I am trying to understand how the word Persönlichkeit is used in German, ARE people one, or do they have one?

I was surprised I found on Duden an example with to be: -er ist eine starke Persönlichkeit;

I was expecting somehow to see to have instead of to be there, probably because I am used to say :"she has a strong personality" in English and "lei ha una forte personalità" in Italian.

I also found this expression with "to be" in a picture with a quote (see below) that I randomly found on the internet. Do you always say "eine Persönlichkeit sein" or is it also ok to say "eine Persönlichkeit haben"? enter image description here

  • 5
    Look up Persönlichkeit on Wiktionary or Duden, find three different definitions – mostly the same, actually. 2 and 3 refer to people, 1 refers to a person’s traits, so someone is a 2 or 3 and has a 1. Seems rather obvious to me.
    – chirlu
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 14:31
  • Persönlichkeit haben, because you have it:)
    – user16353
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 16:02

3 Answers 3


There are two meanings of the word Persönlichkeit — and as logic would have it, one can be had while the other only can be been.

If you are talking about the personality of somebody, whether they are open-minded, shy, talkative or quick to jump to conclusions, those are traits that require haben.

Du hast eine Persönlichkeit, ich hab eine Persönlichkeit, jeder Mensch hat eine Persönlichkeit.

However, the word Persönlichkeit can also be translated as character — you can talk about somebody being a shy character and in this case, it requires sein.

Er ist eine schüchterne Persönlichkeit.

Finally, Persönlichkeit can also mean personage — and it should be entirely clear that that is something that you are, that you cannot have.

Franz Beckenbauer ist eine Persönlichkeit (des öffentlichen Lebens).

So you realise that you can’t automatically choose, you need to think about what you’re saying.


(I am not a linguist, so this might be wrong or inaccurate)

As far as I know, both "eine Persönlichkeit haben" and "eine Persönlichkeit sein" are correct, but have slightly different meanings. "eine ... Persönlichkeit sein" can be loosely translated to "being a ... person", whilst "eine ... Persönlichkeit haben" means "to have a ... personality". I hope that helps!


While I agree with Thomas’ translation for eine Persönlichkeit haben

Persönlichkeit sein could mean to be a celebrity or to have some special individual characteristics.

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