In the following sentence:

Ich kann mir alles merken.

Why is 'mir' required in this sentence, would "Ich kann alles merken" not sound right?

Thanks for any help.


2 Answers 2


These are two different verbs with different meaning:

etwas merken

means: to notice something, to realize something

sich etwas merken

means: to remember something, to keep something in mind


Ich kann mir alles merken.

means: I'm able to remember everything

Ich kann alles merken.

would mean: I'm able to notice everything (which doesn't make a whole lot of sense both in German and English)

  • 1
    In general, German has a lot of what are called reflexive verbs, verbs which change meaning when a reflexive pronoun is used. It's a feature of many Indo-European languages, but not so much with English. Wir treffen uns morgen is another example, a common parting expression, but it's hard to makes sense of it unless you allow for treffen being a reflexive verb.
    – RDBury
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 2:24

The word »merken« is a reflexive verb. A reflexive verb must always be used in combination with a reflexive pronoun. This is a pronoun that refers to the subject, like in

Lisa wäscht sich.
Lisa washes herself.

But »waschen« is a so-called »unechtes reflexives Verb« (a pseudo reflexive verb), because here the reflexive pronoun can be replaced by an accusative object that is different from the subject, which defines the verb as a transitive verb:

Lisa wäscht ihr Kind.
Lisa washes her child.

But unlike English, German also has »echte reflexive Verben« (real reflexive verbs), where the reflexive pronoun never can be replaces by something else. They come in two types. Some of them need their reflexive pronoun to be in dative case, and some in accusative case. The verb »sich etwas merken« is a verb that needs its reflexive pronoun to be in dative case, and it also needs a mandatory accusative object, that names the thing that is remembered:

Ich merke mir dein Gesicht.
I remember your face.

  • ich
    subject and actor
  • merke
    verb (a form of merken)
  • mir
    mandatory reflexive pronoun that has to be in dative case
  • dein Gesicht
    accusative object

Note, that there is also another sentence that translates to "I remember your face":

  • When you learn the face (you see the face and store it in your brain):

    Ich merke mir dein Gesicht.
    I remember your face.

  • When you recall the face

    Ich erinnere mich an dein Gesicht.
    I remember your face.

Note, that the verb erinnern also is a reflexive verb, but it needs its reflexive pronoun to be in accusative case, and the object that tells what is remembered has to be a prepositional object that has to start with the preposition »an«.

Some real reflexive verbs that need an accusative reflexive pronoun:

  • Ich bedanke mich für das Lob.
    I thank you for the praise.

  • Ich bewerbe mich für diesen Job.
    I apply for this job.

  • Ich beeile mich.
    I hurry.

  • Ich bücke mich.
    I bend.

  • Ich kümmere mich um ihn.
    I take care of him.

Some real reflexive verbs that need an dative reflexive pronoun:

  • Ich gebe mir Mühe. (fix phrase)
    I do my best.

  • Ich mache mir Sorgen. (fix phrase)
    I'm worried.

  • Ich stelle mir vor, dass er schläft.
    I imagine that he is sleeping.

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