Person and number


Person and number define those verb categories that are expressed only through finite verb forms. The subject of the clause determines the person and the number.


subject person number
ich 1. person singular
du / Sie 2. person singular
er, sie, es 3. person singular
wir 1. person plural
ihr / Sie 2. person plural
sie 3. person plural



There are two numbers, the singular and the plural, and three different persons, the first, the second and the third. The first and second person refer almost exclusively to natural persons but the third person can also refer to non-persons.


person Examples person / non-person
er, sie, es
3. person singular
er lernt Deutsch person, e.g. Paul
sie läuft ab non-person, e.g. die Frist
es passiert oft non-person, e.g. dass die Sekretärin sich verspätet
3. person plural
sie spielen Fußball person, e.g. die Kinder
sie verfaulen non-person, e.g die Kartoffeln




In German, two options are distinguished regarding the second person:


1. addressing someone in an informal manner (informal form) and

2. the polite/formal form.


These options are present in both numbers.


subject number Example
du singular Möchtest du einen Kaffee?
Sie Möchten Sie einen Kaffee?
ihr plural Möchtet ihr einen Kaffee?
Sie Möchten Sie einen Kaffee?


The personal pronoun Sie of the polite form is always written with a capital initial letter.




The subject and the finite verb form of a clause must agree in number and person.

This principle is called agreement (concord).


Example person number verb form
Ich lerne Deutsch first singular lerne
Ihr lernt Deutsch second plural lernt