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Personal pronouns: indirect object - Easy Learning Grammar German

What is an indirect object pronoun?
When a verb has two objects (a direct one and an indirect one), the indirect object pronoun is used instead of a noun to show the person or thing the action is intended to benefit or harm, for example, me in He gave me a book; Can you get me a towel?

1 Using indirect object pronouns

  • It is important to understand the difference between direct and indirect object pronouns, as they have different forms in German:
  • an indirect object answers the question who to? or who for? and to what? or for what?
He gave me a book. → Who did he give the book to? → me (=indirect object pronoun)
Can you get me a towel? → Who can you get a towel for? → me (=indirect object pronoun)
  • if something answers the question what? or who?, then it is the direct object and NOT the indirect object
He gave me a book → What did he give me? → a book (=direct object)
Can you get me a towel? → What can you get me? → a towel (=direct object)
  • Here are the German indirect object pronouns in the dative case:
Indirect Object Pronoun (Dative Case)Meaning
mirto/for me
dirto/for you (familiar)
ihmto/for him/it
ihrto/for her/it
ihmto/for it/him/her
einemto/for one
unsto/for us
euchto/for you (plural)
ihnento/for them
Ihnento/for you (polite)
Er hat mir das geschenkt.He gave me that as a present.
Sie haben ihnen eine tolle Geschichte erzählt.They told them a great story.

2 Word order with indirect object pronouns

  • Word order for indirect object pronouns is the same as for direct object pronouns. The pronoun usually comes directly after the verb, except with tenses like the perfect and modal verbs such as wollen.
Sie bringt mir das Schwimmen bei.She’s teaching me how to swim.
Sie hat es ihm gegeben.She gave it to him.
Ich will dir etwas sagen.I want to tell you something.
  • When you have both a direct object pronoun AND an indirect object pronoun in the same sentence, the direct object pronoun or personal pronoun in the accusative always comes first. A good way of remembering this is to think of the following:
PAD = Pronoun Accusative Dative
Sie haben es ihm verziehen.They forgave him for it.
Ich bringe es dir schon bei.I’ll teach you.
Key points
  • The German indirect object pronouns are: mir, dir, ihm, ihr, ihm, Ihnen and einem in the singular, and uns, euch, ihnen and Ihnen in the plural.
  • The indirect object pronoun comes after the verb, except with tenses like the perfect and when used with modal verbs such as wollen.
  • The indirect object pronoun always comes after the direct object pronoun.

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