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For example, in:

Mit wem sprechen wir? Wir sprechen mit dem neue Kollegin.

Is the question conditioned by the answer in that, since Kollegin is feminine, the right question should begin with "Mit wer ..." In this case, is the original question correct? Are there differences across gender and singular and plural?

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    Die Frage ist unklar, weil auch sprachlich inkorrekt. "Wir sprechen mit dem neuen Kollegen" oder "~ der neuen Kollegin" oder "~ den neuen Kollegen", aber nicht "~ dem neue Kollegin". "Wer spricht mit uns?" kann man auch fragen - das Geschlecht kennt man ja oft vorher nicht, daher drückt man keins aus. Apr 5 at 14:14
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    It's a very interesting observation that the question words (wer, wessen, wem, wen) can be formed by replacing the "d" by a "w" in the male pronouns (der, dessen, dem, den). If this really was the rule how these words are formed, the conclusion that the female forms are "wie", "weren", "wer" and "wie" (from die, deren, der, die) is not that stupid. (Note: "wie" is a completely different word and "weren" does not exist.) Apr 5 at 21:02
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    @MartinRosenau Thanks for pointing out that language does not follow rules consistently.
    – TorstenS
    Apr 6 at 9:12
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    @MartinRosenau: It's not stupid, just wrong. For a nice illustration of how taking apparent relationships between German words for real may lead to an absurd and hilarious result, see Christian Morgenstern's poem "Der Werwolf". Apr 6 at 22:49
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    See the excellent answer of Hubert Schölnast on the question german.stackexchange.com/questions/70183/… for a glimpse on how male and female pronouns probably evolved. Apr 6 at 23:19

1 Answer 1

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There is no masculine or feminine form of the interrogative pronoun "Wer". It applies to all three genders as long as a person is meant. (Similarly, "Was" applies to all three genders as long as a thing is meant.)

Consequently, just like in English, there is no way to express expectation of gender through the interrogative pronoun. "Mit wer" would be simply wrong, because "mit" requires a dative and the dative of "wer" is "wem".

Note that "mit dem neue Kollegin" is wrong, too. The correct wording would be "mit der neuen Kollegin".

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    or 'mit dem neuen Kollegen' (in case of male)
    – lalala
    Apr 5 at 8:12
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    One could make the question more specific, also in terms of gender, by asking: "Mit welcher Dame sprechen wir?" or "Mit welcher Kollegin sprechen wir?".
    – TAR86
    Apr 5 at 12:43
  • I suppose the OP came up with "mit wer" as a dative singular feminine, as a parallel form to "mit der [e.g. Frau]": "Mit wem?" "Mit dem!", and thus <strike>"Mit wer?"</strike> "Mit der!" which doesn't work mainly because natural language lacks orthogonality. Apr 5 at 16:50
  • I was not aware that there was a 3rd gramamtical gender for things yet.
    – TorstenS
    Apr 6 at 9:13
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    The gender system of the German language is completely independent of the person/thing distinction. There exist masculine, feminine, and neutrum nouns for persons ("der Mensch", "die Person", "das Mitglied") and there exist masculine, feminine, and neutrum nouns for things ("der Bagger", "die Schaufel", "das Rad"). There are even feminine nouns applying equally to male persons (for example "die Person") and masculine nouns applying equally to female persons (although feminist linguism tries to abolish that). Apr 6 at 17:23

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