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For a few months, I have been studying German online from the youtube channel, GermanwithJenny. During an exercise, I came across an example sentence:

Sie mag ihre Lehrerin.

I was not sure about the case of "ihre", so instead of going back through my notes, I did a quick Google search on personal pronouns and found these two tables. The personal pronouns of the Nominative case written in the 2nd table are the ones that I know. But there were many tables on Google mentioning the personal pronoun of the Nominative case, as you can see in the first table. Since I have just begun with German, I am not sure which table is the right one, or maybe they both are correct, in different scenarios.

I was hoping if you could help me figure out which is which and where they are used?

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    I feel that your introduction distracts from the question.
    – Carsten S
    Sep 20 at 7:20
  • I have always been bad at giving titles. Do you have any suggestions?
    – Momobear
    Sep 20 at 10:17
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    I didn't mean the title, I found everything about "Sie mag ihre Lehrerin" confusing, because it is not necessary for the question. I actually had to read the text multiple time to find the actual question. This can of course be just me being a bit daft.
    – Carsten S
    Sep 20 at 12:32
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    My experience with the stack has been, "always share the back story," that's why I have mentioned the sentence. But if you think it may cause issues for other readers, feel free to edit the question. I don't know what to deduct from it; I have always written my questions this way.
    – Momobear
    Sep 20 at 12:42
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    Yes, the introduction was confusing because I thought the question is about "ihre" (which is not nominative) and took a quick reset mid-reading to see that it's just your personal backstory of why you googled those tables. Then I saw the difference between the two tables and even as a German I could not answer it right away so was looking forward to an explanation. But your accepted answer hardly mentions that issue at all but goes straight to your motivational sentence! Very weird. I don't edit questions except my own; do with the feedback what you will.
    – AnoE
    Sep 21 at 15:05
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This question is a bit more complicated than it may seem because while one answer works for mögen (the dictionary form of mag) you may need a different answer with other verbs. In your example, the verb mögen is transitive, meaning it takes a subject (in the nominative) and an object (in the accusative). So you want to look at the accusative row of whichever table you're looking at. The upper table contains possessive pronouns, which, like other pronouns can stand by themselves in a sentence. In English the possessive pronouns are "mine", "ours", "yours", "his", "hers", "its", and "theirs". For example:

"I don't like this apple; I want yours."
"This car is mine."
"It looks like you need some water. Do you want some of ours?"

The lower table has possessive determiners. These are words that can replace an article ("the", "a(n)" in English) and come before a noun. In English the possessive determiners are "my", "our", "your", "his", "her" and "their". For example:

"I want your apple."
"This is my car."
"Do you want some of our water?"

Note that there is less overlap between pronouns and determiners in English than there is in German, but since German is more inflected than English in general there are more of each in German.

Normally, as an English speaker, you make this distinction automatically, but you need to understand the concepts to see what's going on in German.

That solves the problem for mögen, but there are other types of verbs where you need to look at different rows in the table. Dative verbs take a subject and a dative object. Since English does not really distinguish between accusative and dative, basically having a single objective case instead, these can be difficult for learners to get used to. One such verb is helfen -- "to help". Since helfen takes a dative object, you have to look in the dative row of the table your looking at. (Now that you know which table that is.) So it's

Sie hilft ihrer Lehrerin. compared with Sie mag ihre Lehrerin.

Another type of verb you have to watch out for are copulative verbs, which includes verbs used to describe something or make an identification of some kind. Some copulative verbs in German are sein -- "to be", and werden -- "to become". In English, usually everything but the subject is in the objective case. But German does something I call "case matching", the left and right sides of the copulative verb have matching cases. Most of the time that means you read from the nominative row in the the table for these verbs. So it's

Er ist ihr Lehrer. compared with Sie mag ihren Lehrer.

(I had to change the teacher to a male because the table entries are the same for female teachers.)

So, the first thing is that for mögen you should be looking at the accusative case, not the nominative case, but it depends on the verb. In Carsten S's answer he's using sein so you'd look at the nominative for that, and for dative verbs you look at the dative row. Second, you need to understand the difference between a pronoun and a determiner and use the right table for the situation. You can find these tables in the English Wiktionary as well, pronouns and determiners. It's usually best for beginners to use look up words in the English Wiktionary, though eventually you'll need to advance to the German one or another German-German dictionary such as DWDS to fill in details or find words that English Wiktionary does not have.

Finally, as a general comment, I hope you're not relying solely on GermanwithJenny for grammar. It's a good channel and I subscribe to it myself, but I recommend using multiple sources to learn from in order to get different perspectives. For grammar it's best to read, well, a grammar; there are a number freely available on the internet. I find videos excellent for review and to practice listening comprehension.

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  • This is exactly what I pointed out in the comments: You have answered something which I understood not to be part of the question. Of course, I can have been mistaken, but that would only show that the question could have been improved.
    – Carsten S
    Sep 20 at 15:44
  • @Carsten S: You probably have a point; I tend to err on the side of too much information rather than too little. The original question asked about the nominative case, which wasn't correct for the example given, even though nominative and accusative are mostly inflected the same way for feminine nouns. So I thought it would be important to try to clear up that issue as well as answer the question that was actually asked.
    – RDBury
    Sep 20 at 23:30
  • Your answer seems very useful, I did in no way want to take away from that.
    – Carsten S
    Sep 21 at 9:43
  • @RDBury Thanks for your answer, I don't feel like it is too much information. Instead, your answer gives a clear explanation to my question. Thank you for the time you have put in this
    – Momobear
    Sep 21 at 9:50
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For tables, I like Wiktionary. Have a look at the tables for mein.

You will notice that your second table is for attributive use, which is what you will need most frequently:

Das ist mein Wagen.

The first table is for non-attributive use without an article:

Wessen Wagen ist das? Das ist meiner.

Or another example:

Dies sind unsere Wagen. Meiner ist rot, deiner ist blau.

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  • In the second example, using "mein" instead of "meiner" would be considered wrong?
    – Momobear
    Sep 20 at 10:21
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    Yes. Or it would be considered regional slang, but not standard German. Sep 20 at 10:35
  • @Momobear, I have added another example to perhaps illustrate the difference better. "Das ist mein" would indeed be wrong here. However "Der Wagen ist mein" would be okay to say "I own this car". It sounds a bit old-fashioned to me, though.
    – Carsten S
    Sep 20 at 12:30
  • Okay, thanks a lot @CarstenS and planetmaker; I won't let me mention you
    – Momobear
    Sep 20 at 12:44
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ihre Lehrerin is being used in the accusative case (direct object) in your example sentence. The only nominative case in your sentence is the subject, Sie (she).

As @RDBury suggests, you are showing one table of possessive pronouns and one table of possessive adjectives / possessive determiners. The first set corresponds to mine/yours/hers (this one is mine, take yours instead), etc., and the second set corresponds to my/your/her (my teacher, her teacher), etc.

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My, my, those tables look intimidating! Others have endeavoured to answer

I was hoping if you could help me figure out which [grammatical table] is which and where they are used?

quite literally, and also somewhat helpfully for serious learners at your stage of language acquisition. But I fear the other answers, as thorough and helpful as they are, are reinforcing a potential misapprehension about how difficult and intimidating German is to learn, namely that one must master these kinds of tables in the early stages of acquiring the language if one has a hope of ever becoming fluent.

The fact that a beginning learner can do a quick Google search and find these tables at all, and spend an appreciable amount of time worrying whether or not they really understand the proper use of "ihre" in a given sentence, can and has put off a huge number of potential German speakers, and started others off on the wrong foot. People have spent years of their lives studying German this way, only to be completely unable to hold a simple conversation with an actual German speaker under spontaneous conditions.

The real answer to "where these tables are used" by native German speakers is, obviously, nowhere.

When we speak any given language, we do not pause to look up the perfect inflection or declination when we speak. We simply speak, relying on instincts and patterns we have absorbed from earlier attempts to speak and what we have heard from other speakers. It happens to be true that if one teases out these patterns and codifies these instincts for the German language, one can make intimidating-looking tables for, e.g., how many versions of the definite article there can be in different scenarios --- which can be quite scary to an English speaker, whose definite articles are "the" and a slightly-differently-pronounced "the", which vary phonotactically but not really grammatically.

But, if you are serious about learning German, you will one day (in not too many days!) reach a point where the three genders in the four cases all just kind of...fall into place, and while you will not then speak or write without making mistakes, that is also true of every single native speaker who ever lived. (If you reflect, you will realise it is true of you in your own native language as well.)

So, then, the real question is: how does one go about absorbing the patterns and building the intuitions which these grammar tables have systematised and summarised? How does one reach the day where one doesn't have to laboriously construct a sentence like it's a Build-A-Bear, and can simply say what's on one's mind?

The only real answer to this question is to get as much input from as many different (reliable) sources as possible, and take as many chances to speak and to write as you can while maintaining a sane balance of hobbies and responsibilities. Reading, audiobooks, shows and films and documentaries, songs. Speaking partners, friends, and perhaps one day work colleagues or romantic partners. And while grammar drills and tables can be helpful in this process, especially toward the beginning, they are only one type of tool which in the best case can help clarify the input and output you are consuming and producing.

Put another way, you do not need to memorise the entries in these tables before you start reading and speaking German. You should start reading and writing and listening and speaking as soon as you can, and you should use these tables to help you make sense of things that would take you too long to figure out otherwise. Eventually you will learn the rules that the tables contain by exposure to real-world usage, and you will be able to spontaneously reproduce some of that usage without any conscious effort.

So by all means scan these tables, learn how to use them, but please for the love of Bielefeld (should such a place even exist) do not think you need to master these tables before you can start reading or listening or speaking or writing.

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    Thanks a lot, your answer is motivating XD XD, you can re-motivate anyone who is thinking of quitting German.
    – Momobear
    Sep 21 at 9:59
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    Very true. As a native German speaker, I had English lessons in school but actually learned it mostly through reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in one sitting during a long hot summer vacation (without even having a dictionary at my side). SciFi/fantasy books, movies and tech documents were much more efficient teaching utensils than any school book.
    – AnoE
    Sep 21 at 15:11

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