The personal pronouns in German are used in much the same way as in English. They can be declined like nouns and used as the subject (nominative), direct object (accusative) or indirect object (dative) in a sentence. In this blog post, I explain how to use and translate them into English.
In the table below, you find all personal pronouns in German with their English translation. In the nominative row, you'll find all personal pronouns that we use to conjugate verbs. Since the nominative case represents the subject in a sentence, they're also known as "subject pronouns". The next row shows the accusative case, which is the direct object in the sentence. In other words, it is the pronoun that to which the action of the verb is being done. The last row is the dative case, also known as the indirect object. Dative pronouns are the recipients in a sentence, to whom the accusative is given or for whom the accusative object is being done. Unfortunately, the dative doesn’t always translate into English, especially with verbs that always go with the dative case. Since the correct use of pronouns requires a fairly good understanding of the cases in German, make sure you read my post on them first. If you find grammar terms such as "declination", "subject", "direct object" confusing, please consult my A-Z of grammar terminology for clarification.
mir to/for me
dir to/for you
ihn to/for him
ihr to/for her
ihm to/for it
uns to/for us
euch to/for you
ihnen/Ihnen to/for them/you
Let's look at some examples.
Ich liebe dich
(I love you)
NOM. DAT. ACC.
Sie reicht ihm das Salz.
(She passes him the salt)
Especially English native speakers find it confusing that the German language has three pronouns for the English “you”: du (the informal you in the singular), ihr (the plural version of “du”), and Sie (the formal you for both one person or more). While “du” and “ihr” should be used for people you are familiar with like friends and family members as well as children, “Sie” should be used to address adults as it is polite and respectful. Among work colleagues and students, “du” and “ihr” are nowadays more common ways of addressing each other than in the past, but it depends on how formal the company or sector are. In finance, for instance, “Sie” is still the preferred choice of pronoun, whereas in the arts and media "du" and "ihr" are the standard pronouns. The formal you “Sie” is capitalised in all cases to distinguish it from “sie” meaning she or her. You will find more examples for the difference between du, ihr, and Sie in German in my post devoted about those pronouns.
Karin, könntest du mir bitte helfen?
(Karin, could you help me please?)
Herr Müller, haben Sie kurz Zeit?
(Mr Müller, do you have a minute?)
The personal pronouns “ich”, “du”, “wir”, ihr”, “Sie” in the nominative, accusative, and dative case always refer to people.
Ich habe dich gestern auf der Straße gesehen
(I saw you on the street last night)
Wir werden Sie anrufen
(We will call you)
The pronouns “er”, “sie”, “es” can refer to both people and things, provided they have already been mentioned. In short, they can be used to substitute nouns.
Die Professorin ist bei einer Konferenz. Sie gibt heute keine Vorlesung
(The professor is at a conference. She won’t give a lecture today)
Die Pflanzen sind gewachsen. Ich habe ihnen regelmäßig Wasser gegeben.
(The plants have grown. I watered them regularly)
That's all you need to know about personal pronouns. Check out my blog posts on the difference between mir and mich, possessive pronouns in German and the difference between sein and ihr to learn more.