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  5. "Eine Zeitung liest sie."


"Eine Zeitung liest sie."

January 11, 2013



Word reordering tends to be rare in written language or in formal language instruction, but we realize that it is a great tool to teach the grammatical cases. It spark discussions like this one.

We will not overly present them, but they have their purpose. They are used if someone wants to emphasize something or if someone responds to a specific question. In that way, they are good preparation for real spoken German!

"Warum liest sie schon wieder das doofe Buch? Das Buch ist so groß und ..." (Why is she reading that stupid book again? That book is so big and ...) "Eine Zeitung liest sie, kein Buch. Guck doch!" (A newspapers is what she is reading, not a book. Look!)


Thank you; I understand that word reordering can be an excellent test of case knowledge. However, isn't it true that since neither of these two pronouns (in the feminine) changes between nominative and accusative cases, knowing cases does not resolve this sentence? The only thing that resolves the sentence is guessing that a newspaper is unlikely to read a person.


Right on with word order changes being a good test. However, the decision to use this sentence, in particular, is a mistake.

"sie" can mean both she and her (nom. and acc. cases). eine Zeitung can be both nominative and accusative cases as well. In the given sentence (with no context clues about the subject) both "She reads a newspaper", and "A newspaper reads her" are grammatically correct.

A better reordered sentence would be: "Einen Krimi liest sie." Here, by using a masculine noun in the accusative, a single meaning is derived, regardless of word order.


Since the accusative and nominative cases have the same feminine indefinite article (eine) and the same feminine third person singular pronoun (sie), you can't tell whether she reads a newspaper, or a newspaper reads her. In fact, I've read comments by some native speakers saying that word reordering like this is extremely rare, so I'm not sure whether to believe everything I read in the newspaper - or everything the newspaper reads in me.


You are right, and Duden (the "official" German spelling and grammar publishers) says it's bad style to mess with the word order when the grammar can't distinguish it, even if there context should be clear. Their example is Das Mädchen biß das Reh is gramatically indistiguishable between the girl bit the deer and the deer bit the girl, so shouldn't be written this way even though we can guess which is most likely. Den Mann biß der Hund though is clear.

My native German partner tells me that learners of German should avoid changing from the standard word order. Not only do we need to make sure we get every minutiae of grammar right but also, because a native speaker won't be expecting us to do this, we'd probably still end up confusing them.


toll, extremely helpful... danke mate(dont remember this in german) ;)


This is like Yoda speaking German, "A book she reads."


with you totally I agree!


Awesome explanation!!! So its not that common to hear these forms in the street if a travel to Germany right?


Hah ... yoda speak!


How come "sie" can be used as you, and it can be used as she? Eg: Sprechen sie Deutsch?


Yup it seems like "sie" could mean either 'she' or 'you' or 'they', the right one being determined by context and the form of the conjugated words used with it


no sie can only be she or they. you (formal) must have a capital S ie Sie. You can tell the difference between she and they because "they" is plural the so verb always ends in -en.


Nice ... thanks for clearing that up !


Sprecht sie Deutsch? - Does she speak German? (singlular 3rd person, female) Sprechen Sie Deutsch? - Do you speak German? (plural or singular 2nd person, formal) Sprechen sie Deutsch? - Do they speak German? (plural 3rd person)

Just have to use the context to tell between the latter two in spoken Deutsch


"Sprechen sie Deutsch" doesnt it mean "Do they speak german?"


You are correct good sir. I stand corrected. Editing said post now.


"A news paper read by her." Is it wrong?


yes. I'm afraid so. If you want to say "A newspaper, read by her, is ...." then you need to make a proper subclause "Eine Zeitung, die sie Liest, ist ..." If you want to say "A newspaper is read by her." then that is a passive sentence and would be "Eine Zeitung wird bei ihr gelesen"


So could this be reordered to "Sie liest eine Zeitung"? (Slowly learning german and the reordering has me rather confused! And so does the differences in "read" and "drink"!)


words like liest, wein, and bier keep messing me up. What are the rules for I and E in German, if any, or do I just memorize all of them?


If I'm not wrong, you should pronounce IE as the EA in easy, and EI as the Y in style. normally, however its pronounced like the I in fish.


ei = "eye" ie = "ee"

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