Addressing people in German

Hi! Does someone know why Germans use "der" and "die" to address people?

For example, if I were to say that he is tired, I would say: "Er ist müde", but recently I've been seeing more and more sentences like "Der ist müde".

Why is this? Do the two sentences mean the exact same thing? Thanks :)

June 8, 2016


Using "der" and "die" instead of "er" and "sie" is colloquial and can be considered a bit disprespectful.

June 8, 2016

Okay, thanks! Is it disrespectful per se or is it a matter of interpretation?

June 8, 2016

It's actually quite common in the southern German dialects. We often say stuff like "der [insert Name here]" as in "der Max ist müde", so just saying "der ist müde" is completely normal. It's not High German though so beware - it's still nothing you should ever use in formal situations.

June 9, 2016

Unless you say it in a harsh tone it's totally fine.

June 9, 2016

It can be disrespectful all right, but sometimes it is also neutral - then DER and DIE simply bear more word stress than ER and SIE.

October 10, 2018

It is bit like pointing a finger at someone. You can use it to differentiate between two persons. "Meine Mutter ist nett. Sie ist ein guter Mensch. Nicht so wie deine Mutter. Die ist eine richtige Schreckschraube." = "My mom is nice. She ist a good person. Other than your mother who is a real [put in a word that describes an unnice person who is also a bit annoying and peculiar]." Using "sie" a second time might get the mothers mixed up.

I hope I could be of help.

June 8, 2016

I am born in Germany, half Swiss and half German
"Er ist müde" is just the fact that this particular person is tired. "Der ist müde" is most commonly used by speaking about someone else, by commenting on the fact that he must be tired. We tend to point out if someone is really tired. It is not necessarily disrespectful, it is most commonly used in colloquial language.

June 9, 2016

Essentially, it's using specification, without actually pronouncing it.

For example "Der ist müde" is short for "Dieser Mann da, der ist müde". The part that is removed is sometimes replaced by finger pointing (small kids tend to do that a lot).

In a way you are not simply stating a fact, you are making an object a topic and then state a fact about it.

If that object happens to be a person, it can therefore be considered rude, since you did not ask them, whether they would like to be your topic of conversation. :)

June 9, 2016
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