronouns?

Pronouns replace nouns in a sentence. Depending on which noun they replace, there are seven types of German pronouns:

  1. Personal pronouns
  2. Possessive pronouns
  3. Reflexive pronouns
  4. Demonstrative pronouns
  5. Relative pronouns
  6. Indefinite pronouns
  7. Interrogative pronouns

Any time you use a pronoun in German, it will take the gender of the noun that you’re replacing. And as they take the place of a noun in a sentence, they will also take on the function of that noun in this sentence, i.e. the case. There are four cases in German, which you might already know from the declension of adjectives.

  • The nominative for the subject of the sentence: 

Ich lese.

I read.

  • The accusative for the direct object of the sentence, to which something is done:

Ich lese ein Buch

I read a book

  • The dative for the indirect object of the sentence affected by what is done to the direct object:

I lese meinem Kind ein Buch vor.

I read my kid a book.

  • And the rarely used genitive showing possession or association:

Ich lese das Buch des Nachbarn.

I read the neighbor’s book.

We will walk you through the usage and declension tables for the first four and give you some advice on the last three.

Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns refer to a person or thing mentioned before, so that you don’t have to repeat them over and over. 

For example:

Jimmy liebt Bücher. Er liest gerade ein Buch.

Jimmy loves books. He is reading a book right now.

It’s the same concept in German. And here are all the German personal pronouns for you to memorize.

German personal pronouns table

Person (in English)NominativAkkusativDativGenitiv
Iich michmirmeiner
you (sg.)dudichdirdeiner
heerihnihmseiner
she siesieihrihrer
itesesihmseiner
wewirunsunsunser
you (pl.)ihreucheucheuer
theysiesieihnenihrer
you (formal, sg. and pl.)SieSieIhnenIhrer

Possessive pronouns

Possessive pronouns replace a previously mentioned noun while at the same time specifying who possesses it:

Wem gehört die Uhr? Das ist seine.

Whose watch is this? This is his.

Note how again the pronoun takes on the case of the noun it replaces (here nominative) and indicates the gender of this noun (die Uhr, feminine, seine). In addition, we have to choose the right form of the pronoun according to the gender of the one who is in possession (here masculine, sein). 

German possessive pronouns table

PersonNominativAkkusativDativGenitiv
ichmeiner  (m sg)
meine (f sg)
meines (n sg)
meine (m,f,n pl)
meinen  (m sg) 
meine (f sg)
mein(e)s (n sg)
meine (m,f,n pl)
meinem  (m sg) 
meiner (f sg)
meinem (n sg)
meinen (m,f,n pl)
meines  (m sg) 
meiner (f sg)
meines (n sg)
meiner (m,f,n pl)
dudeiner (m sg)
deine (f sg)
deines (n sg)
deine (m,f,n pl)
deinen (m sg)
deine (f sg)
dein(e)s (n sg)
deine (m,f,n pl)
deinem (m sg)
deiner (f sg)
deinem (n sg)
deinen (m,f,n pl)
deines (m sg)
deiner (f sg)
deines (n sg)
deiner (m,f,n pl)
erseiner (m sg)
seine (f sg)
seines (n sg)
seine (m,f,n pl)
seinen (m sg)
seine (f sg)
sein(e)s (n sg)
seine (m,f,n pl)
seinem (m sg)
seiner (f sg)
seinem (n sg)
seinen (m,f,n pl)
seines (m sg)
seiner (f sg)
seines (n sg)
seiner (m,f,n pl)
sie (Sg.)ihrer (m sg)
ihre (f sg)
ihres (n sg)
ihre (m,f,n pl)
ihren (m sg)
ihre (f sg)
ihr(e)s (n sg)
ihre (m,f,n pl)
ihrem (m sg)
ihrer (f sg)
ihrem (n sg)
ihren (m,f,n pl)
ihres (m sg)
ihrer (f sg)
ihres (n sg)
ihrer (m,f,n pl)
esseiner (m sg)
seine (f sg)
seines (n sg)
seine (m,f,n pl)
seinen (m sg)
seine (f sg)
sein(e)s (n sg)
seine (m,f,n pl)
seinem (m sg)
seiner (f sg)
seinem (n sg)
seinen (m,f,n pl)
seines (m sg)
seiner (f sg)
seines (n sg)
seiner (m,f,n pl)
wirunserer (m sg)
unsere (f sg)
unseres (n sg)
unsere (m,f,n pl)
unser(e)n (m sg)
unsere (f sg)
unser(e)s (n sg)
unsere (m,f,n pl)
unserem (m sg)
unserer (f sg)
unserem (n sg)
unseren (m,f,n pl)
unseres (m sg)
unserer (f sg)
unseres (n sg)
unseren (m,f,n pl)
ihreurer (m sg)
eure (f sg)
eures (n sg)
eure (m,f,n pl)
euren (m sg)
eure (f sg)
eures (n sg)
eure (m,f,n pl)
eurem (m sg)
eurer (f sg)
eurem (n sg)
euren (m,f,n pl)
eures (m sg)
eurer (f sg)
eures (n sg)
euren (m,f,n pl)
sie (Pl.)ihrer (m sg)
ihre (f sg)
ihres (n sg)
ihre (m,f,n pl)
ihren (m sg)
ihre (f sg)
ihr(e)s (n sg)
ihre (m,f,n pl)
ihrem (m sg)
ihrer (f sg)
ihrem (n sg)
ihren (m,f,n pl)
ihres (m sg)
ihrer (f sg)
ihres (n sg)
ihrer (m,f,n pl)
Sie (formal, Sg. und Pl.)Ihrer (m sg)
Ihre (f sg)
Ihres (n sg)
Ihre (m,f,n pl) 
Ihren (m sg)
Ihre (f sg)
Ihr(es) (n sg)
Ihre (m,f,n pl) 
Ihrem (m sg)
Ihrer (f sg)
Ihrem (n sg)
Ihren (m,f,n pl) 
Ihres (m sg)
Ihrer (f sg)
Ihres (n sg)
Ihrer (m,f,n pl)

Note: 

m = masculine

f = feminine

n = neutral

sg = singular

pl = plural

The brackets refer to the gender and number of the noun replaced by the pronoun.

Examples:

Das ist sein Hund (m sg) Das ist seiner.

This is his dog. → It’s his.

Das ist seine Katze (f sg)  Das ist seine.

This is his cat. → It’s his.

Das ist sein Kind (n sg)    Das ist seines.

This is his kid. → It’s his.

Another note: Don’t confuse possessive pronouns (Possessivpronomen) with possessive adjectives (Possessivartikel). The latter don’t replace a noun but accompany it to indicate possession. Their declension is slightly different.

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Reflexive pronouns

After working your way through the possessive pronouns, reflexive pronouns are a walk in the park. Mainly, because you’ll only use them in the accusative or dative. This is because the reflexive pronouns express an action someone does to themselves as a direct object (accusative) or they express an action someone does to a direct object (accusative) and by doing so affect themselves as an indirect object (dative). 

Ich wasche mich (direct object; accusative).

I am washing myself

Ich wasche mir (indirect object; dative) die Haare (direct object; accusative).

I wash myself the hair.

Maybe difficult to use, but easy to memorize.

German reflexive pronouns table

PersonAkkusativDativ
ichmichmir
dudichdir
erihnihm
sie (Sg.)sieihr
esesihm
wirunsuns
ihreucheuch
sie (Pl)sieihnen
Sie (formal, Sg. und Pl.)SieIhnen

Demonstrative pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns are something like the premium version of personal pronouns. Like them, they replace a previously mentioned noun but put more emphasis on the person or object. You can use the definite article der, die, das to take it a notch up or you really stress what you refer to with dieser, diese, dieses. Of course, all of these (demonstrative pronouns here!) take the case, number and gender of the word they replace. Again, memorize!

Example: 

Letzte Woche war eine neue Katze im Garten. – Last week there was a new cat in the garden.

Die war nicht wie die anderen. – She wasn’t like the other cats.

Diese war sehr zutraulich. This cat was very friendly.

German Demonstrative pronouns table

PronomenNominativAkkusativDativGenitiv
thisdieser (m)
diese (f)
dieses (n)
diesen (m)
diese (f)
dieses (n)
diesem (m)
dieser (f)
diesem (n)
dieses (m)
dieser (f)
dieses (n)
thesediese (m)
diese (f)
diese (n)
diese (m)
diese (f)
diese (n)
diesen (m)
diesen (f)
diesen (n)
dieser (m)
dieser (f)
dieser (n)

Other pronouns

As mentioned before, there are other pronouns.

  • Relative pronouns: They introduce more information on the noun they refer back to in the form of a short additional sentence (relative clause): der, die, das (they would mean “who” in English) and welcher, welche, welches (all “which” in English). 

Example:

Der Mann, der gestern in den Laden kam, war heute wieder da.

The man who came to the store yesterday came again today.

  • Indefinite pronouns: They come in handy when you don’t want to specify the subject or object of a sentence: etwas (something), nichts (nothing), jeder (every), jemand (somebody), man (they).

Example: 

Ich habe nichts zu verlieren.

I have nothing to loose. 

  •  Interrogative pronouns: replace the noun (or pronoun) we are asking for: wer/was (nominative), wen/was (accusative), wem/was (dative), wessen (genetive). 

Example:

Wer war mit dir im Auto?

Who was in the car with you?


German pronouns solved

German pronouns are a lot to take in. Not only are there seven different types, but they also change their forms depending on case, number and gender. German personal pronouns are the starting point for learning German pronouns, so they’re relatively easy to memorize. Next, you’ll want to try your skills on reflexive pronouns and demonstrative pronouns. The most confusing of all German pronouns are probably the possessive pronouns. But there is no need to feel overwhelmed. If you tackle them one by one, you will soon get the hang of it. Still too much? Then start small with this song on pronouns for kids.

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Sandra lives in Istanbul, together with her kids, cat and dog. As a historian she thrives exploring this ancient city with her two- and four-legged loved ones. Together, they also love to go on adventures through all of Turkey and its neighboring countries. The perfect opportunity to put all the language learning into practice. If she’s not on the road, Sandra is busy putting her experiences into writing as a freelance copywriter for the travel industry and everything related to language, culture and family. Her particular interest lies in providing information on animal welfare with her website contentrundumstier.de.

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