ME & YOU: “mir/dir” OR “mich/dich”?

Posted on 06. Oct, 2010 by in Language

Very often I can realize that learners of German struggle with using the correct form of the 1st person and 2nd person personal pronouns in the singular.  Both “me” and “you” have each two translations in German. “Me” can mean either mich or mir and “you” can mean either dich or dir. The difference between these forms is their grammar case. Mir and dir are DATIVE personal pronouns and mich and dich are ACCUSATIVE personal pronouns.

Singular

1st Person

2nd Person

Dative

mir

dir

Accusative

mich

dich

Which grammar case we have to use in a sentence is determined by the verb or preposition of our phrase. Let’s have a look at some examples with very common prepositions and with a few verbs.

Prepositions

  • The prepositions mit, von, zu, and bei require the dative case.
  • The prepositions für and ohne require the accusative case.
  1. Ich gehe nur mit dir (dat.) zur Feier. – I am only going to the party with you.
  2. Ich gehe ohne dich (acc.) nicht zur Feier. – I am not going to the party without you.
  3. Das Geschenk ist von mir (dat.) – The present is from me.
  4. Das Geschenk ist für dich (acc.) – The present is for you.
  5. Ich komme zu dir. – I am coming to you(r place).
  6. Er ist bei mir. – He is with me. / He is at my place.

Verbs that take the dative

  1. antworten – to answer: Sie hat mir noch nicht geantwortet. – She has not answered me yet.
  2. helfen – to help: Ich helfe dir. – I help you.
  3. gehören – to belong: Das gehört mir. –That belongs to me.
  4. zuhören – to listen: Ich höre dir zu. – I am listening to you.

Verbs that take the accusative

  1. anrufen – to call: Ich rufe dich morgen an. – I will call you tomorrow.
  2. kennen – to know: Sie kennen mich. – They know me.
  3. verstehen – to understand: Wir verstehen dich. – We understand you.
  4. vergessen – to forget: Vergiess mich nicht. – Do not forget me.

So whenever you come across verbs and/or prepositions in connection with personal pronouns it is very useful to remember these forms well because most of the time it is the only form that exists. That is, forms like “mit dich”, “ohne dir”, “dir kennen”, “dich antworten” do NOT exist.

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About Sandra

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra

9 Responses to “ME & YOU: “mir/dir” OR “mich/dich”?”

  1. santos 25 January 2011 at 8:45 am #

    sher gut

  2. Bini 14 October 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    Ur explanation is one of the simplest and best I have found on the internet. Thank you so much. I have just begun learning German n it’s baffling!!
    Thank you again!!
    Cheers!!

  3. Flávio 19 January 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    Thanks a lot for clarifying these issues. It was one of the most common problems I still had while studying German.
    Keep as always your excellent posts.
    Cheers!

  4. Kenneth 14 June 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    Wunderbar; herzlichen Dank!

  5. Dennis 16 June 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    I am happy to say that I understand every thing in your blog, however, as a stranger or foreigner, should I address german speakers as “Sie” or “sie”? This is where I am hesitant about learning German.

  6. Sten 19 June 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    check out the blog about duzen and siezen here: http://blogs.transparent.com/german/the-german-you-duzen-und-siezen/. But you should with Sie.

  7. Sandra 4 July 2014 at 9:14 pm #

    Hello Dennis,

    I guess your question is whether you should address a stranger with “Sie” or “du”. Am I right? I wish I could give you a clear cut answer but things have changed. You definitely should address a stranger with “Sie” in official situations: For example, when you talk to a shop assistant, a waiter or waitress, etc. In such business situations “Sie” is still an indicator of politeness and respect.

    In personal situations you can also say “du” to a stranger, for example at a party. But don’t think so much about that. Most Germans have started to feel uncomfortable when they are addressed with “Sie”. Then they will offer you the “du”.

    Sandra

  8. Jass 13 April 2015 at 12:57 pm #

    I just want to know if there is a rule about it. For me direct/indirect speech is not working. Should i just memorize the verbs with accusative and verbs with dative? What will happen then when i learn a new word? I mean that list is a never-ending one that no one has explained yet.
    For example, you say “ich frage dich” (i ask you), on the other hand you say “ich antworte dir” (i answer you). My mind tells me both should be with dative, but sure it is wrong. I guess there is a rule behind.
    For example i know there is rule when it comes to body. You say, for example, “ich dusche mich” (i have shower) because you are washing your whole body. On the other hand, you say, “ich wasche mir die Hände” (i wash my hands) or “ich putze mir die Zähne” (i brush my teeth) because you are washing/cleaning a part of your body. That makes sense, it is not written anywhere, i learned it from my teacher. Just please give me something like that.

  9. Sandra 19 April 2015 at 9:28 am #

    Hi Jass,

    The only hints I can give are to check which grammar case a verb or a preposition requires. And when you learn a new word: Don’t worry so much. Germans will also understand you when you use the dative instead of the accusative and vice versa.
    I know, this is probably not the answer you wished for but language is illogical from time to time and there aren’t rules for everything.
    I guess, the only way to soak up the right forms is to read and to listen to as many German as you can.

    Good luck,

    Sandra :)


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