It’s not really the case, it has to do with that det does not directly refer to the books, it’s just a formal subject or a dummy pronoun used because the sentence needs some sort of subject. It’s common to use when describing things. It’s similar to the ’it’ in ’it’s raining’ which doesn’t really refer to the rain or anything like that. Since it doesn’t refer to the books, they don’t agree with each other.
What if you were to have a pet dog, and you gave some books to it? And a relative visited you:
"This is my pet dog Max"
"What the f*ck are those?!"
"They are its books"
Ok, I agree, pretty clumsy. You would probably call your dog "him" and not "it", although I guess that depends on the person. But you would probably say "those" instead of "they":
"Those are his books"
But I believe that at least in principle you could say "They are its books". Or maybe that's broken English. Beats me.
"See those white parts at the top of the mountain range? They are its peaks." "See those dark spots on the moon? They are its craters" "You know those bubbles in the frog's water? They are its eggs". "Have you tasted those nuts from Iran? They are its biggest export" "Do you see those piles of ash inside the burnt-down library? They are its books."
Sure one would use it. Say there's a virus that owns a book. He and she would both be really weird to use when referring to a virus. Thus, "they are its books". Sure, the context is unusual, but since when has that made something ungrammatical or otherwise wrong? (Hint: never)
Maybe we should decide which translations to accept based on dueling. :)
The problem to me is that there's a very large risk that if we add "their", then a lot of learners will inadvertently learn that dess is a plural form. So while it's a technically sound translation, it's still detrimental to our purpose. Unfortunately, some users - such as you - get caught in the aftermath, so to speak, and I regret that this happens but it's still probably the best option.
We do evaluate things like these constantly, though, so the input is appreciated.
It's called a collective noun and is very common in parts of the English-speaking world, but rare in others.
For instance, in "the team says that..." and "the team say that...", you can use either, and it'll mean either the team as a common entity or the players in the team, so to speak.
Thanks for your response. I understand the concept of a collective noun. However, when I learned the language, agreement between nouns and pronouns is important. It does not matter that a team is made up of individual members. It is still a singular entity. Currently here in the USA, the singular noun/plural prounoun disagreement is nearly ubiquitous. My least favorite is when "individual" is referred to as "they." When using the language properly in the USA, that is incorrect.
I am a professional translator and this is one of the worst sentences I have ever read. This translation was done word for word and it absolutely makes no sense. It is not always possible to translate a sentence that way, we have to find the meaning. A better way would be: they are their books. But then again it's could also mean as child a woman a man etc.
I think you missed Arnauti's point. He's saying that he'd like to teach it in a way that does make sense, but with the way Duolingo's system works, it's impossible to get rid of this sentence in favour of a better one - at least until the next tree version. It's not that we're unaware of the problems, but we're limited by how the system works.
It is grammatically wrong to use it to refer to a plural. Books on its own (and I use the singular here because I am referring to the word itself of which there is one) is not a collective noun. Maybe one could say something like this sentence if one were to be asked "Which pile of books belongs to the library?" But it still sounds unnatural to my ears.
Ah, I'm sorry - I didn't notice "it is [...]" was accepted, I thought you were talking about "[...] its [...]". The default translation is "They are its books."
I absolutely get that the sentence doesn't make complete sense, but as Arnauti noted above, we can't really fix the problems for this tree version. Rest assured we won't be keeping this sentence for the next tree. I'm not arguing that it's in any way a good fit for the course - but it's going to have to stay as it is for a little while, I'm afraid.
Actually, there are already explanations and examples within the comments of this page.
They changed the default translation after some of the older complaining, but both translations are still valid and have corresponding comments for clarification.
It's its books. <==Not an error!
They're its books. <==Also OK!
It is the same type of sentence construction as in German!
For those who have experience with German: "es sind dessen (or: seine) Bücher"
det=es, är=sind, dess=dessen, böcker=Bücher
For instance: a child's books (in German: dessen Bücher, OR: seine Bücher); ein Kind (a child) is a neutrum in German (like Swedish barn, too).
So this Swedish sentence makes perfect sense for a German.
The point, moreover, is not whether a single instance of this utterance might be found, but whether it represents a useful translation of the Swedish text. I find it difficult to believe that the Swedish presented is nearly as awkward or uncommonly used as the English given as a translation. If a Swedish speaker also thinks that the Swedish phrase is awkward and uncommon, then the sentence really shouldn't be used as an exercise on duo lingo anyway. In either case, the exercise is clearly problematic.
That's true...it has a typo, my bad :) But my point is, even though our explanation is good, that this is a program to learn Swedish and to take a saying in English and translate it to Swedish is to much. My partner is Swedish and she said that you would not use these word in a sentence here in Sweden, even though they are good in English. I am Icelandic and the Swedish grammar and Icelandic is not that different in general and these translation and made up sentences are so out there sometimes because you would not talk like that here in Sweden...that was my point, and yes my other point was incorrect that it should be her/his :) It is just annoying when learning a new language you have to know English language 100% or be a native because yours is not an option...but let the party continue! :)
Some other sentences you might use dess for:
"The accountant stayed late at the bank to review its books."
"I wrote a research paper about pollution and its effect on global warming".
"The fire marshal determined the greatest risk to the library; it is its books." "What did you say the biggest risk is?" "It is its books!" "Thanks, I know it is its books".
The exercise is to teach the word dess, which translates to its. That is the 3rd person singular inanimate genitive. It was incorrect to assert that they should translate it to his/her and explaining the error was meant to help. You were also incorrect to assume I'm not a native speaker, although you didn't specify which language your presumption related to.
Yes; that is one of the accepted answers, as discussed in the other comments. They are its books is the other valid translation. The Swedish sentence is introducing some books to us and indicating they belong to something. We don't know the context because there's only one sentence. With context, Duolingo sentences would not look so odd. You could see some examples by reading the comments.
The odd thing I found about this solution (and I think neither context can fix this nor there is a comment which explains that yet) is the singular ("it is") vs. plural ("books"). So imo the sentence has to be number-consistent, but do no not hesitate to give me an example proving this wrong, i would have to thank you.
"What is the reason that drives people here to our small library?
It is its books!" (reason = singular, books = plural).
Personally, I say the syntax works. The question introduces a singular and wants a singular answer. The earlier example in this thread using singular "risk" is the same. Perhaps you could say it's actually short for "It is its [collection of] books.". However, if one doesn't like this usage, one is free to use the primary accepted answer.
This sentence is all together wrong. "It is their books" is the correct translation which still does not make any sense. The correct sentence should say it is their book "Det är dess bock". This is not the first time I have noticed errors in the languages that I am learning on Duolingo. I wonder who does the quality control. I am a professional translator and it is not acceptable to teach incorrect words and sentences to people who are just starting to learn a new language. Therefore, I can only recommend to purchase a dictionary in the language that one is learning and to look up every word that is not understood. Good luck!
Obviously this exercise has stirred a lot of comments and suggestions. However, whilst technically an institution is referred to as "it", the sentence on its own "they are its books" is not commonly used colloquially by native English speakers. If the need did arise for such a phrase, I would suggest that instead of they, "those" would be used more commonly.
"Those are their books." should be accepted as a correct answer and valid possible translation that is also something that a native English speaker actually does say. If the example given is that the books in question may belong to a library, most native English speakers would then say, "Those are their books." This is because, although a single library as an abstract noun may be singular in terms of proper grammar, in practical reality, most libraries are run by a whole host of people, collectively thought of as 'they' in the minds of many speakers, when referring to a library. Whose books are those? Those belong to the library. Those are their books. :)
I have no idea why people are saying this sentence is invalid in its direct English translation. If you were talking about a book club which possesses books, you would say "They are its books.".
Granted, it's not a sentence you would find yourself using in everyday life (and I myself got the answer wrong) but it doesn't invalidate its grammatical correctness.
No, really are there native English speakers? Do you say "they are its books"? It may be applicable in a limited context but it's not common and not appropriate for beginner's level. Even if it literally sounds like that being translated in English you should either adopt the example or choose another one. It sounds like Google Translator is talking, not a real human.
What is the problem of all those who criticise this sentence? It has been explained again and again that this is a perfectly normal sentence.
For instance: Those are the books of (whatever) public institution, association, library...
Perhaps, in English one would prefer "those are their books", but obviously, in Swedish one uses "dess" (just like in German "dessen"): "Es sind dessen Bücher."
"Het zijn zijn boeken", right? Referring to a "bibliotheek", for instance. Swedish distinguishes between "hans, hennes, dens, dess, deras", something that Dutch does not. In German, you would normally say "es sind seine Bücher", too (like in Dutch, when referring to an "Institut", for example). But you can also say "es sind dessen Bücher" (die Bücher des Instituts).
In my opinion, it is good that we are faced with such a Swedish sentence because it shows us what is possible in Swedish and gives stuff for discussions.
Why take away such a sentence that one could hear in everyday life in Sweden?
It's absolutly not a mistake but, if you'd like to know why, there are actually already a ton of comments on this page discussing it. Also, there is more than one valid translation which is an accepted answer so you are not required to use they at all if you don't want to.