German Demonstrative Pronouns

Overview

Demonstrative pronouns in German, just like in English, is used to point to something specific within a sentence. A demonstrative pronoun can be used for a person, thing, plant or animal, or even idea, place or event. Demonstrative pronouns are also called indicative pronouns, and can replace previously mentioned nouns in a sentence. We use them to point to something like this / that, these / those in English Grammar. In German grammar, demonstrative pronouns are of course declined to reflect case, gender and number.

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The term “demonstrative pronoun” describes a word that is used to refer back to another noun or pronoun of a previous sentence or conversation, or to put emphasis on a specific noun or pronoun. 
In English, we typically think of “this, that, these, those” as the demonstrative pronouns. 
In German, quite a few more articles can be used as demonstrative pronouns. It is important to pay attention to the case of the noun or pronoun that we refer back to. 

1. The definite article as a demonstrative pronoun

Whenever we deal with nouns and their articles in German, we also deal with genders and cases. When we use a definite article as a demonstrative pronoun, then we have to pay attention to the gender of the noun, and what case the noun is in. 
The chart for definite articles as demonstrative pronouns is identical to that of relative pronouns. The difference is that a demonstrative pronoun does not introduce a relative clause, but can stand alone. 

relative jpg
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Examples:
Kennst du den Mann? Nein, den kenne ich nicht. 
Do you know the man? No, I don’t know him

Hast du die Blumen mitgebracht? Nein, die habe ich vergessen. 
Have you brought the flowers? No, I have forgotten those

Notice how in both German sentences, the article is not accompanying a noun. “den” and “die” are used as demonstrative pronouns, referring back to a noun (the man and the flowers) in a previous sentence or conversation. 

2. Dies-

We use “dies” + case endings when we want to refer to a specific noun. “Dies-” can be used as a demonstrative “article”, together with a noun (dieser Mann, diese Frau, etc), but when used by itself, referring back to a noun that was previously mentioned. 

The case endings for “dies-” as a demonstrative pronoun are the same as those for demonstrative articles:

german demonstrative
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Examples:
Kennst du diesen Mann? (demonstrative article, masculine noun, accusative). 
Do you know this (specific) man? 
Nein, diesen kenne ich nicht. (demonstrative pronoun, masculine noun, accusative). 
No, this (specific) one I don’t know

3. “jen-“

“Jen-” could be compared to “that” or “those” in English. The case endings are the same for “jen-” as a demonstrative article and “jen-”  as a demonstrative pronoun, and they are identical to those of “dies-“. 

german demonstr jpg
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Examples:
Kennst du jenen Mann? (demonstrative article, masculine noun, accusative)
Do you know that man? 
Nein, jenen kenne ich nicht. Aber diesen kenne ich. (demonstr. pronoun, masc. acc.)
No, that one I don’t know, but this one I know. 

4. “-selb-“

“-selb-” is a bit more complicated as the other examples, as it requires a case- and gender-specific definite article as a prefix, and a case ending as a suffix. It is used to refer back to “the same” noun. If used with a noun, it would be considered a demonstrative article, but it is only a demonstrative pronoun if used by itself. 

derselbe jpg
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Examples:
Ist das derselbe Mann? Ja, das ist derselbe. 
Is this the same man? Yes, it is the same. 

Schaust du denselben Film an? Ja, ich schau denselben an. 
Are you watching the same movie? Yes, I’m watching the same one. 

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
Writing:
I can write simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. I can write personal letters describing experiences and impressions.
Spoken Production:
I can connect phrases in a simple way in order to describe experiences and events, my dreams, hopes and ambitions. I can briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans. I can narrate a story or relate the plot of a book or film and describe my reactions.
Spoken Interaction:
I can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. I can enter unprepared into conversation on topics that are familiar, of personal interest or pertinent to everyday life (e.g. family, hobbies, work, travel and current events).
Reading:
I can understand texts that consist mainly of high frequency everyday or job-related language. I can understand the description of events, feelings and wishes in personal letters.
Listening:
I can understand the main points of clear standard speech on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. I can understand the main point of many radio or TV programs on current affairs or topics of personal or professional interest when the delivery is relatively slow and clear.