I think I am right in saying that denen would be used to mean them, but what ending would be used for the one, because there is no obvious gender?

Einer von denen
Eines von denen
Eine von denen

For example “One of them is tired”, with them being a group of random people? Or “He is one of them”, with them again being a group of random people?

Like I said, I don’t know which of the three genders would be used here, and also in general usage of einer as an indefinite pronoun.

  • 1
    who are the "them"?
    – rumtscho
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 17:52
  • Does that make a difference? I will edit question with context though. Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 17:55
  • 1
    yes, that's what decides which to use
    – rumtscho
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 17:57
  • 1
    Funny enough, when I changed the title from single quotation marks to double quotation marks, I got an error saying: "This title is already in use." -> german.stackexchange.com/q/17821/1224. It's not a dupe though, I guess. — And besides, I don't understand your very last sentence. What are you asking there?
    – Em1
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 20:38
  • 2
    That is only tangential to your question, but in many contexts, "einer von ihnen" would be more natural. "Denen" is more like "those".
    – Carsten S
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 23:30

3 Answers 3

  1. The simple way to decide is to think that there is a word in your sentence which you left out. If it is an inanimate object, use the gender of the word which is missing.

    a) Ein Messer von den Messern → Eins von denen

    b) Ein Löffel von den Löffeln → Einer von denen

    c) Eine Gabel von den Gabeln → Eine von denen

    As pointed out in the comments, denen is colloquial, use von ihnen in a more official context.

  2. When it comes to entities which have their own “non-grammatical” gender, you use the gender of the entity you are referring to.

    a) Ein Arzt von den Ärzten und Ärztinnen → Einer von denen

    b) Eine Ärztin von den Ärzten und Ärztinnen → Eine von denen

    If you don’t mean to refer to one specific entity of the group, but mean any of them, use the generic singular genus for that group.

    c) Irgendein Arzt oder irgendeine Ärztin von den Ärtzen und Ärztinnen → Einer von denen

    d) Irgendein Kater oder irgendeine Katze von den Katern und Katzen → Eine von denen

  3. If you need to emphasize political correctness when referring to humans, you could use oder. This makes it quite clumsy, and is unlikely to be found outside of the writings of organisations who actively promote gender equality.

    Irgendein Arzt oder irgendeine Ärztin von den Ärzten und Ärztinnen → Einer oder eine von ihnen

Choosing an unexpected reference group might be grammatically correct, but it is likely to be misunderstood.

Irgendeine Person von den Personen → Eine von denen → Eine Frau von den Frauen und Männern

If you haven’t introduced the word Person recently in the conversation, your conversation partner will automatically assume that you are talking about case 2, with the group consisting of “Frauen und Männer”. And because 2a) and 2c) both result in the choice of the male gender, he’ll think that this is case 2b), a specific female human, not 2c), a random person of any gender.

Update After reading user unknown's answer, I realized that there is a case I forgot to describe. Added here for completeness.

  1. If in the flow of conversation, you previously referred to the group with a plural substantive describing the role of its elements, use the gender of this substantive in singular. This applies to both animate and inanimate entities. The requirement is that the substantive itself does not change gender depending on the role.

a) You get asked "War es eins von den Utensilien da?" . The answer is:

Ein Utensil von den Utensilien → "Ja, eins von denen"

You use the gender of Utensil even though each individual fork would require die and each individual spoon would require der.

b) The regulations of a political party might state "Eine Kommission muss aus mindestens vier Parteimitgliedern bestehen." The next sentence says that they need to designate a chairperson.

Ein Mitglied von den Mitgliedern → "Eins von ihnen muss zum Vorsitzenden ernannt werden."

Even though all the members of the committee are men and women, you use the gender of "Mitglied", which is neuter.

If a substantive is already introduced, but it changes gender depending on the role (Arzt/Ärztin, Vorsitzender/Vorsitzende), use rule 2.

  • 1
    But wouldn't that mean that the gender could be more than one? Like Mensch is masculine, but Person is feminine? Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 18:04
  • @JacobLee-Hart it probably can produce cases where two choices are right. But in your example, it would be strange. Nobody is accustomed to think of "Menschen" as "Personen" in everyday speech, just like in English you say "one of the people" but not "one of the persons". So if you refer to a random human who is part of a crowd as "Eine von denen", nobody will get your reference to "one person from that group of persons", your communication partner will think you mean "one woman from that group of people".
    – rumtscho
    Commented Nov 10, 2015 at 18:08

Das zu benutzende Geschlecht ergibt sich aus dem Geschlecht, von dem zuvor die Rede sein musste:

In meiner Straße gibt es drei Bäcker. Einer von denen backt noch selbst. (Der Bäcker, mask.)

In meinem Verein gibt es vier Mitglieder. Eines von denen ist vom Mitgliedsbeitrag befreit. (Das Mitglied, sächl.)

17 Personen standen im Aufzug. Eine von denen hatte starken Mundgeruch. (Die Person, fem.)

Man ist an das sprachliche Geschlecht gebunden, welches man zuvor verwendet hat um die Gruppe zu beschreiben.


As already mentioned in the other answers, you should (if possible) use the genus of whatever you are referring to. User unknown did a nice comparison between what happens if you use Bäcker, Mitglieder or Personen (which are masculine, feminine and neuter words, respectively).

As rumtscho said, if you are just referring to any random person and the specifics of that person do not matter at all, you would use the word’s genus, too. For people, this defaults to masculine:

Einer von denen da drüben wird gleich eine Rede halten.

For specific animals, it defaults to whatever their genus is:

Eine von denen *points at cats* hat mich gekratzt!

And for a mixed or generic group of animals, it defaults to neuter (cf. das Tier):

Eines von denen (Tieren auf dem Bauernhof) werden wir morgen essen.

For objects, it defaults to neuter, too (cf. das Ding):

*points to a pile of objects* Eines von denen werde ich brauchen.

  • Wenn zuvor die Gruppe nicht benannt wurde, dann ergibt sich nicht automatisch ein Geschlecht, denn viele Elemente lassen sich in unterschiedlich benannten Gruppen mit divergierendem Geschlecht zusammenfassen. Das Objekt, das Ding, aber der Gegenstand oder die Sache. Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 16:07

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