Prickly pronoun problems

The difficulty, for me at least, with learning a new language is that it’s taken for granted that you have an excellent understanding of your mother language! This is a problem because while I have a good vocabulary and I has good grammar (!), I’m terrible at remembering what things are. Pronouns, adjectives, tenses, contexts, similes and adverbs all confuse me and have done since school.

So when it comes to learning these terms and how to use them in German, things get very messy. At the moment we’re tackling personal pronouns in German. A veritable minefield of exceptions, rules, tables and sometimes complete non-conformity. The personal pronouns in German can take four different forms although we’re only learning three for now. They are, the accusative, the nominative and the dative. Still with me? Good.

So the accusative (i.e. the, a, my…) and nominative (i.e. I, you, he she…) are understandable. We have them in English and as long as you translate what you need to say in English, remember the right German pronoun, apply the various rules and positioning of verbs, you’re fine. But the dative is causing me trouble because I’m not sure we have the equivalent in English and if so I think it’s the same as the other two? The direct translation from the dictionary is, “to whom”.

I’ve nicked this example from Wikipedia:

Ich sendete das Buch zum Verleger = I sent the book to the editor.

Here “Ich” is the nomative, “das buch” is the accusative and “zum Verleger” is the dative. I have an exam in this tonight! I’m hoping for divine inspiration from the Gods of pronouns and German grammar to see me through!


5 responses to “Prickly pronoun problems

  1. I was the same when I was learning French – no one ever taught me the rules of grammar in English, I just relied on what I had picked up as a kid – I can still barely tell the difference between a noun, verb, adjective etc…

    If you get stuck, take a deep breath and sound out the various possibilities in your hear – pick the one that ‘sounds’ right – I used this method and it served me very well when i was studying in France. All the info you have learned is in your brain somewhere, it can just be difficult to access on demand, so trust your sub-conscious to help you out.

  2. I struggled with this in a different way. I went to Mali, West Africa, as an English teacher with what I thought was a very decent basis in French. I was mortifyingly wrong. Although in English I’m known as a very good communicator, the rules of perfect French grammar never sunk in. I ended up mixing up pronouns, masculine/feminine nouns, verb tenses — you name it. I mangled the French language so much that my Malian colleagues ended up asking me to stick to Bambara, the West African language that has a much more simple structure. It was embarrassing.

    Good luck with your learning.

  3. Why can’t everybody just speak stinkin’ English?

    There…I said it!

  4. I know German grammar is very difficult and not only for non German speaking people. I think is the same for everybody who learns a second language. I try to explain myself in English since 1.5 years and I am still struggling with all this “if sentence” and telling stories in the past.
    There is a good homepage in English for the German Grammar.

    Ask the sentence
    “der Hund beisst den Mann”

    Wer? You will get the nominativ. Wer beisst? Beisst ist das Verb.
    Wen oder was? You will get the akkusativ. Beisst wen oder was?

    “Ich dank ihnen.”

    Wer dankt? Ich ist nominativ
    Dankt wem? Ihnen ist dativ.

    “Der Hund des Mannes beisst eine Katze.”

    Wer beisst? Der Hund ist Nominativ.
    Beisst wen oder was? Die Katze ist Accusative.
    Wessen Hund? Des Mannes sollte Genitiv sein.

    All the best for your test.

  5. I recently told my German tutor that I had decided it would be easier to just figure out ways to never use pronouns.

    She laughed. I think she may have thought I was kidding…

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