Translation:The cheese is good although it is old.
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When you use a subordinating conjunction (AKA a verb scarer) like 'weil' (because) or 'obwohl' (although), the verb in that clause is moved to the end of the clause. Because of this, you can't write '..., obwohl es IST alt' and instead you have to write '..., obwohl es alt IST'. I hope that helped and didn't confuse you!
Here's a list from the BBC Bitesize website, although I'm not sure if it's complete list; there are bound to be some that are more rare and don't feature on a list. Enjoy! http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/german/grammar/conjunctionsrev2.shtml
The top explanation is not a full one. If you've gotten this point in the Duolingo Journey, you may remember (though I can't remember between my college class and this sometimes) that ihn, es, and sie could also be possibilities, in addition to, "er", "es", and, "sie". First, ask yourself, "Is this "it" a direct object or is it the subject. The verb "ist" is more like an equalizing verb saying that one thing equals or possesses a certain quality or state of being. So in this case, "er" is not the direct object, but is still talking about the subject. So we go with "er" instead of "ihn."
You're right that verbs usually go in the second position of a sentence, but that rule doesn't apply all the time. In this sentence, the verb goes to the end of the clause ("obwohl er alt ist") because "obwohl" is a subordinating conjunction. This page explains subordinating conjunctions in more detail: http://goo.gl/v1Rq1T I hope this helps!
Good question... I thought about this a bit and came up with the following series of examples to illustrate my answer:
"I have a machine that previously made cheese. The cheese is good, although it is old."
In that example, we are left uncertain: Although what is old? The machine or the cheese? Grammatically, without further clarification, I think it should be "the cheese", because "it" refers to the previously-mentioned noun. But it's open to ambiguity and should be reworded.
"The farmer makes cheese. The cheese is good, although he is old."
Here, there is no ambiguity. In English, "he" can only refer to the farmer. But what if we remove that context?
"The cheese is good, although he is old."
Although who is old? This just doesn't make sense, out of context.
"The cheese is good, although it is old."
Without anything else to distract us, the meaning is clear - we must be talking about the cheese being old.
It is the last example that best fits the German sentence - although it might sound strange to us English-speakers to use er to refer to der Käse, this is perfectly natural to a German. They would read this German sentence and have the same feeling that we have when reading that last sentence. It would feel weird to a German to read ...obwohl es alt ist, just like it feels weird for us to read the third example.
And so, without any further context, the meaning must be referring to the cheese being old. And so, if we are to translate that meaning accurately to English, we must translate it as "although it is old".
In german, yes. The two could be interchangeable, like in english. But on here, no, because that wasn't the word order it asked for. Just remember that, when you use it in german, the use of the subordinating conjunction (AKA 'verb scarer') 'obwohl' changes the word order in the second clause of the sentence. Instead of 'Der Käse ist gut, obwohl er alt ist' you have 'Obwohl er alt ist, ist der Käse gut'. I hope that's helpful and makes sense :)
In the independent clause (Der Käse ist gut) the verb is in the second position as usual.
In the dependent clause (obwohl er alt ist) the verb is at the end.
Does that answer your question? There are also some good explanations at the top of this discussion page. If not, can you give another example of what you're asking about?
German works that way - if you know the gender of what you're talking about, er/sie/es can all mean "it". This happens in many languages, and is kind of why some people learning English seem to cutely apply genders to inanimate objects when talking about them.
If I say "It is green" I would say Es ist grün, because it isn't established what I'm talking about. But if I say "That is my door. It is green" I would say Das ist meine Tür. Sie ist grün because it's now established that we're talking about the door, which has a female grammatical gender.
While it might be tempting to just say es for everything, consider how someone would sound speaking English and using "it" to refer to your pets, relatives, etc.
Also, this was literally the first question on the discussion page... you will go further in Duolingo if your first instinct upon getting frustrated with something is to read the comments :)