How to differentiate between sie (they) and sie (she)?

  • I am starting to learn German and I'm trying out Duolingo, I've faced this problem several times.

    If I understand correctly "sie" means both she and they. So if there is no context, can I distinguish between the both?

    See this example:

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    Could I have known which one does it refer to?

    How do you do it normally, by context and only context? I know that they are always pronounced the same.

    Related: How do I know if “the sheep are bad” refers to one sheep or several sheep?

    you missed the third sie! you (plural) ! there is no way to distinguish that.. well context ofcourse

    How to differentiate between *you* (one person) and *you* (many persons)? For example in "You are bad". How do you know how many people are bad? One? Many? So if there is no context, can I distinguish between the both? No, I can't! This is exactly the same problem. All languages are ambiguous sometimes.

  • z7sg Ѫ

    z7sg Ѫ Correct answer

    9 years ago

    In each case you conjugate the verb differently. Here the verb is sein meaning to be.

    Sie ist schlecht.

    She is bad.

    Sie sind schlecht.

    They are bad.

    Although to add to the confusion here, there is yet another pronoun Sie meaning you in the plural or polite form. In the middle of a sentence you can see that it is capitalized but in spoken German or in the above examples there is ambiguity. "Sie sind schlecht." could also mean "You are bad." This can only be distinguished by context.

    There are also cases, namely accusative objects, where one can't distinguish between all three: "Ich liebe sie"

    You conjugate the verb differently... because "she" is a singular and "they" is a plural. At least in the example. Easy, isn't it? ;-)

    And to add insult to injury: "Ihr ist schlecht" would mean "She's feeling sick/nauseous" :D

    @phg: At least in written form, it can only be "she" or "they" — if it were "you" it would have needed an uppercase "S": "Ich liebe Sie". Of course in spoken German, you don't see the uppercase letter.

    … and _you are bad_ can also mean _ihr seid schlecht_, because some English pronouns are also ambiguous. Formal _Sie_ in spoken language is not only almost always obvious by context, but often also carries the primary stress of the sentence. The example with _lieben_ is particularly contrived, because nobody would say that nowadays to someone they are not calling _du_, i.e. it would always be _ich liebe dich_ if directed at the single listener.

    Sie hat ein Schwein... they correct answer is "She has a pig." I feel confused, how does "They have a pig" differ? Would it then be "Sie haben eine Schwein"?

    Yep: "Sie haben ein Schwein" - "hat" vs. "has" and "haben" vs. "have" - Not much difference to English.

    When you use she, he, they, you in any language, no matter what language you are using, you are always referring to a subject which is mentioned before. When the subject metadata can be extracted from context then why waste words?. In Persian even gender is understood from context and there is no gender in Persian for anything. In Persian you say "حالش بد است". means "He/She is bad". Whether she is a she or he is a he is understood from context. That's why i say Persian is a highly advance language.:)

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM