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Sonntag, 3. November 2013

German honorative pronouns

Warning: If you are someone who's going to learn German you shouldn't read this article, because you might give up doing it.

The German language has three persons and two numbers. That makes six personal pronouns:

   sg.   pl.
1.   ich   wir
2.   du   ihr
3.   er, sie, es   sie
   sg.   pl.
1.   I   we
2.   you   you
3.   he, she, it   they

The 3rd pers. sg. f. personal pronoun and the 3rd pers. pl. personal pronoun are equal.

In English you call your opponent by the pronoun "you"; in German it is "du", but you can also use another pronoun to be polite. If you use a personal pronoun as a honorative pronoun, it and its derivated forms have to be written with a capital letter to be not confused with the original meaning.

Sample text, with the familiar address: du
Have you read the book?
Hast du das Buch gelesen?

The address by the 2nd pers. pl. as honorative was in use until the twentieth century: Ihr
It was used by the nobility. You will find it in old texts.
Habt Ihr das Buch gelesen?

The address by th3rd pers. pl. as honorative is in use since the twentieth century: Sie
It is the standard honorative pronoun today.
Haben Sie das Buch gelesen?

The address by th3rd pers. sg. as honorative is in use since the nineteenth century: Er, Sie
Today its common is rare. Some people use it when don't know if they shall use the familiar du or the polite Sie. It's also used in some German dialects instead of Sie.
Hat Er das Buch gelesen?
Hat Sie das Buch gelesen?

The personal pronoun du can be used as a honorative (in letters), too. Then it's wrote with a capital letter.
Hast Du das Buch gelesen?

You see, in German there're enough ways to ask: "Have you read the book?"

But those are just the formal forms. There're some colloquial, elided forms, too:
Haste das Buch gelesen? / Haste's Buch gelesen? instead of Hast du/Du das Buch gelesen?
Haben S' das Buch gelesen? / Haben Sie's Buch gelesen? instead of Haben Sie das Buch gelesen?
Hat'r/Hatter das Buch gelesen? / Hat'r's/Hatter's Buch gelesen? instead of Hat Er das Buch gelesen?

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