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Sie and sie

hmmm How will you ever know the difference between "Sie" as in She" in "Sie mag nicht trinkt Wasser" or "Sie" as in "Formal you" in "Haben Sie jetzt Zeit, Herr Smith"? i thought i was on a roll until i came across formal you??

April 4, 2013



You can spot the differences between formal you ("Sie") and she ("sie").

First, the formal Sie is always capitalized.

Second you can look at the verb. - "Haben Sie ein Buch?" (Do you(formal) have a book?) - "Hat sie ein Buch?" (Does she have a book?)


@trulyunique. if "sie" comes first in a sentence and is hence capitalized, it could mean either of the three meanings (formal "you", "she", or "they") - provided that the verb conjugation does not tell them apart.

e.g. "Sie ist schön" - She is beautiful. Neither means formal you nor plural they, because of "ist". e.g. "Sie mag der Fisch" - The fish likes [you/her/them]. Note: reverse sentence order. Fish is the agent, "Sie" is the accusative object and it could mean either of the three (formal "you", "she", or "they"). However, .. e.g. "Der Fisch mag sie" - The fish likes [her/them]. Could not mean "formal you", because not capitalized.


Then there is also the plural "sie" = "they". Here the verb is identical with the formal "Sie", but the capital "S" is your hint!


I've been told that good german speakers/writers will make sure that the meaning of Sie (you or they) is clear from the context. In English we have a similar issue with "you", could be singular or plural, but if it's ambiguous we normally clarify using "you two" or "you yourself"


Yes i understand that but what if "sie" comes first??? then what because that's what throws me off


because then "Sie is capitalized!!!! because its first that's the mind bender for me


Any time you encounter the word "sie" you have to decide whether it is female singular or plural (hint: verb form). For "Sie" you choose "you" when it is not at the beginning of a sentence. When it is at the beginning of a sentence, you have to choose between: she, they and you. It should raise a red flag meaning: watch your step, never just take the first translation that comes to mind. Over a period of time things will happen automatically.


Oh, I see! Sorry, but then you have to know from the context if it's "they" or (formal) "you". And I hope that here both solutions are correct if you only have one sentence to guess from. And in real life it is pretty clear because either you are talking about someone (they) or talking to someone (formal you).


Yeah i understand a little bit better Speaking it is no problem because as you said the person will be right there.. but writing is a little more difficult in this case!!! Thank you all

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