That's true so far.
"Sie", however (with uppercase "S") can also mean (formal) "you", and it uses the same conjugation as "they", so:
- Sie liest eine Zeitung. = She reads a newspaper. (liest = 3rd person singular conjugation
- Sie lesen eine Zeitung. = They read a newspaper. or You read a newspaper. (3rd person plural conjugation)
If it doesn't it is singular
That's not correct.
There is no "plural ending" in German that's used for all persons in the plural, just like there's no "singular ending" in English that's used for all persons in the singular.
The ihr verb forms end in -t, but it's still plural -- for example, ihr lest "you (many people) are reading".
For the past tense (to express that they have already read the newspaoer) is it the same verb "lessen" ?
Well, yes, you use the same verb lesen (one S!), but of course you need the appropriate past tense form of that verb.
Much as how you would say "He bought a newspaper" in the past tense, still using the verb "buy", but with the past tense form of that verb.
In German, "They read a newspaper" (past tense) would be Sie haben eine Zeitung gelesen. Theoretically also Sie lasen eine Zeitung (with vowel change), but the simple past is not used much for most verbs in today's German and that sentence thus sounds rather old-fashioned or "bookish".
In general, you can't -- and so both translations will be accepted.
If there is a time indicator, that may narrow down the appropriate tense in English:
- Sie liest gerade ein Buch. "She
is readinga book right now."
- Sie liest jeden Abend ein Buch. "She
readsa book every evening."
Since English uses the present simple for habitual or repeated actions, and the present continuous for actions that are taking place at the present moment.
But without context, a sentence such as Sie liest ein Buch. could be either "She is reading a book." or "She reads a book.", and there's basically no way to tell whether one or the other translation would be better. (It could be the answer to "What is she doing right now?" or to "What does she do every evening?", for example.)
Sie means she or they.
You can tell the difference by the verb endings, though: "she" verb forms end in -t and "they" verb forms end in -en.
For example, sie trinkt is "she is drinking" while sie trinken is "they are drinking".
Here, the verb is sie lesen with -en, so sie has to mean "they".
But shouldnt it be she in this sentence because of the use of eine?
No, that's irrelevant.
The feminine form eine is used because the noun Zeitung is feminine.
- Sie liest eine Zeitung. = She is reading a newspaper.
- Sie lesen eine Zeitung. = They are reading a newspaper.
The difference is in the verb, which has to match the subject.
The eine stays the same since Zeitung stays the same.
Wouldnt they just use ein for they?
No; the subject is irrelevant.
You would use ein before a neuter noun, e.g. Sie lesen ein Buch. "They are reading a book." or Sie liest ein Buch. "She is reading a book."
The question was :Sie lesen eine Zeitung. I put She reads a newspaper. I was marked wrong. and Duo put the answer as: They are reading a newspaper. This is correct but Sie can mean three things not just two things. Sie can mean they (which was substituted as the correct answer), it can mean she but notin the case of the question because she does not go with "lesen", and Sie can mean the formal YOU which is what I intended but was marked wrong. Does not the formal YOU go with "lesen"? Best wishes.
Does not the formal YOU go with "lesen"?
It does. So if you had written "You read a newspaper", you would have been marked correct.
But for many sentences, there can be dozens or hundreds of correct, accepted translations, so in a correct, you are not shown all possibilities, but just one correction.
The system used to try to show you the correct alternative that was closest to what you entered, but it was never particularly good at that. Now it usually just shows you the one translation that happens to have been marked as the "best" translation -- which may or may not be similar to what you entered.
Many thanks for your Reply. The system needs updating because, as far as I know, the Gernan word "Sie" only has three meanings gs in English: she, they and you. As lesen cannot apply to 'she's then there are only two correct answers: they and the formal you so whether I used you read or they read I should have been marked correct. Best wishes.
whether I used you read or they read I should have been marked correct.
Indeed. Both of those should be accepted.
If you typed one of those possibilities and were marked incorrect, a screenshot would be helpful to see what might have happened. Upload it to website somewhere, please, then include a link to the image in a comment here.
The slowed down audio for "They are reading a newspaper" doesnt articulate the end of "lesen", meaning it is easy to confuse it with "liest". It just seems to sound like "lees-", with no second sound.
I can hear the 'n' at the end of 'lesen' much more easily in the regular speed audio. This isn't the first time the male recording has caused me confusion.