Meet the team – German Personal Pronouns

Hello everyone,

and welcome to the first real part of the German-is-easy online course. Today, we will have a look at the personal pronouns in nomina… oh.. the grammar jargon alert just went off. So let’s just say that today we’ll look at I, you and the rest of the crew.

Why do we look at those first? Well, for two reasons:

1) They are very very very very important words as they allow you
to refer to persons and things without saying their names all the time

2) We’ll need them to conjugate verbs which we will do in the next lesson.

So here they are:

There are some differences between German and English but overall I think they won’t be too hard to learn. The only one giving people a hard time is the you all. For some reason, many people I have taught have had real issues with memorizing this one. But it is not the one you will need most, unless you intend to address an audience all the time.

Now, you might be like “Sweet, I got it. Where’s the next lecture.”
But there are a few things you absolutely NEED TO KNOW about the pronouns, and about German in general…. some really really awesome things (*I’m lying). So don’t stop reading here.

German got gender

The words for she, he and it are really just the direct default translations. A situation that contains the English it might still be built with er in German. The reason for this are the German genders. There are three genders in German: feminine, masculine and neuter.  EVERY THING has one and you have to decide between er, sie and es based on this gender, not based on common sense or the fact that it would be it in English.
Will the gender of a thing make sense to you? Sorry, but no. They are basically random. A woman is feminine (die Frau, sie) and a man is masculine (der Mann, er) – so far so good, but a girl is neuter (das Mädchen, es) and a kitchen sink is feminine (die Spüle, sie). Let’s take an example.

  • I have bought a Pizza but it wasn’t tasty.

This sentence would be translated as

which, when you translate it word by word, means

  • “I have a pizza bought, but she was not tasty.”

German is funny like that… haha.
And there’s more.
If you’ve have studied a Romance language for example, like French, Italian or Spanish, you might be like “Oh thank god, I know random genders already. Finally this effort will pay off.”
I am sorry, but I have to disappoint you. German random is different to Roman random. The German sun is a bright, warm, life-giving, reliable woman – die Sonne.  And the moon is a pale, shy guy who is not always there for his kids – der Mond…. the Roman sun on the other hand masculine while the moon is a girl.
So you really have to learn the gender of everything you come across by heart. But don’t worry too much about it in the beginning either. There are people who are talk-show-fluent and yet their performance on genders is no better than guessing.
So bottom line… when you refer to a male human being you use er, for female humans sie and for the impersonal “it” (the one that “rains” or “smells bad” :) )  es but for the rest of the things you need to know the gender to determine which one of the three to use.

German got cases

The second thing you need to be aware of is that there are 4 cases in German, which we’ll talk about in detail later. Much later.
Many people find the cases to be really annoying as they come with lots of single letter  changes. You can actually think of cases as different outfits. Each case has a function for example the business-case, the leisure-case and the party case. So whenever a thing or a person need to do business it will dress a certain way and put on a certain form of make-up. Of course this also applies to the pronouns as stand for a certain person. So each of the above mentioned fellows (Ich, du ect. ) of the personal-pronoun-crew has a case 1 -suit, and suits for the other cases. The words ich, du, sie, er, es, wir, ihr, sie are in case 1. They are wearing the “action-suit”. Why action-suit? Because they dress this way when they do stuff. It is actually the default suit. So pictures for the dictionary are taken with the action-suit. They are the ones who ‘do’ the ‘action’ of the sentence.

In the first example, you are the one ‘doing the action’ of being 24 years old while in the second sentence you only sit there while I do the ‘action’ – I ask. So in the second example the you is wearing its lazy-suit if you will. English does have some elements like this. ‘He’ also has a lazy-suit and becomes ‘him’. But German is more elaborate on that.
Now you don’t have to remember all of that. What is important to keep in mind is that the words of this lecture are dressed with their active-suit. They are in first case. The other dresses might look different, sometimes they are similar but this is nothing to worry about now. Why am I mentioning it then in the first place. Well I don’t want you to come to me at a later stage of this course saying “You said it translates to es and now all of a sudden it translates to weird stuff like ihm.” It is because it is wearing a different suit and different make up.

The third thing I want to say some words about is ‘sie’ – it means she and they but as if that wasn’t enough it also means you in a polite way. To your friends or people of your age you can say du, but your professor at university is certainly someone you want to address with Sie  as the casual du would be very impolite.

So lets recap what we have learned so far. The personal pronouns in singular are:

The plural ones are:

They are in case 1 so they are wearing their action-suit. The other suits might look similar in English and yet be different in German The words er, sie and es depend of the gender of the thing so they can’t simply be translated.

Now with these words we can move on to the verbs and then we already have enough material to build our first simple yet content delivering phrases.

Hope you enjoyed it and see you next time for … the verb.

Check your knowledge about German personal pronouns.

for members :)

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Sergey

“meat the team” – that is so funny, I hope it’s a typo :)

peeledorange
peeledorange

the sun is a strong reliable woman and the moon is a shy guy that’s never there for his kids? What’s with the stab at men? Feminism is about getting rid of sexism, not making men the target of it. Using sexist views as pneumonic for remembering the genders of words is so socially irresponsible I don’t even know where to begin to articulate it.

It’s really too bad. It looks like a great blog. But, I don’t support sexism, so I won’t be using it.

Anonymous
Anonymous

What on earth are you talking about? Please get yourself sectioned.

Jo Alex SG
Jo Alex SG

Peeldorange, I think you got it all wrong there! I do hope you have a change of heart cause you´ll be the one who will be actually losing the most with that, missing the opportunity of having a wonderful way to improve your German with a person who actually makes it not only much easier but also much more interesting in so many ways. His is cultural horizon is so broad it tends to attract students who enrich our learning experience themselves in so many levels with their witty and meaningful comments here.
Besides, Emanuel is such a kind, generous person in all senses that we also get emotionally motivated in the learning process, something only truly enlightened teachers can do to us. If you give yourself the chance to know him better, you´ll not only come to deeply respect him as a professional but also like him a lot for the special person that he is!

Jo Alex SG
Jo Alex SG

Errata: ‘his cultural horizon is so broad’ and not ‘ His is cultural horizon is so broad” of course!
Sorry for that, I overlooked this appalling mistake while going over the comment, my poor eyesight doesn´t help much either in the process, smile. How I wish there were an edit button available!

Nino
Nino

This HUMAN is a bummer!

Ms. Magnolia Thunderthighs
Ms. Magnolia Thunderthighs

Thank you so much for this. I really want to learn German the proper way.

laurelin168
laurelin168

Your explanations are so funny I’m gonna be enjoying my classes as well as learning from you. Thank you! :)

Monty
Monty

Hi Emanuel, this was a very nice post. Thanks a lot for this. I have started to learn german since a week and could not decide on a proper sequence to do it i,e grammar first or basic vocabulary or sentence structure. Will follow your posts and hope it helps me.

Regards,
Monty

Olivia
Olivia

I like the suit-metaphor you used. I’ll try to keep following you in four months to get over the threshold & see if going on would be easier or not.

Thanks!

Anonymous
Anonymous

thank you so much for doing this:)
I am really slow at learning this.. it took me 3 hours to digest it in… but I am really glad you do this! it is so nice of you:)))

vasanth
vasanth

Hi, thank you. Its really helpful. thanks:-)

Adriana
Adriana

Thank you very much!!! I have been learning German for six months and have been increasingly frusturated. I can understand so much but it is nearly impossible for me to talk. Your first lesson filled with fun and humor has already made me feel much better.
Thank you for providing such a great blog :)

Ana
Ana

Hello, You definitely are a great teacher, thanks a lot for your work..

tom
tom

thanks!!! i really needed this….

as a return favor, with great respect, here are some corrections for you:
there is people who are -> there are people who are
the one that rains -> the one the reigns
there is 4 cases -> there are 4 cases

Jaime
Jaime

Great blog! What is your opinion on mobile apps like Duolingo? Started using it to learn German about Three weeksago, and have really enjoyed the discovery . I am not sure if its entirely accurate though, as I am have a difficult time in phrasing questions

趙永松

Your explanations are so interesting I really enjoy it.

LC
LC

Thanks so much for your blog, this is such a nice break from boring memorization and repetition in class. You explanations are truly amazing, and I can say I understand more than I have been taking class for 3 months.

I was wondering if there are specific books you recommend as easy books for learners. My google searches have not been enlightening.

Thanks again~

Anzelika
Anzelika

Hey there!

Thank you very much for the greet posts! I started to learn German again (had it for 8 years at school but don’t remember anything from grammar anymore :( ) The thing I wanted to ask.. what does exactly Ihr mean? Do I use it when I speak about other people to someone? Or is it like You in a formal way? Then Sie is also when you talk about someone in a formal way?
That’s what I still remember:
ich -me
du – you
er/sie/es – he, she, it
wir – us
ihr – they ( ?)
sie/Sie – they (?) and with capital letter Sie when you talk to someone in formal way.

Is that right?
I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

igorsrb

It’s me again. I don’t quite understand something.
In this example:
Ich trage meinen Koffer nicht selbst. Ich lasse IHN or DEN tragen.
Wo kann man sein Geld wechseln? Man kann ES/DAS in der Wechselstube wechseln. (also, I am not sure did I used that impersonal es correctly)

When one should use personal pronoun (in proper case, of course) and when that artikel something something? Is there any rules or I can use both at will?

Hvala :)

igorsrb

Überhilfisch :D Danke

Ali
Ali

Hi, thanks for all this material, I find it very helpful!

One note on the pronunciation of ‘Wir’ as ‘Via’ – I think this may work in some accents (perhaps American?) but in my SE English one would result in a mis-pronunciation as something like ‘V-eye-uh’.

kat

This is great, looking forward to reading the rest of your lessons.

Denise
Denise

I’m a bit confused about all the words and the pronunciation. I’m still learning the basics ^__^. Thank you for your post.

gustavo
gustavo

Very nice blog! Greetings from Brazil!