The possessive pronouns in German: How to find the right form

The possessive pronouns in German: How to find the right form

by Sandra Köktaş

Updated November 30, 2022

Possessive pronouns – think: mine, ours, hers, his, etc. – can replace a noun or accompany it. However you use them, possessive pronouns indicate a relation with a noun (what or who belongs to someone or something). They are short, clever helpers that make conversation easier and more precise. And that goes for German, as well.  

Learning possessive pronouns in German might look like a lot of work and can also be a bit intimidating. There are six (grammatical) possessive pronouns in German that can substitute a noun, and – surprise, surprise –  they can differ in gender, number and case. In this article, we’ll give you some tools to learn each possessive pronoun in German and how to use them. With some practice, you’ll be able to talk about your or anyone else’s possessions with minimal effort.

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What are possessive pronouns?

The German possessive pronouns are exactly what the name implies: As pronouns, they replace a noun or accompany a noun. As possessive pronouns, they indicate a relationship of possession. Sounds confusing, but an example will help:

“Ist das wirklich dein Hund? Ja, das ist meiner.

Is that really your dog? Yes, that is mine

The question and the answer have a very similar, but slightly different form: dein und meiner.  Both are pronouns, and both indicate possession. The difference lies in the use of the pronoun. In the question, it is used as an attributive adjective or, one could say, instead of the article. Hence, the terms possessive adjective or possessive article, which are other names for the possessive pronouns. In the answer though, the possessive pronoun meiner replaces the noun altogether and allows us to give a short answer to the question. Without the pronoun, we would have to repeat: “Ja, das ist mein Hund.” We will look at the difference between German possessive pronouns that replace the noun and German possessive pronouns that accompany the noun (i.e. German possessive adjectives/German possessive articles) in detail later. 

The English equivalents to the German possessive pronouns that replace the noun (independent possessive pronouns) are mine, yours, his/hers/its, ours, yours and theirs. The English possessive adjectives (also called possessive determiners) that are the equivalent to the German possessive adjective/article are my, your, his/her/its, our, your, their. These are the only forms you will ever use in English, no matter how many male or female dogs you own or if you possess one or more kennels for your pet(s). Unfortunately, it is not that easy in German.

Determining case, gender and number

If you want to replace a noun by a possessive pronoun, you have to choose between four cases (nominative, accusative, dative or genitive), three grammatical genders (masculine, female, neutral) and singular or plural.The noun that is to be replaced by the possessive pronoun can be in one of four cases (nominative, accusative, dative or genitive), can have one of three grammatical genders (masculine, female, neutral) and can be singular or plural. The noun, to which this person, animal or object belongs, can be one of six grammatical persons (ich (I), du (you singular), er (he)/sie (she)/es (it), wir (we), ihr (you plural), sie (they), plus the formal you Sie in singular and plural). How do you pick the right form?

It is not as complicated as it might look. Just follow these three steps:

  1. Ask yourself to whom the noun belongs.
  2. Find out the gender of the noun.
  3. Determine the case of the noun.

All you have to do now is take the declension table and tick the right box. You can use a grammar checker to see if you got it right.

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German possessive pronouns declension table

If the possessive pronoun replaces the noun, the declension of the German possessive pronoun works like this:

ich
(I)
du
 (you)
er
(he)
sie (she)Sie
(you
formal singular)
wir
(we)
ihr (you)sie
(they)
Sie
(you
formal plural)
NOM
m
f
n
pl

meiner
meine
mein(e)s
meine

deiner
deine
dein(e)s
deine

seiner
seine
sein(e)s
seine

ihrer
Ihre
ihr(e)s
ihre

Ihrer
Ihre
Ihr(e)s
Ihre

unserer
unsere
unser(e)s
unsere

eurer
eure
eures
eure

ihrer
ihre
ihr(e)s
ihre

Ihrer
Ihre
Ihr(e)s
Ihre
ACC
m
f
n
pl

meinen
meine
mein(e)s
meine

deinen
deine
dein(e)s
deine

seinen
seine
sein(e)s
seine

ihren
ihre
ihr(e)s
ihre

Ihren
Ihre
Ihr(e)s
Ihre

unseren
unsere
unsere
sunsere

euren
eure
eures
eure

ihren
ihre
ihr(e)s
ihre

Ihren
Ihre
Ihr(e)s
Ihre
DAT
m
f
n
pl

meinem
meiner
meinem
meinen

deinem
deiner
deinem
deinen

seinem
seiner
seinem
seinen

ihrem
ihrer
ihrem
ihren

Ihrem
Ihrer
Ihrem
Ihren

unserem
unserer
unserem
unseren

eurem
eurer
eurem
euren

ihrem
ihre
rihrem
ihren

Ihrem
Ihrer
Ihrem
Ihren

Note 1: The (e) is optional.

Note 2: The possessive pronoun replacing the noun is not used in the genetive case. 

Note 3: The possessive pronoun replacing the noun can be used with or without an article. In that case, the forms change! When used with the direct article der, die, das, the declension of the German possessive article follows the declension table for adjectives that are used with the direct article.

Example: 

“Ist das dein Hund? Ja, das ist der meine.” Is this your dog? Yes, that is mine.

Compare:

“Ist das der kranke Hund? Ja, das ist derKranke.” Is this the sick dog? Yes, it is the sick one.

Don’t worry too much about it, though. This use of the possessive pronoun is quite antiquated. You will most likely never encounter it.

Possessive articles and possessive adjectives

If possessive pronouns are explaining a noun like attributive adjectives, the declension table looks different:

ich 
(I)
du
(you)
er
(he)
sie
(she)
Sie
(you
formal singular)
wir
(we)
ihr
(you)
sie
(they)
Sie
(you
formal plural)
NOM
m
f
n
pl

mein
meine
mein
meine

dein
deine
dein
deine

sein
seine
sein
seine

ihr
Ihre
ihr
ihre

Ihr
Ihre
Ihr
Ihre

under
unsere
under
unsere

eurer
eure
euer
eure

ihr
ihre
ihr
ihre

Ihr
Ihre
Ihr
Ihre
ACC
m
f
n
pl

meinen
meine
mein
meine

deinen
deine
dein
deine

seinen
seine
sein
seine

ihren
ihre
ihr
ihre

Ihren
Ihre
Ihr
Ihre

unseren
unsere
under
unsere

euren
eure
euer
eure

ihren
ihre
ihr
ihre

Ihren
Ihre
Ihr
Ihre
DAT
m
f
n
pl

meinem
meine
rmeinem
meinen

deinem
deiner
deinem
deinen

seinem
seiner
seinem
seinen

ihrem
ihrer
ihrem
ihren

Ihrem
Ihrer
Ihrem
Ihren

unserem
unserer
unserem
unseren

eurem
eurer
eurem
euren

ihrem
ihrer
ihrem
ihren

Ihrem
Ihrer
Ihrem
Ihren
GEN
m
f
n
pl

meines
meiner
meines
meiner

deines
deiner
deines
deiner

seines
seiner
seines
seiner

ihres
ihrer
ihres
ihrer

Ihres
Ihrer
Ihres
Ihrer

unseres
unserer
unseres
unserer

eures
eurer
eures
eurer

Ihres
ihrer
ihres
ihrer

Ihres
Ihrer
Ihres
Ihrer

Note: If the possessive pronoun doesn’t replace the noun, but accompanies it (possessive adjective/possessive article), the genitive case exists.


Possessive pronouns and how to pick the right form

German possessive pronouns can be a bit overwhelming at first. But they are worth the effort to learn them in all their possible forms. These include the independent possessive pronouns that replace the noun they stand for and the possessive pronouns that accompany the noun, also called possessive adjectives or possessive articles. Both change their form according to the case, gender and number of the noun and the person it belongs to. What’s more, the declension tables for the independent possessive pronoun and the possessive adjective/article differ slightly. But once you master these, talking about your possessions and those of others will become so much easier. You’ll sound like a German native soon enough!

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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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