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I learned the phrase "Es lohnt sich nicht" today from my Michel Thomas German course. From the "German Builder" CD 1 for those interested.

The phrase means " it's not worth it"

I want to know if I can replace the "sich" with "dich" and it would still mean the same thing.

I think that "sich" here would refer to "Sie" (unmentioned) and if I replace the words I would then be saying the casual or non-formal version.

Is this correct? Or does "sich" refer to "es" and therefor, I can only use "sich"

I hope I didn't confuse anyone with my question. I'm a dummy sometimes...

3 Answers 3

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The "sich" is indeed reflexive. You can drop it and just say

Es lohnt nicht...

but the version with "sich" in it is much more common. You can also insert something else for "sich".

Es lohnt die Mühe nicht.
It's not worth the hassle.

But the options what you can insert are very limited, not by grammar but by what sounds idiomatic.

Es lohnt das Geld nicht.

This one is not wrong and Google has more than 16.000 hits (here) but to my ears it sounds odd. However,

Es lohnt den Euro nicht.

is really off while "not worth the dollar" is fairly common.

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  • That's actually really helpful. By giving an example replacing the words it really shows me how it works. Though you said at the end, "Es lohnt das Geld nicht" so that doesn't work like it would in English? And wouldn't be understood as "it's not worth the money."?
    – Autumn
    Mar 18, 2015 at 22:43
  • @Autumn... it would be understood, I guess, it just sounds super odd to me. However, I checked now and I actually found 16.000 hits, so I guess I'll edit that bit of the answer.
    – Emanuel
    Mar 18, 2015 at 22:45
  • I think the non-reflexive version is quite common in the west -at least I heard it quite often in the Rheinland.
    – Gerhard
    Mar 18, 2015 at 23:50
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    In my understanding, the usage of lohnen without sich is a Northern regional variant. I've heard it in the North a lot while I hardly ever hear it in Bavaria (I would have to think if I even remember an example by a true Bavarian). If I try imagining someone saying it, my brain automatically turns it into dat lohnt nich, further pointing towards Northern German. ;) And I would also say Die Mühe lohnt sich nicht instead of Es lohnt die MÜhe nicht ;)
    – Jan
    Mar 20, 2015 at 10:49
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I want to know if I can replace the "sich" with "dich" and it would still mean the same thing.

No, you can't. es lohnt dich nicht isn't a sentence with any meaning in German (think about it as it's not worth you, which also doesn't make sense).

I think that "sich" here would refer to "Sie" (unmentioned) and if I replace the words I would then be saying the casual or non-formal version.

No, sich never means Sie in German, and Sie is also not an implied part of that sentence.

Or does "sich" refer to "es" and therefor, I can only use "sich"

That's exactly right.

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You can drop the word "sich". "Es lohnt nicht." is valid and will be understood.

And you are right: The word "sich" is reflexive to "Es" (It) at the beginning of the phrase.

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  • Oh, cool I see! So I looked online and googled "es lohnt dich nicht" so what does it mean to say it like that?
    – Autumn
    Mar 18, 2015 at 21:00
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    Es lohnt nicht is valid, but does sound a bit odd. Das lohnt nicht is certainly valid, but it would be quite colloquial.
    – tim
    Mar 18, 2015 at 21:26
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    "Es lohnt dich nicht" is invalid, but you can say "es lohnt [sich] für mich / dich nicht" to indicate to whom it's not worth it.
    – Robert
    Mar 18, 2015 at 22:58

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