In this German grammar lesson Herr Antrim explains how to create and use possessive adjectives in German. This lesson also includes a breakdown of the terminology surrounding this idea, which can sometimes be confusing. Specifically, Herr Antrim explains what Possessivpronomen, Possessivartikel, possessive pronouns, and possessive adjectives are. Then through a ton of example sentence and a short skit, Herr Antrim shows how you can use these possessive adjectives in conversational German sentences. At the end of the lesson there is a German grammar exercise, which allows you to test your knowledge of possessive adjectives in German.
What are Possessive Adjectives in German?
Hallo, Deutschlerner! Today, we are going to get possessive. Specifically we are talking about the possessive adjectives or as they are called in German “Possessivpronomen”. These are words that are put before nouns to indicate to whom the noun belongs. For example, “This is my book. – Das ist mein Buch.” The book belongs to me and therefore I used the possessive adjective that describes the book in such a way. In German we use these in a similar way and they follow similar patterns to those in English, but the main difference is, of course, that German has genders and cases. This means we have to use the correct endings on our possessive adjectives in German to make sure that they follow the gender and case rules.
Throughout this lesson I will be showing a variety of graphics and charts. If you would like to download a copy of these things, you can do that for free via this link.
Possessivpronomen vs Possessivartikel vs Possessive Pronouns vs Possessive Adjectives
Before we get too deep into this topic, we need to clear up a bit of confusion around the terminology. In English “possessive pronouns” are the words that show possession, but don’t have a noun behind them. For example: mine, yours, hers, etc. A possessive adjective, however, is one that is exclusively used with a noun. For example: my book, your car, her shoe, etc.
In German the word “Possessivpronomen” would literally translate as “possessive pronouns”. The German word “Possessivpronomen”, however, refers to both of the possessive word categories that we in English call, possessive pronouns and possessive adjectives. This is why you will occasionally find online references to something called “Possessivartikel”. These are specifically the words used in front of nouns, which excludes the ones that can stand on their own. That is the topic of today. I am not talking about “pure Possessivpronomen”, but rather the subcategory of “Possessivpronomen” sometimes called “Possessivartikel”.
How to Choose the Correct Possessive Adjective in German
First let’s start with the base of all possessive adjectives. You are already aware that there are nine personal pronouns in the nominative case in German. ich, du, er, sie, es, wir, ihr, sie, Sie. Each of these pronouns have a corresponding possessive adjective that is used to indicate the owner or one in possession of an object. For example: If “ich” owns something, we use “mein”. If “du” owns something, we use “dein”. To illustrate this further and to introduce you to all of the possessive adjectives, here are a few examples.
Ich habe einen Bruder. Das ist mein Bruder. –
I have a brother. This is my brother.
Du hast eine Schwester. Das ist deine Schwester. –
You have a sister. This is your sister.
Quick Side Note
The E at the end of “dein” is used to indicate that “Schwester” is a feminine noun just like you would if you said “a sister” (eine Schwester). These endings will change based on the case and gender of the noun. You may notice that in the first example, I didn’t have an ending at all on “mein”, I simply said “mein Bruder”. That’s because “Bruder” is a masculine noun and is used in the nominative case. If I said “a brother” instead of “my brother” in that sentence, it would be “Das ist ein Bruder.” Ok. Now back to the examples.
Er hat zwei Cousins. Das sind seine Cousins. –
He has two cousins. These are his cousins.
Sie hat einen Onkel. Das ist ihr Onkel. –
She has an uncle. This is her uncle.
Es hat eine Mähne. Das ist seine Mähne. –
It has a mane. This is its mane.
Wir haben eine Wohnung. Das ist unsere Wohnung. –
We have an apartment. This is our apartment.
Ihr habt ein Haus. Das ist euer Haus. –
You have a house. This is your house.
Sie haben ein Boot. Das ist ihr Boot. –
They have a boat. This is their boat.
Sie haben ein Boot. Das ist Ihr Boot. –
You have a boat. This is your boat.
Side Note #2
You probably noticed that there are three possessive adjectives spelled I-H-R. The possessive for feminine singular third person is “ihr”. The possessive for plural third person is “ihr”. The possessive for singular or plural second person formal is “Ihr”. The only one that is remotely different is the formal one, as it is capitalized. I personally find this to be helpful as you can simply remember “If I would use ‘sie’ as a pronoun in the nominative case for this person or thing, I use ‘ihr’ to show they possess something.” It doesn’t matter if it is “her”, “their” or “your”. They all use the German possessive adjective “ihr”. Another one that is duplicated is “his” and “its”. They are both translated with “sein” in German.
So our full list of possessive adjectives is:
I always put them in this order if you are going to use a chart, as this is the same order you use for the personal pronouns (ich, du, er, sie, es, etc) and this kind of continuity is helpful when used as a frame of reference.
How to Find the Correct Endings for German Possessive Adjectives
Now for the part about the endings. If you remember my lesson about the dative case, you will recall the ein-words and their endings. They are all essentially “ein” and most of the time you add a letter or two to the end of that. As a quick reminder, that chart looked like this:
I also mentioned in that other video that I put (k) in front of “ein” in the plural forms. This is to indicate that you can’t use “eine” or “einen” in the plural, but you can use things that act like “ein-words”, such as “kein” or the possessive adjectives on today’s list. That’s exactly what we are going to do now. Instead of looking at the chart as ein + an ending, use the possessive adjective as the base and then add those same letters you would for “ein” to match the case and gender. Here is a more concrete example of what I mean.
Das ist mein Bruder. –
This is my brother.
The possessive adjective is “mein”. I didn’t add any letters to the end of that, because it is used in the nominative case and “Bruder” is a masculine noun.
Sie mag meinen Bruder. –
She likes my brother.
The possessive adjective is still “mein”, but this time I added -en to the end of it to show the accusative masculine form, as “Bruder” is the direct object of the sentence and therefore accusative.
Sie geht mit meinem Bruder ins Kino. –
She is going to the movies with my brother.
Again, the possessive adjective is “mein”. Since “mit” is a preposition that requires the dative case, I used the dative masculine ending -em.
A Different Way to Visualize Possessive Adjective Endings
Viewing the chart like this makes it so you can substitute in whatever word you mean to say with the ending that matches the case and gender of the noun. If you want to say “a” or “an”, use “ein” plus those endings. If you want to say “my”, use “mein” plus those endings. You can continue to do this for the other possessive adjectives, too.
The Weirdness of “euer” and “unser”
There is one little odd bit that you should be aware of. When you say “y’all’s” in German, “euer”, you will remove the E before R if there is an ending after the R. So instead of “euere”, you say “eure”. Instead of “euerem”, you say “eurem”. It isn’t just when speaking. You also write all versions of “euer” that have an ending without the E before the R.
Something similar happens with “unser”. Instead of “unsere”, you often hear “unsre”. While this is very common in speaking, it is NOT considered correct to remove those E’s in the various versions of “unser”.
When Speaking – Removing the extra E is OK for both “unser” and “euer” when there is an ending. Keeping the extra E is ONLY acceptable for forms of “unser”.
When Writing – ONLY remove the extra E with forms of “euer” + an ending. All forms of “unser” should be written WITH the E in front of the R.
Possessive Adjectives Skit
Let’s take a look at some more examples to make sure you get the concept and after that I’ll give you an opportunity to try it out on your own. Since it is more memorable when you have something to watch, I’ll do these examples as a short skit based on real conversations I have in class.
Lehrer: Guten Morgen, Schüler. Nehmt bitte eure Bücher aus. Macht eure Bücher auf auf Seite 245.
Schüler: (Er meldet sich.) Ich habe mein Buch nicht. Darf ich zum Schließfach gehen um mein Buch zu holen?
Lehrer: Ja. Gibt es noch Schüler, die ihre Bücher nicht mit dabei haben?
Schüler (in chorus): Ja. Wir haben unsere Bücher auch nicht.
Lehrer: Alle Schüler dürfen nicht gleichzeitig zum Schließfach gehen. Wie viele Schüler haben ihr Buch? (Er murmelt Zahlen.) Ok. Eine Hälfte der Schüler hat ein Buch. Also, wenn du kein Buch hast, darfst du mit deinem Nachbarn oder deiner Nachbarin teilen. Dann kannst du einfach von seinem oder ihrem Buch lesen.
Schüler: Mein Buch hat die Seite 245 nicht. Jemand hat diese Seite aus meinem Buch gerissen.
Lehrer: Naja. Sowas passiert, wenn die Bücher älter als die Lehrer sind. Ich werde die Sätze einfach auf der Tafel schreiben. Dann braucht ihr eure Bücher nicht. Ihr braucht aber ein Blatt Papier und einen Bleistift.
Schüler: Darf ich meinen Bleistift anspitzen?
Schüler: Haben Sie ein Blatt Papier, das ich borgen kann?
Lehrer: Ja. Es gibt Papier in meiner Schreibtischschublade.
Schüler: In Ihrer Schreibtischschublade?
Lehrer: Ja. Dort.
Schüler: Wo ist Ihr Schreibtisch?
Lehrer: … (Er schaut verwirrt.)
Schüler: Oh. Diesen Schreibtisch meinen Sie.
Lehrer: Ach du meine Güte.
German Possessive Adjectives Practice Exercises
If you like the charts and other graphics I used in this lesson, you can download them for free via this link. If you want more practice with the possessive adjectives in German, you can download a worksheet with answer key here. Alternatively you can join all of these awesome people on Patreon. Das ist alles für heute. Danke fürs Zuschauen. Bis zum nächsten Mal. Tschüss.