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Person and number

 
 
Categories person and number 
Polite form
 
Agreement between verb and subject 


Categories person and number

The grammatical categories person and number are expressed by finite verb forms. Number and person of a verb form are determined by the subject of the sentence:

  Singular Plural        
1st person  ich wir
2nd person  du  ihr
3rd person er, sie, es  sie

Person

The category person distinguishes three different "persons":

1st person the person who speaks ich, wir
2nd person  the person who is spoken to  du, ihr
3rd person the person who is spoken about  er/sie/es, sie

Of course, this distinction is not only valid in spoken language but also in written language:

1st person  the person writing ich, wir
2nd person  the addressee du, ihr
3rd person the person described     er/sie/es, sie

The term person refers to the grammatical person. Especially the 3rd person covers not only natural persons but also non-persons like animals, plants, objects, abstract concepts, etc.

(die Lampe) Sie steht auf dem Tisch.
(der Sommer)  Er ist schon bald wieder zu Ende.
(das Leben) Es kann so schön sein.
(die Rosen) Sie duften herrlich.


The 1st and the 2nd persons are always represented by the corresponding personal pronouns:

ich gehe
du gehst
wir gehen
ihr geht

The 3rd person is either a 3rd person personal pronoun or a noun (or a noun group or subordinate clause functioning as subject).

Er/sie/es geht weg.
Die Lampe steht auf dem Tisch.
Die auf der ganzen Welt bekannte und beliebte Schauspielerin geht nach Amerika.
Dass er immer noch nicht hier ist geht mir auf die Nerven.

Number

German has two numbers:

Singular  ich, du, er/sie/es 
Plural wir, ihr, sie


Polite form

The 2nd person singular du and the 2nd person plural ihr are informal and used when talking to family members, close friends, children, etc. The formal, polite form of addressing someone is the 3rd person plural pronoun Sie. It is used for one person (singular) as well as for more persons (plural). When used as a polite form, it is written with a capital initial.

informal formal/polite
Bald gehst du nach Hause.
Bald geht ihr nach Hause.
Bald gehen Sie nach Hause.
Gehst du noch aus?
Geht ihr noch aus?
Gehen Sie noch aus?

See also polite form in the imperative.







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