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i am confused by when Ihr is for female or male, any advice

February 10, 2018



You are confused by two items that may seem alike, but are not. The word "ihr" means one thing thing when it is a personal pronoun and something entirely different when it is used as a possessive adjective. One wishes that the German language had chosen two words which do not look and sound exactly alike, but that is not the reality. Native speakers do not, of course, have any difficulty keeping the two words separate in their minds. Students learning English have similar problems with the many words that sound alike (and are spelled differently = so, sew, and rain, rein, reign, for example) and words which have a single spelling but the pronunciation changes according to meaning = sow (to plant seeds) and sow (a female pig).

AS A PERSONAL PRONOUN, think of "ihr" as 'you all' (y'all, where I live.) -- you use this "ihr" in German: when you are speaking directly to more than one person with whom you are on a close, personal, first-name basis (the 'you all' can be all males, all females, or a mixed grouping); when you are speaking to more than one child or animal (Well, aren't you doggies cute!); when you are speaking to people who are your comtemporaries in age - generally through the teens, early twenties.

DO NOT use "ihr" for 'you all' when speaking with adults whom you should address with a title, such Sir, Ma'am, Miss, Doctor, Mr., Mrs,.Ms., etc. Many German-speakers spend years working with the same people and never use the familiar singular (du) or plural (ihr) with one another. In all of these instances one must use the formal Sie, which is both singular and plural.

AS A POSSESSIVE ADJECTIVE, "ihr" means; her (something) or their (something) when speaking about 'something' that she or they possess.

(Barbara) Das ist ihr Hund. Das ist ihre Katze. Das ist ihr Haus.

(Barbara und Thomas) Das ist ihr Hund. Das ist ihre Katze. Das ist ihr Haus.

(Herr und Frau Grünwald) Das ist ihr Hund. Das ist ihre Katze, Das ist ihr Haus.

In addition, "Ihr," when capitalized, means 'your' (singular and plural) when speaking directly to someone with whom you would use the formal 'Sie.' "Herr Reiter, ist das Ihr Hund? Ist das Ihre Katze? Ist das Ihr Haus?

Hope this is helpful!


Thank you for such a detailed explanation. I appreciate that you took the time to post this.


Here's a table that could be helpful for you.

If you are not familiar with the cases, you could start with Nominative - only look at the 1st and last column.

  • As a personal pronoun, ihr just means "you guys".
  • As a possessive pronoun, ihr corresponds to sie/Sie - stuff belonging to she, they, or formal you.


"ihr" can be:

dativ of "sie" (3rd person singular, femininum) -- Ich helfe ihr. I help her.

possesiv pronoun of "sie" (3pers sg, f) -- Sie geht in ihr Zimmer. She enters her room.

nominativ of "ihr" (2pers pl) -- Ihr esst Reis. You eat rice.

possesiv pronoun of "sie" (3pers pl) and "Sie" (2pers sg/pl formal) -- Ich sehe Ihr Auto. I see your car.; Ich sehe ihr Auto. I see their car.

Maybe you mix up "ihr" and "er" (he). I've read that it is hard to distinguish for English native speakers. In the skill "Basic 2", under "Tips and notes", you can find: Ihr sounds similar to the English word ear, and er sounds similar to the English word air (imagine a British/RP accent).


ihr means both "you" in a plural form and "her". so, ihr trinkt wasser (you drink water) or ihr hund (her dog).

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