I see many times sentences like:

Ich nehme diese schönen Äpfel. Die sind billig! (or: Wie schmecken die?)

whereas I’d say: “Sie sind billig/wie schmecken sie?”, or

Mark ist dort. Den will ich kennen lernen

whereas I’d say: “Ihn will ich kennen lernen” etc. and similar.

Since they’re so common, I guess it’s correct. But, are the other forms (with sie/ihn) also correct? Is there some rule to prefer one form to the other?

  • 4
    Interesting question. My first instinct was to say "Spoken German often substitutes personal pronouns for definite articles." I'm still sure it happens at times, but it does seem to follow a pattern. "Hast Du Petra gesehen?" - "Die war eben noch da". But: "Ich hab mit Petra gesprochen." - "Was hat sie gesagt?" Note that this is colloquial style; in written (or very correctly spoken) German you'd definitely use the personal pronoun.
    – elena
    Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 8:24
  • 1
    possible duplicate of Sollte man „der/die/das“ oder „er/sie/es“ als Personalpronomen verwenden?
    – stevenvh
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 10:21
  • 1
    As a native speaker I can say that all sentences are correct. But in some cases "Den", "Die", "Der" can be understood as impolite. Maybe it's because of the usage in offences like "Die kann mich mal am Arsch lecken." etc. I guess <10% of the speakers know about this, so you shouldn't care too much. Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 1:11
  • The question mixes the female article "die" with the plural "die" in the question/example. Note, that the plural is always "die": "Der Löffel, die Gabel, das Messer" but "die Löffel, die Gabeln, die Messer". Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 20:46
  • @userunknown: True, but not really relevant for the question - the OP would still use (plural) "sie" rather than (plural) "die" in those cases. Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 21:33

4 Answers 4


In case there is more than one sort of apples, the definit article (der, die, das) stronger delimits the aforesaid apples from the others.

Ich nehme diese schönen Äpfel. Die sind billig! / Wie schmecken die?

If there are other sorts, that indicates that these apples are cheaper than the others (die unlike the others).

Sie sind billig! / Wie schmecken sie?

used in the same situation would do so as well, but only in a slight manner. Instead it more emphasizes the billig and schmecken.

It is worth to mention that in any case both adjectives would rather appear in the second statement

Ich nehme diese Äpfel. Die/Sie sind billig und schön!


If you say:

Ich nehme diese schönen Äpfel. Die sind billig!

you mean:

I take these beautiful apples. Those/these are cheap!

Instead, if you say:

Ich nehme diese schönen Äpfel. Sie sind billig!

you mean:

I take these beautiful apples. They are cheep!

  • 2
    This is not quite accurate... what is this then: "Diese sind billig"... And for the second example of OP the "den" is actually more a "that one" than a "this one". So my point is... the definite article is NOT the same as the English demonstrative pronoun "this". I am afraid it is not that simple. Hence -1
    – Emanuel
    Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 11:00
  • 1
    OK, I'm neither a native German nor English speaker, so I'm clearly no expert. For me, the "Die sind billig" stresses the fact that those are cheap, whereas "Diese sind billig" would just state that those are cheap, without the same intensity. What do you think? If you can come up with a better answer, please reply to the original question :-) Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 13:08
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    To me it is the other way around... "Diese sind billig" stresses the fact that we're talking about "these/the afore mentioned"... die sind billig is just they or those without any special emphasis. I don't really have a good answer otherwise I would have given it a shot. But in context of the apple example I am tempted to say that if you said "Sie sind billig" you're making them into some kin dof protagonist of a longer story... so I would expect more about the life of those apples, if that makes any sense. Don't hesitate to answer in the future by the way :) there is no better way to learn
    – Emanuel
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 18:16
  • @Emanuel: I disagree with your objections because demonstrative pronouns cannot be mapped 1:1 across languages. Note that English has only two levels of demonstrative pronouns (this/that), whereas German (like various other languages such as Spanish) has three (dieses/das/jenes). Add to that that in spoken German, "jenes" is rarely used because it sounds somewhat stilted, and "dieses" and "das" are often used interchangeably (the distinction of distance, where required, shifts to an appended "hier" or "da"). Within these restrictions, likening "sie/die" to "they/these" is a good explanation. Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 21:53

Check out this study: https://homepages.abdn.ac.uk/k.vdeemter/pages/bosch.pdf

It doesn't look like it was published anywhere, but it does look thorough, and it concludes that when there are multiple nouns possibly being referenced, "der/die/das" tends to refer to newer information while "er/sie/es" tends to refer to older information. It doesn't seem to provide much guidance for choosing one or the other when there is only one noun that you could be referencing, though.

  • 1
    The paper was in Proceedings of the 2003 EACL Workshop on The Computational Treatment of Anaphora: see aclanthology.org/volumes/W03-26
    – Ben C
    Commented Jul 16, 2022 at 10:26

Der, Die, Das is mostly used when talking about objects: Der is masculin Die is feminine Das is neutral

Der Apfel, Die Schule, Das Haus

The Apple, The School, The House

er, sie, es is used when talking about Living Things like People or Animals Er is masculin. Sie is feminine. Es is neutral.

Er hat einen Apfel.
Sie hat einen Apfel.
Es hat einen Apfel.

He has an Apple
She has an Apple
It has an Apple

But Attention!!! When using er, sie or es it already must be defined in a Sentence and if another Male(er), Female(sie), Neutral(es) was in the Last Sentence you need to name it with the name.

I hope i could Help you <3

  • 2
    Welcome to German SE, but I'm afraid that you seem to answer a different question. The original question is more advanced than the explained basics.
    – guidot
    Commented May 21, 2021 at 14:30
  • Welcome to German.SE. Please reconsider using a better formatting (strange use of capital letters, mixing two languages and greetings...) Commented May 21, 2021 at 14:51

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