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Pronouns meaning "it"

I just answered the following practice question:

Mark all correct: It is thirsty. 1) Es hat Durst. 2) Er hat Durst 3) Sie hat Durst

I picked all of them but Duolingo marked only the first one correct.

I have understood that all those pronouns can mean "it" in a certain context, e.g. "Das ist der Tisch. Er ist ganz neu." Why is this wrong then?

Am I making a huge mistake here?

May 1, 2012



keppinakki, you are right. There is no direct mapping between the German er/sie/es and the English he/she/it. Although you cannot say "Er (der Tisch) hat Durst" (the table is thirsty), you can find living animals in all cases. Er (der Hund) hat Durst. Sie (die Katze) hat Durst. Es (das Schwein) hat Durst.

All these sentences translate to "it is thirsty." I suppose the test designer doesn't speak German, (s)he might know the basics though.

Kind regards.


gratangi, the translation from English into German "it" -> "es" is not clear. You have the same constraints when translating in the other direction.

If you take "It is thirsty" out of context, you can translate to either of the

"Es hat Durst."

"Er hat Durst."

"Sie hat Durst."

You don't know what noun stands behind "it", so it's the same probability that you're right (or wrong).

It's quite funny, because that's the point where I get most correction remarks from native speakers. My advice is to not take "it" -> "es" for granted.


I still disagree with you here ;)

If you take it out of context, it is always "it"=>"es". Only when you reapply some context it can change. And even with your examples (der Hund, die Katze, das Schwein) it is debatable what the translation would be. You could always stick to "das Tier" then;)

But I think I see your point. The question is not, what translation "is" correct here but what translation "could be" correct. Or in other words, what type of answers is duolingo expecting or accepting, for such sentences who lack context.

The best solution would probably be to notify duolingo of such problems, so that this sentences can be put into context.


"er" means he and "sie" means she.


Well, while it might be true that the translation from German into English results in "it", the translation from English into German is clear: "It"->"Es". So for the given English sentence "It is thirsty" there is only one solution: "Es hat Durst".

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