"Sie" at the beginning of sentence
In a workbook I'm using, there was this question:
- Sie __ hotel (and you're supposed to fill in the blank with the verb buchen).
The correct answer was "bucht" - indiciating sie = her with lowercase 's'
I know in normal cases, you can tell the difference by looking at the verb but in this case, there was no way of knowing since the verb was missing. Was it just an error of the workbook for not saying "buchen" was also technically correct in this instance?
You are right: Without further context, it could be "sie bucht ein Hotel" (3rd singular), "sie buchen ein Hotel" (3rd plural) or "Sie buchen ein Hotel" (polite form, addressing either one or several people).
There should also be an article (either definite or indefinite) before "Hotel", and the noun "Hotel" has to be written with a capital letter.
If all you were given was, "Sie __ hotel" (buchen), and assuming the "S" was capitalized because it was the beginning of the sentence, then yes, it could equally be "Sie buchen hotel" and that could either mean You (formal) book a hotel or they book a hotel. Given the way you describe it, the fault lies with the authors of the workbook.
You are right. Without a context, either should be acceptable.
I don't think there are any perfect workbooks. I'm using a spanish workbook and an italian one, and my problem with both is that I routinely find words or concepts in the exercises that are not in the explanation section. Lucky we have forums to come to with our questions.
There is a similar problem in Italian too. Last year when we were on holiday in Lecce, I asked the waitress to bring a coffee for my wife: "lei voglia un caffè" (sie will einen Kaffee) and the waitress asked in return: "e Lei?" (und Sie?) it took me a few seconds to realise that she was being polite by using gross Sie!