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Use of Das vs Dies vs Diese (Nominativ)


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I have some trouble with das, dies and diese.

The way I understand it: "das" is "that" and "dies" is "this".

Then you never decline das, which stays the same for all genders and cases.

Dies on the other hand changes according to gender (and cases, but I'm not going to explore that
for now) which makes it Diese for feminine and plural.

But then, why would you say "Dies sind meine Katzen" ??

Please correct me and help my understand that! Thanks in advance :-)

Okay, I'll try to explain... First of all, there is no such clear cut difference in German as in English
between this and that. In principle, there are the two forms dieses (this) and jenes (that), but
Germans pretty much never use "jenes" anymore. We just always use the same.

Then you have a big difference between spoken German and written German. Spoken German is
a lot more colloquial and often uses words with special emphases to mean different things; since
you can't see the emphasis in written German, we tend to use more distinct words there.

So let's start with das. Normally, it's just an article for neuter words, like "das Auto". But if you
use it without any noun it refers to, it becomes a demonstrative pronoun:

Das Auto ist schön - the car is nice.

Das ist schön - this is nice.

Since it doesn't refer to anything in particular, it doesn't get any flection. Whatever you currently
do or see or experience, it is nice.
Now if you want to talk about a specific noun and use a demonstrative like "this car", you use
dieses. Since it refers to a noun which has a gender and also a case, you have to decline it
according to the noun:

This car is nice - dieses Auto ist schön. (nominative sg neuter)

This dog is dangerous - dieser Hund ist gefährlich. (nominative sg masc.)

This cat is black - diese Katze ist schwarz. (nominative sg. fem)

These children are loud - diese Kinder sind laut. (nominative pl)

I like this dog - ich mag diesen Hund (accussative sg. masc.)


and so on. You can look the tables up.

You can actually drop the noun here, but you still match the pronoun to the item you refer to:

Dieser Ring gefällt mir - I like this ring.

Dieser gefällt mir - I like this one.

You mean a specific noun without naming the noun, so this one is a pretty good translation in my
opinion. Compare to unspecific "I like this" - "ich mag das".

So far is what you would probably use in writing. In speech, you sometimes use the article as a
demonstrative, but then it gets a flection, too. You have to lay heavy emphasis on the article to
convey that you use it as demonstrative pronoun:

Der Hund ist gefährlich - the dog is dangerous.

Der Hund ist gefährlich - this dog is dangerous.

again, you can drop the noun but keep the declinated form and the emphasis:

Der ist gefährlich - this one is dangerous.

At last, we have dies without any ending. You can use it the same way you used das as a
demonstrative in the example above:

Das ist schön - this is nice.

Dies ist schön - this is nice.

It sounds a little more stilted. You would mostly hear it while someone points a finger and
explains something, but using das is correct then as well, so you can easily live without dies.
There are some more obscure demonstrative pronouns in german, like the aforementioned jener,
derjenige, derselbe and solcher, but you don't need to worry about them for now.