This is a statement in a fairy tale "Der Wind und Die Sonne":

Dann nahm er seinen Schal ab und steckte ihn sich unter den Arm.

What does the word ihn here refer to? Is it seinen Schal or er? I know the meaning

Then he took off his scarf and put it under his arm

but I'm confused on how to interpret the grammar here.

  • If "ihn" referred to "er", the sentence would be pretty senseless, wouldn't it? How can one put himself under oneself's arm?
    – idmean
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 16:04

2 Answers 2


As fanlim wrote, ihn refers to den Schal.

In English, we would say that the man put "it" under his arm, but in German, you need to use "ihn" (him) because der Schal is masculine. English does not generally give "genders" to inanimate objects but German does.

  • I think, in English ships and countries can be feminine :)
    – Carsten S
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 16:44
  • @CarstenS: Countries and ships are "animate" if you consider the people in/on them.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 17:08
  • Ah, Schal is masculin, so es is not permitted which is neutral but ihn is correct!. This more cleary answers my question so I switched my selected answer to this.
    – Chan Kim
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 10:29

ihn = seinen Schal

... und steckte sich seinen Schal unter den Arm.

  • 1
    so ihn can refer to non-person. I though only es can refer to it in dative case.
    – Chan Kim
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 14:40
  • 2
    Indeed, you use er, sie, es for any substantive without regard of what it refers to. "Der Tisch steht schief." - "Stelle ihn halt gerade." Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 15:38
  • 2
    In the sentence above, ihn is accusative and sich is dative: Jemandem (Dat.) etwas (Akk.) stecken.
    – RHa
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 17:52
  • @RHa Oh, I didn't notice it. It's the peculiar German way of speaking I found many times. Thanks.
    – Chan Kim
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 10:26

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