When to use Sie, du and ihr

Sie, du and ihr

In English, there is only one word to say you while in German there are three different words. But don’t worry – the rule for when to use each of these three words is quite straight forward and easy to understand. The three words we are talking about are du, ihr and Sie. Below we’ll show you when to use which word. Learn and enjoy the German language with Jabbalab! 🙂


When to use du?

The word du is used when you talk to one person who you know very well. For example your family and your friends. The word du is also used for kids.

Example sentences:
Can you please give me that book? ⇨ Kannst du mir bitte das Buch geben?
Will you marry me? ⇨ Willst du mich heiraten?

When to use ihr?

The word ihr is used when you talk to more than one person who you know very well.

Example sentences:
Where are you going tonight? ⇨ Wohin geht ihr heute Abend?
You should do your homework! ⇨ Ihr sollt eure Hausaufgaben machen!

When to use Sie?

The word Sie is used when you talk to one person who you don’t know so well or holds authority over you. For example your boss and strangers.

Example sentences:
Are you coming to work tomorrow? ⇨ Kommen Sie morgen zur Arbeit?
Are you paying with cash or card? ⇨ Zahlen Sie bar oder mit Karte?

The word Sie is also used when you talk to more than one person who you don’t know so well.

Example sentences:
What do you want for breakfast today? ⇨ Was wollen Sie heute zum Frühstück?
What would you like to drink? ⇨ Was möchten Sie trinken?

Table: Du, ihr and Sie

Singular Plural
Informal du ihr
Formal Sie Sie

Tip: In most cases you should start off using the informal du and ihr forms as you will most likely be practising with people you know and interact with often. Get comfortable with these first and then move onto the Sie form. Do not worry if you use the wrong one as you will still be understood.

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