German Pronouns: Accusative Case
Like the English object pronouns me, you, him, her, it, us, and them that can function as the direct objects of sentences, the German accusative case pronouns also function as direct objects. However, speakers new to the German language must learn some significant differences between the pronouns of English and those of German, particularly in the case of object pronouns. In English, the object pronouns function as direct objects as well as indirect objects and objects of prepositions. The accusative case pronoun in German, however, functions only as the direct object as well as the object of certain prepositions. Like the nominative case German pronouns, the accusative case German pronouns also show grammatical gender.
Accusative Case or Direct Object Pronouns
The accusative case in German expresses the grammatical function of direct object. For example, the noun die Milch “the milk” in the sentence das Mädchen trinkt die Milch “the girl drinks the milk” functions as the direct object of the sentence. The German pronouns in the accusative case are:
- mich “I” (first person singular)
- dich “you” (second person singular familiar)
- Sie “you” (second person singular formal)
- ihn “he, it” (third person singular masculine)
- sie “she, it” (third person singular feminine)
- es “it” (third person singular neuter)
- uns “we” (first person plural)
- euch “you” (second person plural familiar)
- Sie “you” (second person plural formal)
- sie “they” (third person plural)
For the pragmatics (uses specific to a language) of the accusative case German pronouns, please see the Useful Tips section of the article on the nominative case German pronouns (German Pronouns: Nominative Case).
Examples of the Accusative Case German Pronouns
- Das Mädchen trinkt die Milch. “The girl drinks the milk.”
- Das Mädchen trinkt sie. “The girl drinks it.”
The noun die Milch “the milk” is a third person singular feminine noun. The pronoun that replaces the third person singular feminine die Milch “the milk” is, therefore, the third person singular feminine sie.
- Der Junge isst den Nachtisch. “The boy eats the dessert.”
- Der Junge isst ihn. “The boy eats it.”
The noun den Nachtisch “the dessert” (den is an accusative form of the) is a third person singular masculine noun. The pronoun that replaces the noun is, therefore, the third person singular masculine pronoun ihn.
Wir essen das Frühstück. “We eat breakfast.”
Wir essen es. “We eat it.”
Ich liebe dich. “I love you.”
Du liebst mich. “You love me.”
Sie sehen uns. “They see us.”
Wir sehen sie “We see them.”
Prepositions and the Accusative Case
German also differs from English in the use of pronouns functioning as objects of prepositions. In English, prepositions take the object pronouns as objects regardless of the specific preposition. For example, both the prepositions for and with can take any of the object pronouns: for me/with me, for you/with you, for him/with him, for her/with her, for it/with it, for us/with us, and for them/with them.
In German, however, specific prepositions govern the case of the following pronoun. The following frequently-used prepositions require the use of the accusative case pronoun:
um “around, at (time)”
Sie kommt durch die Tür. “She comes through the door.”
Sie kommt durch sie. “She comes through it.”
Der Zucker ist für den Kuchen. “The sugar is for the cake.”
Der Zucker ist für ihn. “The sugar is for it.”
Die Stühle sind gegen die Wände. “The chairs are against the walls.”
Die Stühle sind gegen sie. “The chairs are against them.”
Er isst ohne dich. “He eats without you.”
Er isst ohne Sie. “He eats without you.”
Ich gehe um den See. “I go around the lake.”
Ich gehe um ihn “I go around it.”
Two-Way Prepositions and the Accusative Case
Other prepositions can take pronouns in both the accusative and dative cases. The meaning of the preposition changes depending on case of the pronoun. Such prepositions are called two-way prepositions or Wechselpräpositionen. Two-way prepositions that take the accusative case indicate motion or change of location:
- an “towards a vertical surface”
- auf “onto a horizontal surface”
- hinter “going behind”
- in “into”
- neben “moving next to”
- über “crossing over”
- unter “moving under”
- vor “crossing in front of”
- zwischen “moving in between”
The accompanying printable vocabulary sheet the personal pronouns in German is available for download at German Personal Pronouns Reference Sheet.
This post is part of the series: German Pronouns
German pronouns have both grammatical gender and grammatical case. The following four part series explores German pronouns in the nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive cases.