Pronouns and cases

German has a case system. This means that words, or the endings of words, have to change according to their function in a sentence.

There are four cases, and three of them affect pronouns:

  • nominative case - the subject of the sentence
  • accusative case - the direct object of the sentence
  • genitive case - denotes possession and is used less and less nowadays (the genitive case does not affect pronouns)
  • dative case - the indirect object of the sentence or when used with certain prepositions
Four stacked cases labelled Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Dative.

Singular personal pronouns

Singular personal pronouns vary depending on the case.

Nom.Acc.Dat.
ich - Imich - memir - me
du - youdich - youdir - you
er - heihn - himihm - him
sie - shesie - herihr - her
es - ites - itihm - it

Hilfsvokabeln– Helpful vocabulary

  • kennen (v, irreg) – to know a person, to be acquainted with
  • geben (v, strong, irreg) – to give (to someone)
GermanEnglishUse
Das Buch ist für mich.The book is for me.für requires the word that follows it to be in the accusative – mich.
Ich schicke dir eine SMS.I’ll send you a text.What I am sending is the text, not you, so I am only doing something to you indirectly. This has to be dative.
Kennst du ihn?Do you know him?‘Him’ is the object of the verb kennen, so must be accusative.
Wir geben ihr zwanzig Euro.We are giving her 20 euros.What we are giving is 20 euros, not her, so we are only doing something to her indirectly. This has to be dative. Also, geben is always followed by the dative case.
Ich will es nicht.I don’t want it.‘It’ is the object of the verb wollen, so must be accusative.
Question

Which pronoun should you use in these sentences? Replace the noun (highlighted) with a pronoun.

  • Ich gehe oft mit meiner Freundin shoppen.
  • Ich liebe mein neues Handy.
  • Wir müssen meinem Vater helfen.
  • Findest du den Hut?
GermanEnglishNotes
Ich gehe oft mit ihr shoppen.I often go shopping with her.Words after mit must be in the dative case.
Ich liebe es.I love it. Mein neues Handy means ‘my new mobile phone’. ‘It’ is what you love - the object of the sentence - so it must be accusative.
Wir müssen ihm helfen.We must help him. Helfen means ‘to help’ and takes the dative, so the person being helped must be in the dative - ihm.
Findest du ihn?Can you find it? Der Hut is what you are trying to find - the object of the sentence - so it must be accusative.