You are right, it comes from "Ist es ihnen schlecht?" - but it does not mean 'Is it bad for them?' (which would be "Ist es schlecht für sie?") It's simply the longer version of the question, meaning 'Are they sick?'... hard to explain, I'm afraid it's just an idiomatic expression that you have to remember..
More literally it means "It is to/for me hot." It's also kinda like, "es geht Ihnen schlecht," which means "It goes to/for you badly" literally, or "It's not going well for you," except this "idiom" uses sein instead of gehen which changes the meaning to be more like "It is not well with you." At first that sounds weird, but remember that people say "That sucks" or "it is raining" in English. German just uses this indirect way of saying stuff as the standard instead of the exception. So it best translates as "You are not well."
The literal sentence is "Is it bad to them?"
The subject of the sentence is "it", but that word isn't spoken/written. So any time you come across one of these seemingly backwards sentences like "Mir ist schlecht" or "Mir ist kalt" or "Mir gefallt es", you want to be especially careful to identify the subject of the sentence. Usually it's going to be an er/sie/es pronoun.
So the sentence is "Ist es ihnen schlecht?", which is shortened to "Ist ihnen schlecht?"
Because you're not actually saying that "it's going badly for me". I mean, you're literally saying that, but in practice, that's not what it actually means. It means that you feel ill. Whenever you use "schlecht" in a dative construction, you're talking about health. Another example (which is used here on Duo) would be "Meinem Kind ist schlecht." The "meinem Kind" part is in dative, so you're saying "My child is ill." As far as I know, this just doesn't work the other way around. So you couldn't say "Meinem Kind ist gut" to mean "my child is feeling well." Why it doesn't work the other way around, I don't know. But that's just as far as I know. If I'm wrong, and you can actually use it the other way around, then someone please let me know.
Yes and no. Sind goes with Sie. Ist goes with Es. In this phrase, there is an implied "Es" which isn't spoken. The ful sentence would be "Ist es ihnen schlecht?" So, basically, if you ever see "ihnen," you already know it's not going to be the pronoun that decides the verb because it's not in its nominative form of "sie."
Thanks for the negative vote with no explanation. Don't thumbs down just because you don't understand.
If this was translated as it is written, it would say, "Goes it unto them badly?" The English sentence says "Are they sick?" and not "Are things going badly for them?" The connotation in English has nothing to do with their current state of satisfaction or happiness. It is asking if they are physically ill.
In the years I lived in Germany, I only heard "Ist Ihnen (or ihnen, for you sticklers) schlecht?" a couple of times. When I walk into the office coughing and blowing my nose, the receptionist asks "Sind Sie krank?" eleven times out of ten. If I told someone that I was up all night attending my children, they ask, "Sind sie krank?" If I told them my child was having complications following a surgery, it would be more appropriate to ask "Ist ihr (or ihm, or ihnen) schlecht?"
to clarify, the "ist" doesn't refer to "ihnen". "ist" is some other thing that might be bad for "ihnen".
Like, if someone says "don't feed them the old bread." The other person might reply "is it bad for them?" Ist ihnen schlecht?
If someone speaks fluently, please let me know if i'm on the right track.
I'm getting fed up with the "informality" taught at Duolingo. Germans are formal when addressing strangers, and therefore that is the standard that should be taught. I don't want to learn Idioms BEFORE learning the CORRECT way of talking. Casual talk is a SUB category of any given language, not its rule. Sind sie krank?
"Ist ihnen schlecht" is a common German shortening of the sentence "Ist es ihnen schlecht" (Is it bad for them?) The subject of the sentence is 'it', therefore we use singular 'ist'; however, in the shortening, the 'it' disappears, therefore we are left with "Ist ihnen schlecht".
"Ist ihnen schlecht" is a common German shortening of the sentence "Ist es ihnen schlecht" (Is it bad for them?). The subject of the sentence is 'it', therefore we use singular 'ist', however in the shortening, the 'it' disappears, therefore we are left with "Ist ihnen schlecht" (literally "Is [it] to them bad?")
Stop being whiny, Evelynne!
There are some cases where you are confident that you know exactly what the German phrase means, but have serious trouble coming up with an English equivalent. This was one of those cases for me.
Eventually I could not think of anything else than "Are they are doing bad?", and that of course didn't cut it. I guess "Are they not doing well?" would be more acceptable English, maybe that is already in the list of correct answers?
Because the verb is conjugated to match the understood noun "it" as in "Is it bad to you?". No matter what the pronoun is, we're always going to use "ist" because the "es" is always going to be understood.
You'll find a few instances of this, so be able to recognize dative pronouns like mir, dir, ihm, ihr, ihnen, Ihnen, uns and euch. If you see one of those, you know they're not the subject of the sentence. The subject will either be another noun in the sentence, or, like in this case, it will be an understood "es".
"Are they bad" would be "Sind sie schlecht?" or something along those lines.
This sentence introduces an odd manner of speaking you'll encounter occasionally. What's important is the use of the dative pronoun "ihnen". Because it's not the nominative "sie" you know it's not the subject of the sentence, so it's not "They are". This type of sentence uses an unspoken "es" as the subject, so this sentence could otherwise be written as "Ist es ihnen schlecht" or "Is it bad to them". The grammar is still a little bit confusing, but the closest approximation might be something like "Does everything feel bad to them" or "Do they feel bad/ill".
This kind of structure appears in other places too, for instance "Mir gefällt das" is actually more along the lines of "that pleases/is pleasing to me" rather than "I like that".
If you run into a sentence that seems to mismatch verb conjugations and uses a dative pronoun, it's probably one of these kinds of sentences.
In this sentence, "es" is the subject, not "ihnen" (which can never be the subject of the sentence, along with "dir", "mir", "ihm", "uns", and "euch"). The word "es" is not spoken in this case, so the sentence written explicitly is "Ist es ihnen schlecht" which literally translates to "is it bad to them".
It doesn't make much sense in English, but that's how Germans ask if someone is sick.
Likewise, to ask if someone is "feeling" cold as opposed to being cold to the touch, you would say "Ist dir kalt?" as opposed to "Bist du kalt?" respectively. There are a few similar phrases like this, and as you learn the Dative case, they'll make more sense.
Be aware that you can't always trust word order to translate one-to-one from German to English. Many languages including German use cases rather than word order to determine the function of a word.
Y'know, it's not all that idiomatic, really. What's weird about for an English speaker is the dative object, "ihnen", which doesn't really have an equivalent in English. "Schlecht" is here an adjective meaning "crappy". The dative object means to/for/in relation to someone. So the whole thing adds up to are "things " "crappy" to/for/in relation to "them". In other words, are they feeling crappy? The only thing that is weird about it is that the subject " things " has been omitted.
The 'feeling' part is also left out of this sentence, that's what got me. In English you wouldn't say 'It is crappy for them' to indicate feeling bad. That would mean that some other thing (likely a situation) is crappy. In this German sentence the 'feeling' is not indicated by a word but rather by an understanding from the case of the sentence. Not so much an idiom as a new idea for English speakers.
Good comment. As someone pointed out somewhere higher up in this thread, use of the dative in this way idiomatically refers to how someone feels. That's just how it is. I think it should also be pointed out that "Sind ihnen krank?" is asking specifically whether they are sick or not. "Ist ihnen schlecht?" is about how well they feel. You can feel poorly without being actually sick, and vice versa. I expect that it would be quite normal to hear something like, "Du siehst krank aus - ist dir schlecht?" or "Ihm ist schlecht, weil er krank ist." Your mileage may vary - I am not a native speaker.