German Language and Culture
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for Marlene
Learning German Online - An Interactive German Course for Beginners and Intermediate Learners
Lesson 2: Describing yourself and others

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The German pronouns

In the previous lesson and the previous pages, you already got to know some of the German pronouns without further explanation. For example you used 'ich' to say 'I' and 'du' to say 'you'. You also used 'Sie', which is the pronoun used to address a stranger or a person of respect.

The German pronouns are very similar to the English ones. This will make it easier for you to memorize them. Also - like in English and many other languages - German pronouns can be classified into 1st person, 2nd person and 3rd person, as well as into singular and plural. As in English, the 3rd person singular can be further split into masculine (he), feminine (she) and neuter (it).

The following table lists all German pronouns in the singular and plural together with their English counterpart.

(you (plural))
3rder, sie, es
(he, she, it)
sie, Sie
(they, you (formal))

- You noticed that the German word for she is exactly the same as the German word for they (both 'sie').
- Also, you can distinguish in German between 'sie' meaning they/she and 'Sie' as the formal address by the way these pronouns are spelled: The formal address 'Sie' is always capitalized!
- Lastly, the German 'ich' is not capitalized, unlike the English 'I'.

William Shakespeare: 'thou' or 'you'?

Did you know that English used to make a distinction between formal and informal addresses, too? During the transition from Middle English to the early Modern English around 1600 (Shakespeare's time), the English language still had both forms of address: the formal thou (sing.) and ye (pl.) as well as the informal you. Later, it became fashionable to use the you in any situation (formal or informal). When you go to Germany or any other country with a distinction between formal and informal address (France, Spain, Italy, etc...), be aware of the fact that this distinction is very important and using it the wrong way might make others feel uncomfortable.

You already practiced to make this distinction in lesson 1 and you will do more exercises that teach you, how and when to use 'du' and 'Sie'.

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