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Personal pronouns

 
Personal pronouns refer to the one who is speaking (1st person), the one who is spoken to (2nd person), or the one who is spoken about (3rd person).

Inflection   
Function
 
The pronoun es 

Inflection

The inflected wordforms of personal pronouns express person, number and case. The wordforms of the 3rd person singular additionally express gender:

 
Singular
Plural
1st person 2nd person
3rd person
1st person 2nd person 3rd person
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative  ich du er sie es wir ihr sie
Accusative mich dich ihn sie es uns euch sie
Dative mir dir ihm ihr ihm uns euch ihnen
Genitive meiner deiner seiner ihrer seiner unser * euer * ihrer

Examples:

Ich sehe dich.
Sie wollen euch etwas fragen.
Ihr macht uns Sorgen.
Es kommt mir nicht in den Sinn.
Er hat von ihr geträumt.
Erbarme
dich unser.
Wir wollen seiner gedenken.

Genitive forms uns(e)rer and eu(e)rer instead of unser and euer:

In the genitive, the forms unserer/unsrer and eurer/euerer are often used instead of unser and euer:
Vielleicht ist sie unserer (instead of unser) überdrüssig.
Ich werde
eurer (instead of euer) gedenken.

NB: Not all grammars accept these forms as correct although they are also used in standard German texts. They should anyhow be avoided in combination with aller:
only: unser aller Freund
only: mit euer aller Hilfe


Function

Personal pronouns refer to the one who is speaking (1st person), the one who is spoken to (2nd person), or the one who is spoken about (3rd person).

1st person: ich, wir

The personal pronouns of the 1st person refer to the speaker or writer. The pronoun ich, mich, etc. stands for a single speaker or writer. The pronoun wir, uns, etc. stands for more speakers or writers.

Occasionally, wir is used to address someone. This use of wir is often considered condescending:

Wie geht es uns denn heute?
Was haben
wir denn da wieder angestellt!

The first person plural is sometimes used by a single person:
  • The "pluralis majestatis" (plural of majesty, "royal wir") is used by reigning monarchs in formal speeches and writings:

    Wir, Beatrix, Königin der Niederlande von Gottes Gnaden [...] geben bekannt...

  • The "pluralis modestiae" (plural of modesty) is used out of modesty by speakers and authors in technical and scientific contexts.

    Wir kommen damit ans Ende unserer Ausführungen.

2nd person: du, ihr (polite form Sie)

The personal pronouns of the 2nd person refer to the listener or reader. The pronoun du, dich, etc. stands for a single listener or reader. The pronoun ihr, euch, etc. stands for more listeners or readers.

The pronouns du and ihr are informal, familiar. They are used for family members and close friends, among young people, in clubs and organizations, at work among colleagues; du is used for children and animals, but also for saints and deities.

The pronoun Sie is the formal, polite form of addressing adults. It is always written with a capital initial letter, and it can be used for both one person and a group of persons.

3rd person: er, sie, es; sie

The personal pronouns of the 3rd person refer to the one who is spoken or written about. They do not only refer to people, but also to animals, plants, things and abstract concepts.

They are substitutes for a noun. Their principal function is to avoid the repetition of a noun that has already been mentioned:

Hans kam herein. Er (instead of: Hans) war ganz aufgeregt.
Wo ist mein Tabak? Ich habe ihn (instead of: meinen Tabak) soeben noch gehabt.
Ich habe an meine Eltern gedacht und
sie (instead of: meine Eltern) gleich angerufen.

The pronouns er, sie, es stand for a singular noun. The gender of the pronoun is not determined by the natural gender of the noun, but by its grammatical gender:

Siehst du das Mädchen? Ja ich sehe es.
Die Versuchsperson ist männlich. Sie wird zuerst ärztlich untersucht.

The pronoun es can have several more functions in a sentence. See The pronoun es.

The pronoun sie (plural) refers to a plural noun.

When Sie is used as a polite form of addressing someone, it has the meaning of a personal pronoun of the 2nd person. It is written with a capital initial letter, and it can refer to both one person and a group of persons:

Singular:  Frau Meier, wir begrüßen Sie herzlich in unserem Hotel.
Plural: Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren, wir begrüßen Sie zu unserem Symposium






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