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I recently came across this sentence:

Dann machen sich meine Familie und ich auf den Weg nach Italien.

Initially, I thought the "sich" was a mistake and it should be "uns" but a native speaker told me this sentence is grammatically correct. However, if we move the subjects so it is at the beginning:

Meine Familie und ich machen uns dann auf den Weg nach Italien.

Then the reflexive pronoun is indeed "uns" and I was told this is also correct. Can someone explain to me what is going on - namely why is the reflexive pronoun not always "uns" - and if there is a name for this phenomenon?

Also, I imagine that the order of subjects is irrelevant so the following sentences are correct? (I am aware it can be impolite and/or sound strange to put "ich" first):

Dann machen sich ich und meine Familie auf den Weg nach Italien.

Ich und meine Familie machen uns dann auf den Weg nach Italien.

3

The reflexive pronoun is both declined and follows the verb conjugation.

           Singular                             Plural
           1.      2.      3.                   1.     2.     3
Nominativ  ----    ----    ----                 ----   ----   ----
Genitiv    meiner  deiner  seiner/ihrer/seiner  unser  eurer  ihrer
Dativ      mir     dir     sich                 uns    euch   sich
Akkusativ  mich    dich    sich                 uns    euch   sich

The genitive is very seldom used, even in educated speech. It's usually replaced by dative. Nominative makes no sense at all.

Ihr gedenkt eurer. (Genitiv)

Sie macht sich Essen. (Dativ)

Wir hören uns. (Akkusativ)

Your examples differ in the person. In the first example, you are talking about yourself and your family in third person plural:

Dann machen sich meine Familie und ich auf den Weg nach Italien.

Dann machen sie sich auf den auf den Weg nach Italien.

Meine Familie und ich machen sich dann auf den Weg nach Italien.

While the other you are talking in first person plural:

Meine Familie und ich machen uns dann auf den Weg nach Italien.

Wir machen uns dann auf den Weg nach Italien.


And sure, the order of subjects is irrelevant for grammar.

  • Thanks for your answer. I don't understand why the person of the first sentence should differ from the second sentence. All that differs (in my eyes) between the sentences is the position of the nominative and moving it shouldn't change the person, should it? I also feel that by saying it is equivalent to "sie" removes the implication that I am included in the person, i.e. "sie" could be "meine Familie und Freundin", while with "wir" it is clear that "ich" is always included with whoever else. – Dord Jul 29 '17 at 10:59
  • The difference lies in sich vs. uns entirely. Sich is a marker for third person, while uns is a marker for first person. And no, my sentence with sie also includes you. Because it's an outside view now, without your notion of meine and ich. – Janka Jul 29 '17 at 11:52
  • I've added another example for the sentence with sich which follows exactly the pattern of your sentence with uns. – Janka Jul 29 '17 at 12:06
  • Okay, thanks for the clarification, it's more clear to me now. It's not something I would have expected. – Dord Jul 29 '17 at 12:20
  • Is "Dann machen wir uns auf den Weg nach Italien" not a valid rephrasal? – starkhalo Aug 1 '17 at 22:05

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