You, you and you - How do you say you in German? (2023)

Saying "du" in German is not as easy as translating a word. As we usually recommend, it is better to translate the sentences in context.

"You" is a commonly used word in the English language and just as important as it is in German. In English, "you" can be either the subject or the object, and similar distinctions exist in German (although it's a bit more complicated).

In German, however, we distinguish between a formal "Du" (Ella), an informal "you" (von) and an informal "you" for addressing multiple people (They are).

you in german



She - casual, quirky

They are

you - informal, plural


You - formal and singular plural. Always in capital letters.

Deciding whether to address someone with a formal or informal “du” is not always easy for German learners, and sometimes even for native speakers.

And in German, you also need to think about cases where the word "you" is a direct or indirect object. For example

  • "Can I talk to you?" ANDI can go with you?Theyto speak?, using the formal tone of this sentence, and
  • "I'm buying a giftfor you"esi have a gift forOfbought, as long as you are in informal contact with the person receiving this gift.

In this article, you'll get an overview of the different uses of "you" in German and learn about the differences.You youjThey are, as well as examining the use of "you" in German in different cases.

You may also be interested in this guide.German customs and etiquette.


difference betweenYou youjThey areJust look

You, you and you - How do you say you in German? (1)

Choosing between different levels of formality is always a bit counterintuitive for people outside of a culture.

Which pronoun you choose for "Sie" in German will depend on the situation, your relative age or position and also your personality (perhaps you are a more informal or formal person by nature).

you in germanUse this when you are with...
von* Friends and family
* Kinder
* Youth (e.g. 25+ years younger)
(EXCEPT in a formal situation, see below)
They are* Several friends/family/children/much younger people at the same time, for example meeting a couple of the same age at a party.
Ella* With people of the same age/situation as you, who you don't know, for example, randomly on the street, drug dealer, driver
* With people in positions of authority, e.g. police, doctor
* People who are significantly older than you, even if you know them well

There is always flexibility in any of the above situations.

And don't worry if a situation isn't clear. Germans also sometimes find it confusing or unnatural.

When do you use du in German?

the pronounvonIt is an informal way of addressing a single person. Conveniently, it sounds a bit like "you"! (ANY "Of' in Spanish, if you're used to it.)

you use the pronounvonswindlerFriendsand family members. You can also target children and people significantly younger than you are (for example, if you're 30 and talking to a 20-year-old).von.

Usually when you find friends of friends you can safely usevonAlso.

the pronounvonIt is also used in informal situations. By that we mean things like sports and hobbies. This includes gym trainers and sports club members.

the practice of sayingvonfor someone (instead of a more formal pronoun) is described with the verbin terms of names.

The verbin terms of namesIt's equivalent toTutorin spanish orfamiliarityin French.

If it's in the middle of a sentence, it doesn't need to be capitalized.von, not howElla.

When to use "your".

When talking informally with several people at the same time, useThey are("You all" or "You" in informal English).


WantedThey arego to the Park?


Againyou (informal plural)do you want to go to the park

equal tovon, capital letters are not necessaryThey areif in the middle of a sentence.

when to use them

you use the pronounEllawhen talking to one or more people in formal contexts.

the practice of sayingEllasomeone is calledto say- similar to the French worddirection like you.


At workto sayUs.


at work, weUse the formal "you".together.

Some formal situations where it would be appropriate to use themEllaSohn:

  • When dealing with an authority figure (e.g. a police officer pulls you over for speeding)
  • In bureaucratic situations (for example, when requesting a visa extension)
  • In a formal educational setting where you turn to your teacher

At work in Germany, most people prefer the more formalEllaabout the informalvon. In small companies where the majority of workers are young (e.g. a tech start-up), they may manage each othervon.

you useEllawith strangers, especially when they are older.

When referring to a group of people in a formal setting, the pronoun is the same,Ella.

Note: Be careful not to get confusedElla, the formal "you" withshe, the pronoun of "they" and "them". What's the difference you ask?Ella(formally du) always starts with a capital s andshe(she, she) no.

Check out some examplesEllalike the formal "du" in German.


  1. If I canEllaFinancial help?
  2. I would likeEllago to a restaurant?


  1. When can I callyou (formal)?
  2. You would goyou (formal plural)Do you like going to a restaurant?

Correct etiquette to use in German

take itgerman record labelUsing yourself in German is an easy way to show respect and avoid casually insulting someone you've just met.

When you meet someone for the first time, it's safe to start withElla. When a person starts talking to youvon, you can follow along if you feel comfortable with that, or stick with the formal pronounElla, if that is your preference.

Once you get to know someone better, the person will most likely offer this to you.von, what is the name ofwhat do you offer. The older person is expected to offer the younger personvon, Not the other way around.

Here it iswhat do you offerused in a sentence.


My boss sent me todaywhat you offered.


my moodoffered me a "you".hello.

(To use:Vonis capitalized above because it is a noun, not a pronoun).

In the workplace, supervisors usevonwith employees And in the workplace, even among colleagues, an employee will useEllawith the one with the longest stay.

It is considered impolite to address someonevonif they didn't offer it and you are a subordinate. However, most companies have a policy that will let you know ahead of time. Just a little idea if you plan to work in Germany!

If you're still confused, this article goes deep.when to use them and you.

"Du" in German in other cases: "for you", "with you", etc.

If you've studied a lot of German before, you've probably come across other cases of German: nominative, accusative, etc.

The examples above are all with the word "you" like thatHe. But just like in English, “you” can appear in other parts of the sentence.

In English we don't think about cases. It is rarely taught. But you intuitively know that the following sentences sound strange:

  • "Do you want to go to the cinema with me?EU?” (Should beMich)
  • “What delicious sandwiches! Let's eatShefor lunch!" (must bethey)

It's the same in German: the form of "you" changes when it's in a different part of the sentence, usually after a preposition (like "with") or as the object of a verb.

Here is a summary table of "Sie" in German in the various cases.

I strongly encourage you to learn this by example. This is because we personally try to avoid complex grammatical terminology. Memorizing rules can quickly become a hindrance to fluency - learning phrases is faster.

A second reason not to think about cases early on is that knowing which case to use isn't trivial to sum up. Yes, you can say "accusative = direct object, dative = indirect object", but the reality is that you're choosing case based on the particle or the verb, and it's counterintuitive (for a non-native speaker).

Here's the summary table anyway, but see example sentences later.

formalitysingular Pluralaccusative/dativemust
FormalBothaccusativeYou (note: same as nominative)
FormalBothDativeyou (note: capital)

example sentencesdirectory,Of,Of,EllajThey

Here are some examples of "du" clauses in German in different cases.

In general, I suggest that you think about the phrases that you use most often with "you". For example

phrase in englishgrammargerman example
How are you?Formall, Singular/PluralHow are youesThey?
How are you?casual, uniqueHow are youdirectory?
How are you?casual, uniqueHow are youOf?
can I help youFormall, Singular/PluralHe canTheyHelp?
can I help youcasual, uniqueHe candirectoryHelp?
can i eat with you?Formall, Singular/PluralI can go with you?Theybeings?
can i eat with you?casual, uniqueI can go with you?directorybeings?
I'll give you a day to think about it.casual, uniquedoidirectorya day to think about it.
Can I ask you something personal?casual, uniqueHe canOfask something personal?
Can I ask you a question?Formall, Singular/PluralHe canEllaask something?
I have nothing against you.formal, singular, pluralI have nothing againstElla.
Can I address you withvon?formal, singular (of context)He canEllain first name?
When can I call you?casual, uniqueIf I canOfFinancial help?
When can I see you all again?report, pluralIf I canOfsee everyone again?
She is waiting for, pluralshe is waitingOf.

When you learn a new verb or preposition, learn some sample sentences with pronouns surrounding them so you can delve deeper into the cases.

Frequently Asked Questions about "Sie" in German

Saying "you" can be difficult! Below are some frequently asked questions about how to say "Sie" in German.

How do you distinguish between "them" and "you"?

This is a common question for beginners in German.

If it is in capital letters,Ellameans "you" in the plural or singular. It is also "tú" in the accusative.

If not in capital letters,sheIt can mean "they" or "them".

But of course they are pronounced the same and the word independent is the same.

The reality is that the context will make this very obvious. For example, if someone approaches you and says "Do you speak German?" the tense of the verb makes it clear that he is talking to you.

There may be some weird misunderstandings, but it's rarely a big deal.

What happens if you make a mistake in a case when saying "Sie" in German?

They will hit you! It's a joke...

It's easy to be wrong about an affair. You could saylike youinstead oflike youFor example.

But there will rarely be a case when a person does not understand it. They might think they've misunderstood you or realize you're not a native speaker (if they haven't already).

The good news is that it doesn't cause fundamental misunderstandings and rarely slows down a conversation.

The best thing you can do is narrow your cases down to very common use cases: verbs and prepositions that you use frequently.

What do you do if you don't know the formality of "Sie" in German?

Above we gave a quick guide to choosing between you and you (and the least commonly used).

These are by far the preferred routes.If you're not sure about the formality, go ahead.He errs on the safe side and at worst will be mildly amusing but never offensive.

Above all, remember that you are not alone. Even Germans are sometimes confused about the level of formality, and friends tell us that they sometimes swap a phrase for a more complicated one just to avoid using a pronoun.


Saying the correct “Sie” in German can be daunting, but I hope the guide above has shed some light.

Using pronouns in the basic sense is relatively easy. preferEllain most situations, eg.vonwhen it feels good It's rare to approach more than one youth or colleague as an intern, but once you get to that point you'll feel comfortable using itThey are.

You might get something wrong in the case section, for example Say "mit Sie" or "für Sie" in German. It might sound like "Would you like to have lunch with me?"

But with practice, getting the German pronouns right becomes more natural.

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