Demonstrative Pronouns In German

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These demonstrative pronouns in German otherwise known as indicative pronouns, are used to point/ select out something or someone that has once been mentioned in a sentence or statement or within a close range in one’s view. They are the closest in function from every other pronoun to the personal pronouns (er/sie/es and sie) but differ in that they lay more emphasis on what they are being used for.

Like personal pronouns, possessive pronouns and relative pronouns, demonstrative pronouns are gender and case specific.

Types of Demonstrative Pronouns

In English as well as in German, there are four examples of demonstrative pronouns; “this”, “that”, “these”, “those” which are divided into two groups- singular and plural. “This” and “that” are used to indicate singular nouns while “these” and “those” are used to indicate plural.

Demonstrative pronouns may or may not stand before a noun. When they stand before a noun, they are simply translated as “this”, “that”, “these”, “those” but when they are used alone, “one” is often added to it’s meaning. Hence, it becomes “this/that one” etc.

The demonstrative pronouns in German should only be used for animals and inanimate objects. Even though it may be tolerated when used for persons in an informal setting, it is considered „rude“ and intolerable should it be a formal setting. They always have endings and are declined like the definite articles for the various grammatical cases.

Demonstrative pronounsEnglish translation
der/die/das/den/demthis/that one
derselbe/dieselbe/dasselbethe/this/that same (one)
derjenige/diejenige/dasjenigethe one who/that
List of Demonstrative pronouns in german

Note: The definite articles here, when used as a demonstrative pronoun does not mean “the” but instead “this/that one”. Those with (-) have various ending depending on their the grammatical case and/or gender of the nouns in front of them.

How Are These Pronouns Used?

Demonstrative pronouns are declined as definite articles as well as adjectives based on two factors- gender (maskulin, feminin, neuter and plural) and grammatical case and are used in one of two ways;

  • To pick/select out something within a certain range
  • To emphasize on something

Dies- and Jen- are for pointing/picking out an object from a group while „dies-“ is for pointing out objects that are within a very close range to the speaker, jen- is used for objects that are a bit far away even though it is rarely used in spoken language. For example;

Speaker 1: Möchtest du diese Tasche haben, die auf dem Bild ist?

Speaker 2: Nein, anstatt möchte ich diese.
Would you like to have this bag that is in this picture?

no, instead I would like this.
Speaker 1: Meinst du jene da?

Speaker 2: genau, richtig!
Do you mean that one there?

exactly, correct!
Sentence with diese and jene

Der/die/das; der-/die-/ dasjenige(n) and der-/die-/ dasselbe(n) on the other hand are used for laying emphasis on something. They are used in accordance with the gender and grammatical case. For those with the stems „-jenige“ and „-selbe“, the prefix is in accordance with the gender and case it’s used for while they are declined simultaneously at the suffix as adjectives with definite articles.

Speaker 1: Welche Tasche möchtest du kaufen?

Speaker 2: Die hier.
What bag would you like to buy?

This one here.
Speaker 1: Warum möchtest du dieselbe kaufen?

Speaker 2: Weil sie mir gefällt.
Why would you like to buy the same one?

Because I like it
Sentence with the demonstrative pronouns der,die,das,den,dem,des, [-selbe(n)/-jenige(n)]

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