-Do you speak German?

-I speak it quite well.

Is the usage of it as a substitute for german grammatical?

Does providing context make a difference?

Does it sound off to the native ear?

Is there a special category of verbs that accept the word it after them?

  • 1
    In English, names of languages and adjectives of nationality start with a capital letter, so you should write "German". Commented Aug 10, 2019 at 6:41

1 Answer 1


The exchange

-Do you speak German?

-I speak it quite well.

Is quite grammatical and seems fully natural to me. The use of a pronoun, such as 'it' to refer to a noun or noun phrase in a previous sentence is very common. Without the question, the answer is unclear as the pronoun lacks a referent. Similar exchanges, such as:

-Can you play the piano?

-Yes, I can play it well.

are also common, natural and fully grammatical.

Any transitive verb may be followed by an object, and a pronoun my generally be used for such an object. In addition, a pronoun may be used in other places where a noun is expected, and may have an antecedent in a previous sentence, as long as the reference is clear.

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