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As far as I know, there are some cognates about German and English personal pronouns, such as:

German ich and English I

German du and English thou

German wir and English we

German ihr (you pl.) and English ye

But I am confused with German sie (she, they) and ihr (her, their), because each word contains more than one meaning, and the cognates in English are unknown at least to me.

What is the Proto-Indo-European etymology of the German sie and German ihr?

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2 Answers 2

I suppose that English they is in connection with German die, die Leute, die Sachen etc (people, the things).

Their must be related to German deren: Die Eltern und deren Kinder (the parents and their children).

Them, I think, is related to German denen, in German only dative plural, in English dative and accusuative were no longer distinguished.

Her - in my view - is related with German ihr, two uses, a possessive adjective and a dative. In English /i:r/ has a form that begins with h, but the two words still sound similar and the function is the same:

Possessive: Susan and her brother - Susanne und ihr Bruder. Dative: I promised Susan/her a present - Ich habe Susanne/ihr ein Geschenk versprochen.

I don't think that looking into PIE will bring any clarity.

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Sie

Unlike the English "they" there is no Old Norse influence (þeir) in the ethymology of "sie". It is believed that it comes from Old Saxonian/Old High German thiu or siu thus not sharing a clear cut common ethymology. This is probably different for the same spelt demonstrative pronoun "sie" that may share a same etymology with the English she.

Ihr

The situation is little different with "ihr" that shares a common etymology with Old Saxonian gī̌ that became gē̌ in Old English when used as personal pronoun plural. However today ihr is also used as a possesive pronoun derived from Old High German ira wheras the English analogon "their" again has its roots in Old Norse þeir.

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