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Help, when do we use du and when can we use dir?

I am just starting out my german tree and I just can't figure out when can we use du like "und du" and when can we use dir, which all of them mean you.

Thank you very much.

May 21, 2018



du (you singular) is a pronoun used to adress people who have a relationship to you which is close enough to use informal speech... (basically friends and family... though nowadays it is not that strict anymore.)

the form of the ponoun changes according to the grammatical case.

dir is the dative form of du...

the 4 cases in german grammer (accusative, dative, genetive and nominative) are all connected to a w question..

the question for dative is "wem"? (whom?)

Ich gebe dir das Buch... (i give the book to you) so the question would be: Wem gebe ich das Buch? (to whom do i give the book) Ich gebe es dir ( i give it to you)

Die Tasche gehört dir. (the bag belongs to you) q: Wem gehört die Tasche? (to whom does the bag belong?) Sie gehört dir (it belongs to you)


You're pretty early into the course, so I imagine you're getting caught up on the

"wie geht es dir"
compared to, say
Ich heiße Hans, und du?

constructions. Correct?

As noted below, German changes its pronouns to reflect what the pronoun is doing in the sentence. It's just like English:

I see the dog | He sees the dog | Thou seest the dog
The dog sees me | The dog sees him | The dog seeth thee
The dog is mine | The dog is his | The dog is thine

These three lines reflect the three variations (called cases) which exist in English pronouns. The first line is the nominative case, used to indicate that the pronoun is acting as the subject of the sentence. The second line is called the oblique case, and is used to indicate, among other things, when the pronoun is acting as an object in the sentence (either direct object, indirect object or object of a preposition). The third line is the possessive or genitive case, used to indicate possession and with "of x" constructions.

Note: in the above examples, and going forward, I will be using the archaic thou instead of you to indicate 2nd person singular. This is because 1) German separates formal and informal speech, with "du" being reserved for family and close friends. English doesn't do this now, but in the past, this was the function "thou" served with ye/you being reserved for more formal speech, and 2) "ye" and its oblique form "you" merged into one form "you", and so the pronoun "you" now has identical forms in the nominative and oblique cases, making it difficult to highlight changes between cases when using this pronoun.

German's cases are slightly more complicated than English's; they have four cases instead of three. For now, all you really need to know, is that dir (and mir) are pronouns in the dative case which, put in the most simple terms possible indicates "to or for whom" an action is taken.

He gives the ball to me | Er gibt mir den Ball
I bought a present for thee | Ich kaufte dir ein Geschenk

Once all that's been gotten out of the way, we can understand how the two sentences above are working. So let's look at what the first sentence is saying without the dir:

Wie geht es literally means "How is it going" (wie = how, geht = goes, es = it)
Now, remember that "dir" is in the dative, which can be translated as "to/for x". In this case, we'll use "for":

Wie geht es dir | "How is it going for you"
The response to this would be:
Es geht mir gut, und dir? | "It is going well for me, and for you?"

The second sentence is a bit harder to wrap your head around as a native English speaker, because, like in French, English also uses its oblique case for emphasis, something that German doesn't do.

In the second sentence: heißen = "to be named/called"
"Ich heiße Hans" = "I am called Hans".
Notice that "ich", as the subject of the sentence, is in the nominative case. If you want to ask someone else what they're called after saying your name you would say:
Ich heiße Hans, und du?

Because your statement is in the nominative, you keep your question in the nominative as well. This is the tricky part, because in English, we would use the oblique case for this:

You are called Frank, I am called Eric...and him?
Notice that in English we typically switch into the oblique "him" rather than the nominative "he" as a way to emphasize the pronoun. German doesn't do this; it always keeps consistency between the cases in the syllogized sentences. One way to think about it, is to imagine that you're omitting words from what would otherwise be the full sentence-long question:

Es geht mir gut, und [wie geht es] dir?
Ich heiße Hans, und [wie heißt] du?

Hope that clears it up at least a little bit :)


well i certainly found it interesting :)


Thank you so much for your help.

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