Personal pronouns

You may not notice it, but Personal pronouns (Personalpronomen) are something that we use every day. Not only that, they also make our lives a lot easier.

By now, you might be asking yourself:

“What are personal pronouns?”

Personal pronouns (Personalpronomen) are those tiny little words (like I, You, He, She, …) that replace names or even entire noun phrases, that have already been mentioned.

So, for example, instead of longer noun phrases like ‘My sister and I’ or ‘the woman at the cafeteria’ we can use these short personal pronouns like ‘we‘ and ‘she‘ instead.

We use personal pronouns to talk about ourselves and to address other people.

The Basics

Let’s start with the “basic form” of the personal pronouns – their Nominativ form.

He, She, ItEr, Sie, Es

As you can see in the table on the left, the Nominativ form of both the English and the German personal pronouns is pretty similar. We use this form whenever our personal pronoun is the subject of a sentence.


Er spielt gerne Basketball.
He likes playing basketball.

Where things get tricky

The problem about the personal pronouns in German is that there are also two other forms – the Dativ form and the Akkusativ form.

Where German has two forms, English has just one – the Objective form.

Let’s have a look at all three: the two German ones and their English equivalent:

Objective form (ENG)Dativ form (GER)Akkusativ form (GER)
him, her, itihm, ihr, ihmihn, sie, es

So far so complicated, but now: What is the difference between the two forms in German?

While the Objective form in English is used for all objects, in German this is split up between direct objects (Akkusativobjekte) and indirect objects (Dativobjekte). Accordingly the Dativ form is used for all indirect objects (i.e. Dativobjekte) and the Akkusativ form is used for all direct objects (i.e. Akkusativobjekte).

But what are direct objects and indirect objects? A direct object (Akkusativobjekt) is an object which is being acted directly upon. In the sentence: “I gave you the book,” it would be ‘the book‘, for example.

In the same sentence the indirect object (Dativobjekt) would be ‘you’. It is an object which is being indirectly acted upon.


So far so good. Let’s summarize all three forms one more time:

Nominativ (subject)Dativ (indirect object)Akkusativ (direct object)
er, sie, esihm, ihr, ihmihn, sie, es

As you can see, once you know the difference between a direct object and an indirect object, it is actually not that difficult. If you need some help, don’t hesitate to contact us! 🙂

Stay tuned for more articles about this and other grammar topics for learning German!

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