I learned that a pronoun should take an ending in accordance with its gender, case, numerus, etc. whenever it refers to some noun in particular — ‘Das Auto ist meins’ for example. So in the following poem, why is mein used instead of meine, even though it specifically refers to die Jahre?

Mein sind die Jahre nicht, die mir die Zeit genommen.
Mein sind die Jahre nicht, die etwa möchten kommen.
Der Augenblick ist mein, und nehm' ich den in Acht,
so ist der mein, der Zeit und Ewigkeit gemacht.

Is a question of poetic licence or have I misunderstood something?

  • 1
    Mein ist die Rache, spricht der Herr (Dies irae). Feb 7, 2013 at 20:40
  • »Mainz ist die Rache, spricht der Herr« ;)
    – Jan
    Jun 26, 2016 at 16:41

3 Answers 3


That’s archaic use of the construct etw. ist mein/dein/sein meaning etw. gehört mir/dir/ihm. It’s still used and common with objects and the — today — correct declension:

Wem gehören die Schuhe? — Das sind meine.

… but is not so common for things, that can’t physically belong to a person like years, time or guilt. I’ll try a modern (not so poetic) “translation” of the poem:

Mir gehören die Jahre nicht, die mir die Zeit genommen hat.
Mir gehören die Jahre nicht, die noch kommen mögen.
Mir gehört der Augenblick, und wenn ich den schätze,
dann gehört mir der, der Zeit und Ewigkeit erschuf.

In a less strict sense of posession the personal nouns are also used with year, time or guilt, of course. Some examples:

Es ist meine Schuld, dass wir zu spät kommen.

I’m responsible for us being late.

Das wird mein Jahr!

This year I’ll be successful and achieve everything I want.

Die frühen Morgenstunden sind nicht seine Zeit.

Early morning is not the best time of the day for him.

  • So basically it's archaic to put no inflection and it's grammatically wrong today? I'm not sure what most of your examples have to do with pronoun inflection.
    – Brian
    Feb 16, 2013 at 10:44
  • @Brian Sorry for my late answer..and yes, that's right. The point is that the pronoun isn't inflected in etw. ist mein and that it means etw. gehört mir. My examples were supposed to show that immaterial nouns can also be used with personal pronouns.
    – Deve
    Apr 2, 2013 at 13:57
  • The first sentence of your "modern translation" should have "haben", not "hat".
    – Earthliŋ
    Apr 26, 2013 at 9:11
  • @user1205935 The subject of the relative clause is die Zeit and the auxiliary verb is therefore 3rd person singular, i.e. hat. The relative pronoun substituting die Jahre is the object of the relative clause. Cf. canoo.net/services/OnlineGrammar/Satz/Komplex/Funktion/Attribut/…, third example.
    – Deve
    Apr 26, 2013 at 11:02
  • Oh, you're right. I read it as "Mir gehören die Jahre nicht, die mir die Zeit genommen haben." I guess both are grammatically viable and the original poetical version is ambiguous, although I agree that your interpretation is nicer.
    – Earthliŋ
    Apr 26, 2013 at 11:08

I would suggest to think of it as my own instead of mine. That would make mein an adjective instead of a pronoun.

Das Auto ist blau.

Das Auto ist mein.


Das Auto ist meins.

I can't really capture that in English because mine has also an adjective feel to it but the German meine/s/r/n... really feels like a pronoun.

Das Auto ist meins.

is just short for

Das Auto ist mein Auto.


Note that we need to distinguish between the genitive case declension of the personal pronoun ich, i.e., meiner, and the various forms of the possessive pronoun mein.

For an actual usage of the genitive case, check some verbs that need a genitive object:

Er erinnert sich meiner (=Er erinnert sich an mich). Er schämt sich meiner (=Er schämt sich wegen mir).

Still, your examples in the OP are rather poetic (and also my examples with genitive case may sound archaic/poetic to today’s everyday usage, but they might still be found in non-poetic elaborate texts, including newspapers).

  • Enlighten me; how does this help answering the question?
    – Jan
    Jun 26, 2016 at 16:44

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