Following this question I am now unsure about the way the concept "one of them" can be expressed. Let's use the sample phrase "one of them is big" as an example.

My understanding so far was that if we talk about people, we say

  1. Einer/e/s von ihnen ist groß.

while for inanimated things we say

  1. Einer/e/s davon ist groß.

Now it looks that there are other possibilities:

  1. Einer/e/s ihrer ist groß.
  2. Einer/e/s deren ist groß.

and even

  1. Einer/e/s der ist groß.

Are 3, 4 and 5 right? If so, in which context(s) are they used?

  • 2
    I do not hink you could use any of 3/4/5, except in some pretty exotic/archaic poetic expression, and even then only maybe.
    – P_S
    Nov 16, 2014 at 16:59
  • Wir sahen Löwen. Es waren ihrer drei. "Ihrer" in this context means the same as "von ihnen" (put after "drei" then). Notice the different word order though. As stated by P_S, quite old language, but still used today.
    – Sam
    Nov 16, 2014 at 19:30
  • Your distinction for people and inanimate things is also new to me. I would not know of any case where German grammar depends on something being a person, animate or inanimate. (Also, your case do not cover animals and plants, which are animate, but not people.)
    – Wrzlprmft
    Nov 16, 2014 at 20:02
  • 1
    @Wrzlprmft it's a common distinction in lots of textbooks, see eg lsa.umich.edu/german/hmr/Grammatik/Da/Da.html (Use -> 2) or nthuleen.com/teach/grammar/wodakompositaexpl.html and, more importantly, it seems to me that it matches common usage in newspeapers, magazines etc.
    – persson
    Nov 16, 2014 at 20:29
  • 1
    @karoshi: Thanks, I never realised this. While I agree with this for other da constructs, interestingly this does not necessarily apply to davon or von ihnen, respectively, because they can refer to the abstract entity comprising many persons, which is itself not a person. For example I would be fine with “Ich kenne 142 Menschen; einer davon ist Hans Müller.” but not with “Gestern war ich auf einem Konzert der Beatles; einer von ihnen ist John Lennon.” But maybe that’s something for a new question.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Nov 16, 2014 at 22:08

1 Answer 1


Definitely no.

Number 5 is impossible because you can't use an article here; the demonstrative pronoun in the genetive is "deren" (number 4).

Numbers 3 and 4 cannot be used either. They sound antiquated and wrong.

In old texts, you will find:

Deren einer ist groß.

"Ihrer einer" might have once been possible, or not; I don't recall ever reading it.

"Einer ihrer ..." can still be used in a different context for "one of her ...", as in:

Einer ihrer Schuhe hat ein Loch. (One of her shoes has a hole).

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