Sich meaning is described as "himself, herself, itself, oneself, themselves"

In this url if we search for sich you see that is also used for "he, she, it, they, you" https://lingvist.com/course/learn-german-online/resources/german-pronouns/

Eg: "Sie setzt sich die Kontaktlinsen ein" : She puts in her contacts

Perhaps it is all in reflexive sense but how many pronouns can be used for "sich" in total? is this correct?

a) "himself, herself, itself, oneself, themselves"


b) "himself, herself, itself, oneself, themselves,he, she, it, they, you"
  • 1
    The tables on that page seem misleading to me. Please state your question more clearly in a way which makes your problem clear without visiting that site.
    – Carsten S
    Mar 31 at 10:12
  • 1
    I think the question is confusing. What would count as a pronoun being "used for" another one? Pronouns are usually determined by the meaning of the sentence; you can't just swap them for one another.
    – RDBury
    Mar 31 at 10:21

3 Answers 3


sich is always a reflexive pronoun, but it is the correct one only for the third person cases:

  • he
  • she
  • it
  • they
  • impersonal one (man)

Your first two paragraphs state exactly that and don't contradict each other as you seem to assume.

  • how many pronouns can be used for "sich" in total? exact terms in german please Mar 31 at 10:02
  • I have edited the question Mar 31 at 10:09
  • @BlueClouds what is unclear about this answer? Mar 31 at 10:20
  • Is it A or B from from the question Mar 31 at 14:14

Sie setzt sich die Kontaktlinsen ein. — “She puts in her contacts.”

That translation leads you astray because it's by meaning. It's not grammatically identical. The grammatically matching translations are:

Sie setzt sich die Kontaktlinsen ein. — She puts herself contacts in.

She puts in her contacts. — Sie setzt ihre Kontaktlinsen ein.

As you can see the English translation is rather bumpy. It's less prominent for the literal German translation but this isn't how Germans usually put this either.

In German, you rather tell who bears the result of the action than who possesses the thing used for the action. Compare:

Die Optikerin setzt ihrem Kunden die Kontaktlinsen ein.

This tells who gets the contacts but not who they belong to. We have to guess that from context.

Die Optikerin setzt seine Kontaktlinsen ein.

This tells whose contacts those are but not who gets them put in. We have to guess that from context.

Die Optikerin setzt ihrem Kunden seine Kontaktlinsen ein.

This tells both.

And you can also do that in a reflexive fashion:

Die Optikerin setzt sich seine Kontaktlinsen ein.

In this example, the optometrist puts in the guy's contacts. But not on the guy, but on herself.


Your question cannot be answered in general because the word "sich" is not always translated into one specific word when translating from German into English. Your own example illustrates this nicely: in German we say "setzt sich ein" but in English, you say "puts in" without a reflexive pronoun. On the other hand, in English you state "her contact lenses" with a possessive pronoun, while in German, we say "die Kontaktlinsen" with a definite article, but you wouldn't say that the German definite article is a translation of the English possessive pronoun.

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