I am learning German with our lord and savior Duolingo and came across this sentence:

The cheese is good although it is old.

... which I translated as...

Der Käse ist gut, obwohl es alt ist.

... and Duo said that is wrong, and that the correct answer is:

Der Käse ist gut, obwohl er alt ist.

I think "der Käse" should be an "it/es", not a "he/er". Why is "es" wrong and "er" correct here?


2 Answers 2


Personal pronouns in German come generalls from the grammatical gender. The grammatical gender of "Käse" is male (You are using the article "der"), so the pronoun is "er".

This is a major difference to English, where nouns do not have genders and are generally used with the pronoun "it".


Because when referring to an object with a pronoun, we take the pronoun with the gender the word has. So, as the word is masculine, we can only refer to it with the masculine pronoun "er". In other words, in German, Käse is not "it", but "he". This is in contrast to English with its juxtaposition between animate objects (e.g. people) having natural gender he or she, and inaminate objects almost always having "it".

More info: https://learn-german-easily.com/er-sie-es

  • Side note: even in English some words are referred to not with "it", but with "she", e.g. a ship.
  • 1
    Kind of strange that you mark the question as duplicate an answer it anyway.
    – Olafant
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 1:22
  • Yeah, I don't do that normally... Still: marked as a possible duplicate, and the answer was already written at that point, short and to the point, and it would have been a pity to delete it. I'm kind of two minded about many rules and the extent to which they should apply (and I'm not the only one). If they were strictly enforced, we would have to 90% of questions or even more. But that's meta.
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 3:08

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