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  5. Er es and Sie.


Er es and Sie.

I have a question. So Er is normally used as a synonym of he, es-it and sie-her. However I've noticed in my studies that often in inanimate objects that have no gender are sometimes called er or sie. Is this something I just have to learn like each words die, der and das? Does it have something to do with the 'the' of the work? eg. der Aunzug would be Er?

Plz explain.

August 2, 2017



Im not sure if I am understanding your question but it would take the gender of the object. Der Aunzug would be er because it is masculine, die Tür would be Sie and Das essen would be es. It is the same for animate objects


OK. yes you did understand me. Sorry if it was a bit confusing but that's very helpful. Does this count for animals aswell? Animals have genders unlike doors or windows. So if you knew a cat was a boy would you say Er läuft or would you say sie läuft because die-sie?


Yes and no, It has to be clear what you're talking about, if it is clear then you can say "Er läuft /im Garten/im Haus etc." if we talk about a male cat (der Kater)

If we talk about a female dog (die Hündin) it would be "Sie läuft...."


But a cat is die so it would be sie lauft


A male cat is "ein Kater" and not "eine Katze", but you're right we always stick to the grammatical gender

  • 1618

In English we call a male cat a "tomcat" but it usually is applied to cats (and humans) who run around the neighborhood, if you get what I mean.


Okay I'm not sure they were aware of that because they said if it was a male cat but the the was sie. Just for reference not every animal has a masculine and feminine form so if there is only a masculine form then even if the animal itself is female it will still use the masculine pronoun


That's true, we always use the grammatical gender.


From my experience and my own verbal behavior: Normally you can´t recognize immediately, if a cat is male or female. So we use "Katze" for both and this is female.

An example:
You are walking down the street, see a cat sitting on a tree and want to tell this to your friend, which is walking with you:

  • "Schau mal da oben auf dem Baum, eine Katze!"

As we don´t know, if this cat is male or female at this moment, so we use "Katze" not "Kater". I do not now any exception of this. It may be different in south Germany, but in this is normal in northern Germany, at least where I lived and live in my whole life.

Aside from all replies, there are some additional things regarding the gender, one have to know:

Gender by feeling
We give some things different genders depending on what relation we have to these things, it is a bit difficult to explain.

One example may be a navigation device. Males often use female voices in navigation devices and so the navigation device becomes female and vice versa.

A short example:
* Passenger: "Why do you drive straight ahead? She told, that you should turn left there?"

In this example you can assume, that the navigation device is configured with a female voice :-)

Combined words
In combined words, the gender is identified by the last word.

* Navigationsgerät: die Navigation + das Gerät = das Navigationsgerät

Foreign or loanwords
Foreign or loan words are special. It dempends on the language usage in the different regions in Germany or other german speaking countries, which gender foreign words get.

  • An example is the word "E-Mail" (email)

In northern Germany, "E-Mail" is normally female, in southern Germany and in Austria it is neuter instead. For me this sounds very strange ;-) We can guess, that in some regions they simply took the gender from the German translation ("Die Post"). Sometimes loanwords get simply a neuter gender, especially when they are from English.

Sometimes, we take the gender from the language, from where to loanword comes:

  • Der Boulevard (French: "le boulevard" = male)

In other cases, we take the gender from the translation:

  • Die Boullion

In French, "bouillon" is male, but we take the gender from "Brühe", which is female.

Sometimes, it´s just a feeling, especially in technical expressions:

  • Der Download
  • Die URL

Why is "Download" male? I don´t know ;-) "Herunterladen" is neuter in German. Interesting in the last example "URL" is, that following the "combined words" and the "translation" rule, this gender is wrong, because URL stands for

  • Uniform Ressource Locator

Which is in German "Einheitlicher Ressourcenzeiger", where the last word "Zeiger" is male, so the abbreviation should be "Der URL".

So, gender is very complicated in German, sorry for that.


@inuzukaShino In Austria E-Mail is also female, i've never heard "das E-Mail" in my entire life ^^

Gender is indeed very complicated in german, because there are no consistant rules .

The only thing you can do is learn a noun+ the grammatical gender .

I'm sorry about that ;)


Sorry, the following is in German, but it´s not important for the topic.

Das ging mir auch vor Jahren mit "Das E-Mail" so ;-) Ich hatte niemals gehört oder wahrgenommen, dass irgend jemand "das E-Mail" gesagt hätte, bis ich es das erste Mal gehört und gelesen hatte.

Eine Bekannte von mir lebt in Wien (gebürtig) und sie sagt und schreibt "das E-Mail" :-)


@inuzukaShino Ich bin in Salzburg geboren und aufgewachsen, aber wohne seit 7 Jahren in Wien. Ich kann mir gut vorstellen, dass in Wien auch "das E-Mail" gesagt wird.

Ich kenn auch einige Leute die "das Pool" für einen Swimming Pool verwenden und es tut mir irgendwie schon beim hören weh ^^

  • 1618

Does one always refer to the gender of a domesticated cat, if it is known? Sorry, I usually have to be told twice (or three times) to believe something is true.


A domesticated cat usually has a name, so yes. For example I have a tomcat called Jimmy. Frage :Wo ist Jimmy gerade? (where is Jimmy right now?)

Antwort : Er ist im Garten. (He's in the garden)

There's actually no difference between English and German at all. But if you don't know if that specific cat is female or male you would always assume it is female and talk about a "Katze"


@cluney2 Many of them but not all of them


Ok. Does every creature have a female name and a male name?


OK that's all I need for now. Thank you for all your help. This should help me and now I understand why you can call items by names that don't make sense in English but in Deutsch they do. Thank you.


The idea of gendered nouns have nothing to do with gender. Das Mädchen means girl yet is netur not feminine. So with animals no matter what the gender of an animal is it will always take the grammatical gender, for example my female dog will still be Er because it is Der Hund. So to answer your question it would be sie lauft


Das Mädchen is neuter because it is a diminutive (...chen, for little girl). Their gender is neuter


The point was that grammatical gender is not related to actual gender, a door is not die because it is a feminine object and not every feminine seeming thing is die


This is one of the most confusing topics in learning German and roman languages. Additionally the grammatical gender differs between the languages, i. e. cat is in German female but in Spanish male, the sun is in German female and in Spanish male and so on. There is no rule like in Polish to recognize the grammatical gender.

Ah! A 'Mädchen' may still not be a woman yet, but she is feminine!


So for a mädchen you would never say. ''Es läuft''? You would say ''Sie läuft''? Is that what you mean and said?


Hmm, good question.

It depends on the situation. Gramatically correct is the use of 'es' here. But personally I wouldn't address a girl with 'es', it feels a bit weird for me. Maybe that's why I don't like this word (Mädchen) and I try to not use it. Possible is, using something like her name or 'die Kleine' or just 'sie' instead.

But this is interesting: In case of a baby, I would rather say 'Es läuft." regardless if it is male or female.

Same for 'Kind', because we use this word for both: boys and girls.


Ok. I have run into a lot of this. I'm actually doing another course on German not in Duolingo and I'm halfway through that and now trying to communicate with Germans and Austrians more. Thanks for the help. :D


thankyou that makes alot of sense. This whole question arose when in my german someone asked if The suit fitted and they asked 'passt er?' The guy buying the suit said 'Ja, er passt.


Yes in a situation like that you can use it :)


"es" always translates to it. It can be used for masculine, neuter, or feminine nouns. However, you can also use "er" for masculine nouns and "sie" for feminine nouns.


So what your telling me is I could say. (excuse me if I get my Deutsch grammar a bit wrong) ''Es ist geschlossen'' talking about a door. Die Tür. However I could also say ''Sie ist geschlossen''. Is that what you mean when you say that?


I think, what JaDeutsche wrote need some further explanations.

Taking your example, if you talk about the door itself, we would say: 'Sie ist geschlossen.', because 'Tür' is female in German.

But talking about a shop or business or something else in general, we would rather say: 'Es ist geschlossen.' (or here in the region: 'Es ist zu.')

In case the business itself is neuter (das Einkaufszentrum, das Geschäft, das Büro, das Amt...), there is no difference between the general expression and the specific one.

But in case the designations are m/f (der Laden, der Bäcker, die Bäckerei, der Friseur, die Pommes-Bude...), you can choose to say it in general or specific using m/f. Another possibility is to use the business designation, i. e. 'Der Friseur ist geschlossen.' (or here in the region: 'Der Friseur hat/ist zu.')

It is a question of the use of language ('Sprachgefühl') when we say something in general or when we say something more specifically using the grammatical genders.


You can also say "Es hat geschlossen", "Das Geschäft hat geschlossen" etc.

  • 1618

Read Mark Twain's Tale of The Fishwife and Its Sad Fate.


In this tale Twain is pointing out how the use of pronouns in a German way would sound to English listeners or readers.


Interesting. It sounds like a Bible prophecy or like some obscure story where everyone and everything has a gender. Although as you say it might sound just fine if it was said in German.


er = he sie = she (not her, her would be "ihr" in German) es = it

Der, Die, Das are the three definite articles (like "the" in English, "la" and "le" in French and so on).

If I understood your question correctly you wanted to know why you can refer to an inanimated object with "no gender" as Er, Sie or Es, right?

First of all, EVERY noun has a specific grammatical gender.

Der Anzug (m) - the suit Die Arbeit (f) - the work Das Kleid (n) - the dress

We don't often refer to objects as er, sie, es, that was the reason why I had to think a really long time to find a proper example, but I've found one.


Q:"Wie war dein Tag?" (how was your day) A:"Er war furchtbar" (it was terrible)

But even in that situation a native speaker would just say "Furchtbar" not "Er war furchtbar"

For example :

Wo ist der Anzug? (Where's the suit)

You can answer with :

Der Anzug ist im Schrank. (The suit is in the closet)


Der ist im Schrank

You can also say:

Er ist im Schrank

But be aware that it is clear what you're talking about, because everybody would think there is a person in the closet.

If you want to use : Der ist im Schrank. Die ist schön.


Be aware that the object you're referring to has already been mentioned in some way within the conversation before

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