When does it mean they and when does it mean she?

December 20, 2018


Hi Anonymous,

Sie - you formal, sie - she, sie - they. Until here it's quite easy.

In a sentence it can be tricky to understand what it says.

Sie isst. She eats.

Sie essen. They eat. But unfortunatly also You eat (formal).

If 'Sie' appears at the beginning of the sentence you need context. There's no way around. It is the same for us Germans. Is 'Sie' in the middle of a written sentence you can differ. 'Verkaufen Sie Kleidung?' Do you sell clothes? The formal you is capitalized. 'Verkaufen sie Kleidung?' Do they sell clothes? If you only hear it you need context again. Sorry, I have no better answer for you. To be sure if it is formal or she or they you need context.

best regards, Angel
  • 1057

The patience of an angel! :)

If you're lucky enough to have a verb that goes with the pronoun, you can tell the difference.

Sie geht (She goes)

Sie gehen (They go, or you go)

The second example above could mean "they" or "you." If it's in the middle of a sentence, "Sie" should be capitalized if it means "you."

...und sie gehen (...and they go)

...und Sie gehen (...and you go)

(Cross-posted with RedAngel666) :)

Höfliche Anrede: Ich sehe Sie.

Ich sehe sie (die Blumen).

Beides ist Akkusativ.

Wirklich, sie geht auf der Straße (eine Frau geht).

Das ist Nominativ.

Hi AnonymousA1355,

Sie can mean three different things.

You - Sie (with a capital S) is the formal "You"
They - sie (with a lowercase S) means "They"
She - sie (with a lowercase S) means "She"

There is no real way to know when which of them is meant in a sentence. The closest you can get to the truth is either by

  • (1) Looking at context, or
  • (2) Looking at at the verb conjugation around it, though this might be a little tricky. (If there is no verb conjugations around it to tell by, then you can't really say.)

I think I'm saying pretty much the same thing as the others who commented as well, though they have more tips.

Have fun good luck, and enjoy your day!

Sie for "She" is a pronoun and can be used as, " Sie sagte, dass sie heute nicht kommen wird." - "She said she will not come today."

If you were to use it like, "They" which is also a pronoun and formal you can use it as, "Sie sagten, dass sie heute nicht kommen." - "They said they will not come today."

In your second example, that is not the formal use though (at least not the way you translated it -- you translated it into the pronoun they). In order to make it addressing someone formally, the translation of your sentence would have to be You (formal) said that she wouldn't come today.

Thank you! Something told me I was off when I posted this comment. I'm currently a German learner and thought this was the proper sentence for it! Thanks for catching my mistake

Ihre Frau....could mean Your wife when addressing someone of importance or someone you do not know like a lawyer, a doctor etc. or your boss or new neighbor. Ihre is a formal way of addressing someone. Ihre in this case can be used for male and female.

duolingo counted it correct when I said zie... and it didn't mark it for typo...

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