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Sie and she in German

I don't get how 'sie' is 'she' and 'them'! I am constantly getting it wrong. How can one word in German mean two entirely different English words?

January 8, 2018



That's the beauty of language. Besides, English has some words like that too, words that look and sound the same and have multiple different meanings. But to put it into perspective, I'll list the different versions of 'Sie' for you :)
Sie (with capital S): formal you. This is how you would address a stranger or someone in authority.
Sie (wil be lowercase when in middle of sentence): she (the verb that goes with this will be a singular verb, like 'trinkt', because you are referring to a single person.
Sie (also will be lowercase when in mid-sentence): they (and the verb that goes with this word will be a plural verb, such as 'trinken', since you are talking about multiple people.


English has some words like that too

Yeah, I vaguely remember something about merely repeating "buffalo" so many times in a row and ending up with a valid meaningful sentence the herd makes altogether.


That's why German need conjunction: sie geht = she goes; sie gehen = they go


Sie (with big S) means you (Formal) and they, sie (with small s) means she


However, Sie means you in plural and singular if it's formal


Sie (with big S) means you (Formal) and they, sie (with small s) means she

The German word for "they" is spelled with a lowercase "s". (Except, of course, when it is the first word of a sentence.)


'sie' doesn't mean 'you' informal.


The answer is to focus your comprehension first on the verb ending and then the pronoun. When you get into reading, German loves run-on sentences and the grammar can seemingly go in any direction. It's just a different way of comprehension.


Take a look at the verb that follows and it gets somewhat clearer, at least for me.

Sie hat das gemacht. She has done it.

Sie haben das gemacht. They have done it or formal. "You (sir/lady) have done it." There is where the tricky part comes in, one needs to have the situation to grasp what it means.


To complicate matters, as an object of the verb 'sie' can also mean 'her' and 'them'. For example, 'ich liebe sie' can mean 'I love her' or 'I love them', and in this case the verb will of course not help you one iota! Only the context might help. One could see how a groom could get into trouble with the bride's mother in Germany, when she takes him to mean that he loves the bridesmaids instead of the bride!

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