Language Tips

Using Genders with Inanimate Objects

In English, most inanimate objects are talked about with the pronoun it. But some things — cars, boats and ships, and tools — can be referred to as if they are a he or a she. These are called metaphorical genders.

“I just saw a classic Corvette. She‘s a beaut!”

“I got the mower ready. I just had to clean him out.”

In the same way, most nouns in Pennsylvania Dutch are referred to with the neuter pronoun it (es). But a small number of nouns can be talked about as if they were a he (eah/een) or a she (see). This is based on the gender of the noun.

Since not every noun can be talked about like this, below is a small (and very incomplete) list of some of them.

Bibledi BivvelDi Bivvel hott goot advice. See helft millions leit ensahs finna.
Earthdi eahtEs hott een kolfa sayna es Gott di eaht gmacht hott, un zayld see aw sayva.
songda songMa gleicha da song. Eah is fann fa singa!
Vella song 15 singa. Eah’s hayst…
videoda videoDess is’n importandah video. So ich vett een veisa.
Nouns in Pennsylvania Dutch that use metaphorical genders as pronouns.

Using Metaphorical Genders

It makes perfect sense to refer to people with the pronouns he/him (Dad, son, farmer) or she/her (Mom, daughter *, wife). That’s the same with Pennsylvania Dutch. Keep using those pronouns.

But you can view these metaphorical genders as a bonus that can season your Deitsh conversations.

So, when in doubt about a certain noun, use the it pronoun (es) for inanimate objects. While it may sound a little off to a native speaker, they’ll still understand what you’re saying.

* Footnote 1: In many areas and communities, an unmarried girl or daughter is referred to with the neuter pronoun (es maydel / ’s Esther) until they are married.

Grammar Practice Worksheets

Grammar: This and That

This and that are used with singular nouns and these and those are used with plural nouns. In these examples, note the way the sentences below change based on whether the noun is singular or plural.

This and That
(singular nouns)

This and that are used when talking about singular nouns.

Change the noun and watch how this and that change based on the noun’s gender.

    Dess buch is gree.
    This book is green.

    Dess verse is shay.
    This verse is nice.

    Dee shrift is encouraging.
    This scripture is encouraging.

    Deah breef is funn diah.
    This letter is from you all.

    Deah mann voond do in Loogootee.
    This man lives here in Loogootee.

    Dee fraw voond do in Loogootee.
    This woman lives here in Loogootee.

    Sell buch is gree.
    That book is gree.

    Sell verse is shay.
    That verse is nice.

    Selli shrift is encouraging.
    That scripture is encouraging.

    Sellah breef is funn diah.
    That letter is from you all.

    Sellah mann voond do in Loogootee.
    That man lives here in Loogootee

    Selli fraw voond do in Loogootee..
    That woman lives here in Loogootee.

    This and That
    (when not next to a noun)

    This and that stay in their neuter forms (dess and sell) when they’re not next to a noun.

      Dess is en grohs buch.
      This is a big book.

      Dess is en glay haus.
      This is a small house.

      Dess is en brayti deah.
      This is a wide door.

      Dess is en katzah breef.
      This is a short letter.

      Sell is en grohs buch.
      That is a big book.

      Sell is en glay haus.
      That is a small house.

      Sell is en brayti deah.
      That is a wide door.

      Sell is en katzah breef.
      That is a short letter.

      These and Those
      (plural nouns)

      These and those are used when referring to plural nouns.

      Change the nouns and notice how these and those stay the same when used with plural nouns.

        Dee bichah sinn gree.
        These books green.

        Dee verses sinn shay.
        These verses are nice.

        Dee shrifta sinn encouraging.
        These scriptures are encouraging.

        Dee breefa sinn funn diah.
        These letters are from you all.

        Dee mennah voona do in Loogootee.
        These men live here in Loogootee.

        Dee veibsleit voona do in Loogootee.
        These women live here in Loogootee.

        Selli bichah sinn gree.
        Those books are gree.

        Selli verses sinn shay.
        Those verses are nice.

        Selli shrifta sinn encouraging.
        Those scriptures are encouraging.

        Selli breefa sinn funn diah.
        Those letters are from you all.

        Selli mennah voona do in Loogootee.
        Those men live here in Loogootee.

        Selli veibsleit voona do in Loogootee..
        Those women live here in Loogootee.

        These and Those
        (when not next to plural nouns)

        These and those stay in their neuter forms (dee and selli) when they’re not next to a noun.

          Dee sinn grohsi bichah.
          These are big books.

          Dee sinn glenni heisah.
          These are small houses.

          Dee sinn brayti deahra.
          These are wide doors.

          Dee sinn katzi breefa.
          These are short letters.

          Selli sinn grohsi bichah.
          Those are big books.

          Selli sinn glenni heisah.
          Those are small houses.

          Selli sinn brayti deahra.
          Those are wide doors.

          Selli sinn katzi breefa.
          Those are short letters.

          Grammar Practice Worksheets

          Grammar: Pronouns and Verbs

          Choose different pronouns and nouns below and see how the sentence changes.

            Ich habb en buch.
            I have a book.

            Ich habb en hund.
            I have a dog.

            Ich habb en Bivvel.
            I have a Bible.

            Ich habb en breef.
            I have a letter.

            Du hosht en buch.
            You have a book.

            Du hosht en hund.
            You have a dog.

            Du hosht en Bivvel.
            You have a Bible.

            Du hosht en breef.
            You have a letter.

            Eah hott en buch.
            He has a book.

            Eah hott en hund.
            He has a dog.

            Eah hott en Bivvel.
            He has a Bible.

            Eah hott en breef.
            He has a letter.

            Miah henn en buch.
            We have a book.

            Miah henn en hund.
            We have a dog.

            Miah henn en Bivvel.
            We have a Bible.

            Miah henn en breef.
            We have a letter.

            Diah hend en buch.
            You all have a book.

            Diah hend en hund.
            You all have a dog.

            Diah hend en Bivvel.
            You all have a Bible.

            Diah hend en breef.
            You all have a letter.

            Si henn en buch.
            They have a book.

            Si henn en hund.
            They have a dog.

            Si henn en Bivvel.
            They have a Bible.

            Si henn en breef.
            They have a letter.

            Language Tips

            Giving Commands

            In conversation, you’ll eventually need to give commands or instructions in Pennsylvania Dutch. What should you remember about verbs when giving commands?

            Giving commands to one person in Pennsylvania Dutch

            When you give commands in Pennsylvania Dutch to one person, the first verb is conjugated to ich (I) — even though ich is not used in the sentence.

            Since the word ich doesn’t appear in the sentence, you could imagine yourself saying, “I am telling you…”


            Kawl mich shpaydah. (Call me later.)

            Mach shuah di deah zu gmacht is. (Make sure the door is closed.)

            Kumm rei. (Come in.)

            Gebb uns en kawl. (Give us a call.)

            Vann du vitt, shreib en note un shikk ’s zu uns. (If you want, write a note and send it to us.)

            In each of the examples above, notice how the first verb is conjugated to ich (I).

            You’ll notice in the last example, shreib (write) and shikk (send) are not at the start of the sentence. But they are at the start of a new thought.

            Giving commands to more than one person in Pennsylvania Dutch

            When you give commands to more than one person in Pennsylvania Dutch, things are slightly different. Instead of conjugating the first verb for ich (I), you conjugate the first verb to diah (you plural) when giving commands to a group.

            Just as with giving commands to one person, diah does not appear in the sentence, but it’s implied since the verb starts the sentence.


            Shtobbet sell! ((you all) Stop that!)

            Veiset leevi un respekt zu anri. ((you all) Show love and respect to others.)

            Gukket an’s piktah. ((you all) Look at the picture.)

            Gevvet nett uf! ((you all) Don’t give up!)

            Shpaydah, gevvet uns en kawl. (Later, (you all) give us a call.)

            Again, in each of the examples above, notice how the first verb is conjugated to diah (you plural).

            And once again (see last example), the command is usually at the start of a sentence, but not always. Just make sure it’s at the start of the new thought.

            Bonus Tip: Compound Words Get Split

            You may also notice that some compound words get split apart when used in commands or instruction in Pennsylvania Dutch.

            For example:

            • oh’halda (continue) becomes Hald oh / Haldet oh
            • abheicha (listen) becomes Heich ab / Heichet ab

            This isn’t a full list, but just something to be on the lookout for.

            Confusing Words

            Noch vs Nohch

            Both noch and nohch can mean after. They also sound very, very similar. So how can you tell them apart and use them correctly in conversation?

            How to Pronounce Noch and Nohch

            Both words sound very similar.

            Noch is said with less of a long ‘o’ sound (like in English words of and love).

            Nohch is said with a stronger long ‘oh’ sound (like in English words Kohls or coherent).


            While both noch * and nohch can mean after, it’s what you mean by after that’s important.


            Use noch when talking about something that happens at some point later in time, without mention of specifically when.


            Use nohch when talking about something that happens right after or immediately after or following next in order.

            When to use Noch in a sentence

            PDC: Vass fa plans hosht du noch dess?

            EN: What plans do you have after this?

            PDC: Du kansht en buch laysa noch shool.

            EN: You can read a book after school.

            PDC: Ich vesh di ksharra eb un noch alli meal.

            EN: I wash the dishes before and after every meal.

            When to use Nohch in a sentence

            PDC: Vass hott kaebbend nohch es da Johnnie dihaym kumma is?

            EN: What happened right after Johnnie came home?

            PDC: Miah zayla en gebayt sawwa eb un nohch da shtoddi.

            EN: We will say a prayer (right) before and (right) after the study.

            PDC: Leit braucha hilf nohch en disaster.

            EN: People need help (following) after a disaster.


            Both noch and nohch can be used to say after. But nohch mentions time and makes it clear that you’re talking about something happening immediately after or next.

            * Footnote 1: The word noch has other meanings, such as another, and still (to come).

            See the Pennsylvania Dutch Words List for more info.

            † Footnote 2: The word nohch is also sometimes used along with other verbs in phrases.

            • nohch gay (go after)
            • nohch gukka (look after)
            Language Tips

            Speaking About Location

            In English, when talking about location, there are word combinations that naturally go together. Up here, down there. This is also true in Pennsylvania Dutch. Let’s talk about how to talk about location in Pennsylvania Dutch first.


            When talking about location in Pennsylvania Dutch, you need at least one of 2 words in your sentence: do (here) and datt (there). These are from the speaker’s point of view.

            location here

            do (here)

            Something close to the speaker

            location there

            datt (there)

            Something away from speaker

            Location in Simple Sentences

            In simple sentences, you may only need to use here and there.

            EN: I am here.
            PDC: Ich binn do.
            EN: You are there.
            PDC: Du bisht datt.
            EN: The cats are here.
            PDC: Di katza sinn do.
            EN: The cats are there.
            PDC: Di katza sinn datt.

            Location in Complex Sentences

            But many times, you’ll need to explain more about where something is. In those cases, you need a preposition. Prepositions go with do (here) and datt (there) and give more details.

            Here are some prepositions that work along with do and datt:

            • in (in)
            • aus (out)
            • ovva/uf (up/on)
            • unna (down/under)
            • ivvah (over)
            EN: I am in here.
            PDC: Ich binn do hinn.
            EN: You are out there.
            PDC: Du bisht datt draus.
            EN: The cats are down here.
            PDC: Di katza sinn do hunna.
            EN: The cats are up there.
            PDC: Di katza sinn datt drovva.

            Note: Do and datt go before the prepositions in the sentence.

            You’ll notice the prepositions listed above become different words. When used with a location word like here and there, they get a prefix added to the front.

            For example:

            • Prepositions that go with do (here) get an h added to the front
              • h + in = hinn
              • h + unna = hunna
            • Prepositions that go with datt (there) get dr added to the front
              • dr + aus = draus
              • dr + ovva = drovva
            used with:do (here)datt (there)
            in (in)hinndrinn
            aus (out)hausdraus
            ovva (up)hovvadrovva
            unna (down)hunnadrunna
            ivvah (over)hivvadrivva

            Do More With What You’ve Just Learned

            Interactive Worksheet

            Use the interactive worksheet to practice and quiz yourself using location and prepositions in Pennsylvania Dutch to see how the sentence changes.

            For more examples of location and direction words in action, see the Location and Direction (PDF) external link on

            Confusing Words

            Prepositions – diveyya, difunn, ditzu, difoah

            Let’s talk about when to use common Pennsylvania Dutch prepositions in sentences. For example, here are some common prepositions in Deitsh:

            • about: veyyich or diveyya
            • from: funn or difunn
            • to: zu or ditzu
            • for: fa or difoah
            • before: eb or difoah*

            You may have noticed with these words, that one is used in one sentence, and the other used in a different sentence. For example, when do you use veyyich and when do you use diveyya? How do you know which one to use?

            What Are Prepositions?

            Words like about, from, to, before are prepositions. Prepositions introduce or announce information to the listener or reader (for example the start or change of a new thought). When you see or hear a preposition, you often expect to hear more. The subject being introduced is generally a noun, pronoun, or location words.

            What is a Subject?

            Subjects are generally a noun or pronoun. So remember:

            • Nouns are people, places, or things.
            • Pronouns are substitutes for people, places or things (I, you, he, she, it, we, you all, they).
              • In questions, what and who and where are considered pronouns.

            Since there may be other nouns and pronouns in a sentence, you have to identify which is the subject.

            The subject is the part of the sentence that shows:

            • what it is about, or
            • who or what performs the action

            Using Prepositions in Pennsylvania Dutch

            Prepositions Before the Subject

            Each preposition is in bold; the subject it introduces (noun or pronoun) is in italics.

            • We will talk about your grades.
              • Miah zayla shvetza veyyich dei grades.
            • It’s about 15 miles from our house to the store.
              • ‘Sis baut 15 meil funn unsah haus zu da shtoah.
            • She goes to the school.
              • See gayt zu di shool.
            • He brushes his teeth before he goes to bed.
              • Eah brohsht sei zay eb eah zu bett gayt.

            Notice in each example above, the preposition (about, from, to, before) introduces a noun or pronoun. The preposition comes before the subject it’s introducing.

            Prepositions After the Subject

            But sometimes, the subject has already been introduced in the sentence before the preposition appears.

            Here are some examples:
            Again, each preposition is in bold; the subject it introduces is in italics.

            • What are you talking about?
            • Where are you from?
            • I have something to look forward to.
            • Who is that cake for?
            • I’ve never heard that before (or previously).

            In Pennsylvania Dutch, there are special versions of prepositions to show the subject has already been mentioned in the sentence. Most often, it’s simply a case of adding di- to the front of the word.

            • veyyich becomes diveyya
            • funn becomes difunn
            • zu becomes ditzu
            • fa becomes difoah
            • eb becomes difoah*

            When do you use certain Pennsylvania Dutch prepositions?

            The important thing to keep in mind is whether the preposition comes before or after the subject. Here’s a quick chart to help you know which version of each to use.

            Before the subjectAfter the subject
            veyyich (about)diveyya (about)
            funn (from)difunn (from)
            zu (to)ditzu (to)
            fa (for)difoah (for)
            eb (before)difoah (before/previously)*
            * Technically, difoah can also mean previously. However, at the end of a sentence, when a person says before even in English, they really mean previously.


            Let’s look at some examples. Each preposition is in bold; the subject is in italics.

            English wordBefore the subject (PDC)After the subject (PDC)
            aboutHeit, zayla miah shvetza veyyich di eaht.Vass zayla miah shvetza diveyya?
            from‘Sis nett veit funn do.Vo bisht du difunn?
            to‘Sis baut ay shtund funn mei haus zu Evansville.Vass bisht du faddi gukka ditzu heit?
            forDess is fa diah.Dess is vass ich gvoaht habb difoah.
            beforeMiah zayla essa eb sell.Ich habb sell nett keaht difoah!


            Worksheet: Location and Direction

            In, out, up, down, and over

            Learn how to talk about physical location and direction in sentences.

            This interactive worksheet is based on information explained in DeitshBooks’ Location and Direction worksheet (PDF).

            used with:do (here)datt (there)kumma (come)gay (go)
            in (in)hinndrinnreinei
            aus (out)hausdrausrausnaus
            ovva/uf (up)hovvadrovvaruffnuff
            unna (down)hunnadrunnarunnahnunnah
            ivvah (over)hivvadrivvarivvahnivvah
            How to use chart

            h is a location close to speaker

            dr is a location away from speaker

            r is a direction of travel, coming toward speaker

            n is a direction of travel, going away from speaker

            How to use this interactive worksheet: Select a location or direction word from the dropdown lists in the examples below to see how the sentence changes. The changed word will be highlighted.


              (Where something/someone is)


              Ich binn do .

              EN: I am in here.

              EN: I am out here.

              EN: I am up here.

              EN: I am down here.

              EN: I am over here.


              Eah is datt .

              EN: He is in there.

              EN: He is out there.

              EN: He is up there.

              EN: He is down there.

              EN: He is over there.


              (Direction of travel)


              Kumm do .

              EN: Come in here.

              EN: Come out here.

              EN: Come up here.

              EN: Come down here.

              EN: Come over here.


              Gay datt

              EN: Go in there.

              EN: Go out there.

              EN: Go up there.

              EN: Go down there.

              EN: Go over there.

              Quiz Yourself

              Change each example to see how the sentence changes.

              Learn more about location and direction in these PDF’s:

              Language Tips

              When to Use ‘am’ With -ing Verbs

              In English, when something is happening, -ing goes on the end of the verb.

              For example, we might say, “We walk.” when talking about something you do in general. But if you were in the middle of a walk, you would say, “We are walking.”

              It’s the same in Pennsylvania Dutch. When talking about actions that are happening right now, or ongoing, those verbs need an -ing to go along with it. But instead of adding something to the end of the verb, in Pennsylvania Dutch, you use the separate word am in front of the verb.

              But you do not add am in front of just any -ing verb. How do you know when?

              The quick answer is, use am:

              1. When the action is happening right now, or it’s an ongoing action.
              2. When imaging yourself in a past situation or and discussing an action that was currently happening at that time.

              You only need to add am with talking about an action that is happening right now or continuing.

              Talking about the present in Pennsylvania Dutch

              Let’s look at a couple of examples when talking about the present.

              EN: Learning deitsh is not easy.

              PDC: Deitsh lanna is nett eesi.

              In English, the word learning has -ing at the end. But in Pennsylvania Dutch, there’s no need to use am in front of lanna (learning) because this is not specifically talking about an action that’s happening right now.

              Let’s look at another similar sentence using the same verb.

              EN: I am learning deitsh.

              PDC: Ich binn deitsh am lanna.

              In this example, lanna (learning) is something that is ongoing, so it does need am in front of lanna. That is to say, you are continuing to learn.

              Let’s see another common sentence.

              EN: One way that we can do this is by praying.

              PDC: Ay vayk es ma dess du kann is bei bayda.

              Here, bayda (praying) does not need am because it’s just talking about praying in general; not something being done right now.

              Let’s look at one more example. This one is interesting because it has two verbs that would have -ing on the end of them in English.

              EN: A lot of people enjoy reading the book and it is helping them.

              PDC: En latt leit enjoya ‘s buch laysa un ‘sis si am helfa.

              Here, laysa (reading) is not talking about something that’s being done right now. So laysa does not need am with it.

              On the other hand, helfa (help) needs am because the [information from the] book is currently helping them.

              Talking about the past

              When talking about the past, you normally don’t need am since it’s likely not currently happening. You would normally use past tense verbs in those situations anyway.

              But here’s the exception: When imagining yourself in the past.

              Imagine you’re talking about something that happened in the past. If you’re talking about something that was happening (ongoing action) at that time…your verb needs am.

              EN: Who was he probably talking about when he said: “Forgive them?”

              PDC: Veah voah eah andem am shvetza diveyya vann eah ksawt hott: “Fagebb si”?

              In this sentence, you’re asking your listener to imagine themselves in this situation that happened in the past.

              So even though it happened in the past, it’s like you’re being asked to put yourself there. Since this person was talking (shvetza), and it was happening then, you need am.

              It’s as if you jump back in time and you’re there; imagining what is currently going on in the situation.

              Let’s look at another example that common.

              EN: From what Mark 12:41 says, what do you think was happening?

              PDC: Funn vass Markus 12:41 sawkt, vass denksht du es am haebna voah?

              Again, talking about a past event, but asking the listener to travel back in time and imagine what was happening (am haebna) then. You need am in this situation.


              You only need to use am in front of verbs when:

              1. The action is happening right now, or it’s an ongoing action
              2. Imaging yourself in a past situation and discussing an action that was currently happening at that time.
              Confusing Words

              Eahsht vs S’eahsht vs Seahsht

              All three words mean first. So what is the difference between eahsht, s’eahsht, and seahsht?

              Eahsht (adj)

              Use with nouns

              Eahsht is an adjective in Pennsylvania Deitsh. So it’s used to describe a noun that is first in order or time.

              This means that it needs to go along with a noun in a sentence — usually right before the noun.


              • Vass henn selli in di eahsht century gedu…? (as in the first century)
              • Gukket da eahsht paragraph. (as in the first paragraph)
              • Eahsht, Zvett, un Dritt Johannes. (as in first John)
              • Vass finna ma in di eahshti fiah bichah? (as in the first 4 books. Notice -i is added because it goes with a plural noun.)

              S’eahsht (adj)

              Use with nouns

              S’eahsht is really just eahsht when used with a neuter noun.

              The word es (the) sometimes gets shortened to s’ or ‘s; especially near the start of a sentence. Even though the and first are two separate words, they are often pronounced so they almost sound like one word.


              • S’eahsht moll es ich do voah… (as in the first time)
              • Gukket’s eahsht piktah. (as in the first picture)
              • Vass hott kaebbend in’s eahsht part funn di fasamling? (part is neuter)

              In both examples above, moll and piktah are neuter nouns, so they would normally have ‘s or es in front of them.

              Seahsht (adv)

              Use with verbs

              Seahsht is an adverb in Pennsylvania Deitsh. It works along with a verb. It can also describe placing or viewing something as first in priority or importance.


              • Vi kann ebbah mitt nett feel zeit alsnoch iahra family seahsht halda kann?
              • Bei seahsht abheicha zu anri zayld’s uns helfa fa nett kshvind bays vadda.
              • Boviah seahsht da mayn idea greeya funn da subject.