How to Use German Personal Pronouns

Subject pronouns let you talk about other people without naming names

You can't talk about other people without personal pronouns. Getty Images/Plume Creative

German personal pronouns (ich, sie, er, es, du, wir, and more) work in much the same way as their English equivalents (I, she, he, it, you, we, etc.). When you study verbs, you should already understand pronouns well. They are a key element of most sentences that you should memorize and know by heart. We have included sample sentences for many of the pronouns to see how German pronouns work in context.

The pronouns listed below are in the nominative (subject) case. German pronouns are also used in other cases, but that is for another discussion at another time.

A good exercise: For now, read the chart below carefully and memorize each pronoun. Read the pronouns and all the sample sentences aloud at least twice to familiarize yourself with hearing them spoken. Write the pronouns out at least twice to master the spelling. Memorize them and write them again. It would also be useful to write out the German sample sentences as well; this will help you remember the pronouns used in context.

Take Care When Using 'Du' and 'Sie'

German makes a clear distinction between the singular, familiar "you" (du) and the plural, formal "you" (Sie) in social situations. Unlike in English, most European and other languages also have both a familiar and a formal "you." 

In this regard, Germans tend to be more formal than English speakers, and they 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 embarrassing yourself and others. In the table below, the familiar "you" forms (du in the singular, ihr in the plural) are marked "familiar" to distinguish them from the formal "you" (Sie in the singular and plural).

Note that 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 (the formal "you") is tricky if it appears at the beginning of a sentence. A lower-case sie can mean both "she" and "they" as in: sie ist (she is), sie sind (they are).

die deutschen Pronomina
German Pronouns
Nominative Singular
PronomenPronounSample Sentences
ichIDarf 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.
duyou
(familiar, singular)
Kommst du mit? (Are you coming?)
erheIst er da? (Is he here?)
siesheIst sie da? (Is she here?)
esitHast du es? (Do you have it?)
Sieyou
(formal, singular)
Kommen Sie heute? (Are you coming today?)
The pronoun Sie always takes a plural conjugation, but it is also used for the formal singular "you."
Nominative Plural
PronomenPronounSample Phrases
wirweWir kommen am Dienstag. (We're coming on Tuesday.)
ihryou
guys

(familiar, plural)
Habt ihr das Geld? (Do you guys have the money?)
sietheySie 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.
Sieyou
(formal, plural)
Kommen Sie heute? (Are you [all] coming today?)
 
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Flippo, Hyde. "How to Use German Personal Pronouns." ThoughtCo, Jul. 30, 2017, thoughtco.com/all-about-the-german-personal-pronouns-4068446. Flippo, Hyde. (2017, July 30). How to Use German Personal Pronouns. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/all-about-the-german-personal-pronouns-4068446 Flippo, Hyde. "How to Use German Personal Pronouns." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/all-about-the-german-personal-pronouns-4068446 (accessed October 23, 2017).