When I was reading I found this sentence

aber Zeiten haben sich geändert

and I didn't understand why using "sich" in the sentence?

6 Answers 6


Die Bahn hat den Fahrplan geändert.

The verb ändern needs an accusative object which is the thing changed. It's mandatory. If you wanted to say someone or something changed itself, you had to insert the reflexive pronoun.

Wir haben uns geändert.

Sie haben sich geändert.

Aber (die) Zeiten haben sich geändert.

Please note the reflexive pronoun ist just the same as the personal pronoun for the first and second person in all cases. In third person (including the formal Sie form), it's always sich.

  • I don't think non-natives would understand "if you wanted to say someone or something changed itself" but rather "someone or something changed". In this case the sentence would need an accusative object, as you said, or use a reflexive pronoun.
    – jera
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 9:54

Additionally to @Jankas answer:

We have a lot of reflexive verbs in german, like sich freuen, sich treffen, sich verlieben, which work perfectly well without reflexion in the english language (use of myself, yourself, themselves).

As a learner you have to learn the reflexive part with the words.


welcome to the community.

The verb in this sentence is "sich ändern" not just "ändern". It is necessary to use the reflexive pronoun (sich) because of the nature of reflexive verbs. The emphasis is on the fact that the action is done to the subject (Zeiten) carrying out that same action (to change themselves).

Reflexive verbs exist in German as well as English, though there are far less of them in English. An example of such difference can be seen in the following sentences: - Du hast dich sehr geändert! - You have changed a lot!

Good luck with German, we all know the struggle :)


While I do like all the other answers so far, I think that it is still missleading that "Zeiten" (times) may do something to themselves which the word "sich" could imply. So it is important to realize that the translation of "sich ändern" does not necessarily mean "change oneself", but can also be only "change" or "alter".

See this link for synonyms for "sich ändern" in german: https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/aendern

see this link for possible translations of "sich ändern": https://www.dict.cc/?s=sich+%C3%A4ndern


The English verb change (mentioned in Dogweather's answer) and the German verb ändern don't have the same valency; in other words, the number of "arguments" they control is not the same.

For example, let's compare the meaning "to become something different", which is intransitive (i.e. it cannot take a direct object):

  • Wiktionary gives the following examples for "change":
    • "Stock prices are constantly changing."
    • "The tadpole changed into a frog. "
  • Wiktionary doesn't list an intransitive usage of "ändern":
    • you need to say "[etwas] ändern", where [etwas] represent the direct object (= "to change something), or
    • you need to say "sich ändern", which is a reflexive use of the verb.

So to translate the example sentence "Stock prices are constantly changing", you would need to use a reflexive construction, e.g.: "Die Kurse ändern sich dauernd."

You also need a reflexive construction to translate "The tadpole changed into a frog", e.g.: "Die Kaulquappen verwandelt sich in einen Frosch." (The verb "sich verwandeln" is a better fit here than "sich ändern".)

Similarly, while you can say in English "Times change", using just a subject and a verb, you need an additional argument in German: "Die Zeiten ändern sich."


Another way to look at it is how in English, we have both to change and to change [something]. So this is two cases - nominative and accusative. (Nominativ und Akkusativ.)

But it so happens, that in German, there's only the accusative - to change something. And so, if a person (or "the times") is simply changing, then it's the accusative sich ändern. Note how it's Ich habe mich geändert.

  • 1
    I think you are mixing up non-reflexive and reflexive verbs with nominative and accusative objects. A verb can be reflexive, then it needs an object that is a personal pronoun that refers to the subject, and this pronoun often has to be in accusative case. But some reflexive verbs needs their object in dative case: »Ich stelle mir vor wie du aussiehst.« ("I imagine how you look.") And in every sentence you have a part of speech in nominative case: the subject always is in nominative case. It is always there, in every sentence. Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 10:09
  • Ah hah, true, some are dativ. No, I've got it straight - I'm just saying that there's a link between these two features: case, and reflexitvity.
    – Dogweather
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 12:34

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