Help, I don’t know when to use mir or mich!

Help, I don't know when to use mir or mich!

At some point when learning German you will come across pronouns, those little words that replace a noun.
When they are the subject of the sentence, most people have no problem remembering them.

But then you also come across mir or mich etc… and often I get asked “When do I use mir, dir etc… and when do I use mich, dich, etc…?”

That depends on the case:

If the pronoun is the object of the sentence, then it is in the accusative and ich, for example, changes to mich.

For example:
Ich liebe dich – I love you. ‘I’ is the subject and ‘you’ is the object, so you are the object of my desire ♥
Ich rufe dich an – I’ll call you.
Ist das für mich?  –  Is that for me?  ‘Für’ is a preposision which takes the accusative, so you need ‘mich’.
Wir gehen ohne ihn. – We’re going without him. Another accusative preposition. (For more prepositions check here)

If the pronoun is the indirect object  or after dative prepositions, the ‘ich’ changes to ‘mir’.

For example:
Das ist von mir. – That’s from me. ‘Von’ is a dative preposition.
Ich komme mit dir. – I’m coming with you. ‘Mit’ is another  dative preposition.
Ich helfe ihr. – I’m helping her. ‘Helfen’ is a verb that’s always followed by the dative, think of ‘I’m giving help to her’.

One of my students said yesterday, she’d love to have  a bookmark with the accusative and dative pronouns. So here it is, for you Gill, and anybody else who would like a bookmark. Save the above picture, print it in the size you wish, fold it in half and laminate it. You then have two lists of pronouns. Both remind you of the nominative ones (I, you, he, she, it, we, you, they) and  how they are different in the dative and accusative case, and give a few examples.

Hope that helps!

If you’d like to know more about the four German cases, have a look at my online courses: German grammar – the four cases

13 thoughts on “Help, I don’t know when to use mir or mich!”

  1. I am English. I learned the language as a child. I moved to Germany many years ago, and understand the language when germans speak, as if it was my Mother tongue. I can also more than adequately make myself understood. However I do not understand the concept of cases at all, do not know what first person, second person, pronouns, etc. are, and my brain blocks instantly when somepone tries to explain the language in these terms. As a result, I can not correctly use mich and mir, dich and dir, den, dem, etc. It must be possible to learn these things without understanding cases and pronouns. Children learn without these things. But every teaching method is full of things which block my brain. I would be so grateful if someone could give me a pointer here.

    • That’s difficult to answer. Yes, German children learn without grammar in the beginning. For the first 6 years of their life they learn by copying their parents. Then they learn grammar at school!
      If you want to learn about the cases etc… without learning grammar, the only way is to learn any (correct) sentences you might need by heart. As you’ve been speaking German for quite a while, that might be even more difficult, because any possible mistakes you’ve made so far, are probably set in your mind as correct.
      The only thing I can suggest is for you to have a look at my online grammar courses. Yes, they are grammar, but I try to explain as easily as possible: If you click on any of the link you’ll see more information and also sample videos to see if they might help. Good luck!

    • If you understand the cases then ‘Ich frage dich’ is probably easy for you to understand. ‘I ask you’ and I is the subject and you is the object.
      However, ‘sag mir’ in English would be ‘tell me’ and now it’s difficult to see why we need the dative ‘mir’ instead of the accusative ‘mich’.
      The verb ‘sagen’ is always followed by the dative, so literally translated it doesn’t say ‘tell me’ but ‘say (it) to me’. Now you can see the dative ‘to me’.
      There are more verbs which are always followed by the dative. You probably just have to learn them as in English we wouldn’t necessary use the ‘to me/ you etc…
      I hope that makes sense .

  2. This article doesn’t really help with mich/mir. What exactly is “pronoun is the indirect object”? Would be great if there were examples. And in case of “Ich helfe ihr”, ihr – is the object, but helfe is a special verb. Does it mean that I should always use mich, dich etc. except when it goes after dative prepositions or after those special verbs? And I have to remember all those verbs?

  3. Pingback: What’s The Difference Between Dir And Ihnen? – Almazrestaurant
  4. Hey,

    I will call you means: ich werde dich anrufen.
    As a german I can say you use mir/dir for further explained actions and mich for simple actions.

    I kick you
    Ich trete dich
    I kick you against the knee
    Ich trete dir gegen das knie

    And sag mir is a shortened sentence. The further explanation what to tell is left out, but the grammar stays the same

    Tell me (where you was born)
    Sag mir wo du geboren wurdest.

    I hope I could help


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