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Sie sehen oder sie sehen

S/sie can be "she, they" or "ÿou". How can you tell them apart if "Sie" is at the beginning of the sentence. Example
Sie sehen den Apfel im Restaurant.

December 15, 2011



With a sentence like, "Sie sehen den Apfel im Restaurant," there is no way to definitely tell what "Sie" is referring to--yes, "she" can be ruled out because the verb is "sehen" and not "sieht", but without further context both "They" and "You (formal)" work. For example, if this answered the question, "Was sehen sie im Restaurant?" (What do they see in the restaurant?) you know that "Sie sehen den Apfel im Restaurant," means "They saw the apple in the restaurant."


"Sie sehen" translates usually as "They see", except in direct speech (dialogue, monologue) where it translates "You see". That is easy to distinguish.


I think that you can at least tell if the pronoun S/sie is NOT referring to "she" by the number of the verb. the verb sehen is plural so it can't be referring to "she". If it was, it would have to be sieht. I also think that when sie is uncapitalized it means "they", and when capitalized it is a formal form of "you" (instead of ihr). I don't remember if there were different capitalizations in the questions or answers though..

Look at this verb conjugation table on about.com, here: http://german.about.com/library/verbs/blverb_sehen.htm


This is the oldest forum/thread/conversation we can view here I think.


Maybe a good idea to always translate 3rd person singular as "she" and 3rd person plural as "they". Because translating it as "you" is adressing somebody formally, in German, and that should become evident from the context.


As others said, there is no way. Also, you cannot tell if you hear a sentence like this rather than read it, regardless of "sie/Sie" being at the begining of the sentence. It is most like in english, there being no way of telling if a sentence is about "you" that one person or "you" these several people. But since every competent speaker is aware of this, you can count on them giving cues in this type of situation, through context, or if there is an obvious ambiguity, by specifying who they mean by "sie" or by "you". Only in a sentence out of context can you really by thrown off this way. I guess what i'm trying to say is: this should not worry you about being lost in a conversation or in reading a full text once you're proficient in German. Whoever speaks/writes will make sure there is only one way of understanding what they say.


You can tell if it is in third person by the verb conjugation, if the verb ends in "nt" it'll be singular third person feminine if the verb is in infinitive, then it is plural. Of course, there are some exceptions to these rules.


For Dutch people this is easier. Sie is formal for you. In Dutch (and German) you do not say you to your elderly for example. You do it more formally. Which is Sie.

Sie can be used for schoolteachers, mentors or elderly and such.


I am = ich bin ...... you are = du bist (INFORMAL) ............
you are = Sie sind (FORMAL and SINGULAR, Always with capital letter) .......
he is = er ist .............. she is = sie ist (Verb conjuagtion different, also no capital letter) ........... it is = es ist ...............
we are = wir sind .............. you are = ihr seid (INFORMARL, PLURAL) .................. you are = Sie sind (FORMAL, PLURAL) (Again with capital letter) ........... they are = sie sind ...............


This was the 69th post on duoligno. iconic.


The first that I can see...


This is what it means to be 69


If it is 3rd p. sg. (she), you can tell from the predicate {"sie geht", "sie ging", "sie ist gegangen" (starkes [=unregelmäßiges] Verb), "sie macht". "sie machte", "sie hat gemacht" (schwaches [=regelmäßiges] Verb) }. There is no way to tell the 3rd p. pl. (they) apart from the formal you by the predicate {in both cases it would be "sie gehen", "sie gingen", "sie sind gegangen" (starkes [=unregelmäßiges] Verb), "sie machen", "sie machten", "sie haben gemacht" (schwaches [=regelmäßiges] Verb) }. However the formal you is normally unambiguous, at least in written text, because it's capitalized ("p.e. "Können Sie mir helfen?"). If it's at the beginning of a sentence however, you normally cannot tell them apart without further context.


Well, this comment is pretty old.


"Sie sehen" translates usually as "They see", except in direct speech (dialogue, monologue) where it translates "You see". That is easy to distinguish.


This conversation has been very helpful, I thought with speech context would be the driving determinant. Thanks everyone!

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