When using Sie to mean "you (formal)" it conjugates the verb the same way as for sie ("they"). So it would have to be Sie lesen eine Zeitung to mean "You are reading a newspaper". If it's sie liest it can only mean "she reads/is reading".
Anyway, this was answered in the other comments already ;)
There are three forms of "you" in German. You use a different form depending on whether you are talking to just one person, to multiple people (kind of like "you guys" or "you all"), or whether you're being formal (like with your boss or people you don't know personally).
du - one person, informal
ihr - multiple people, informal
Sie - any number of people, formal
Liest is not the feminine form of lesen - verbs don't decline by gender, their pronouns do. Liest is simply the 3rd person singular declension allowing you to match it with the 3rd pronoun singular Sie. Ihr is 2nd person plural pronoun requiring the 2nd person plural declension lesen
I'm not saying that you are doing it this way, but just wanted to make clear:
Don't think them as different types of "the". You need to hardwire your brain to think them as parts that belong to the words following it. It indicates the gender of the word. That is a crucial part of the language. If you ask yourself "which form of "the" does this sentence need?" you are thinking it the wrong way. The questions should be "what is the gender of the following word?" then "what is the case I need?"
When you answer both of these questions you end up with the correct article.
When learning vocabulary always learn the gender too. Not just "Tisch" or "Toilettenbürstenbenutzungsanweisung" but "der Tisch" and "die Toilettenbürstenbenutzungsanweisung" ;)
See Schorschi's comments on this page.
In short, they mean the same thing but ein is used for masculine and neuter nouns and eine for feminine and plural nouns.
All nouns in German have a 'grammatical gender': masculine, feminine or neuter. The gender of a noun affects many of the little words that are also in the sentence - they change in one way for masculine nouns, and another way for feminine nouns, etc. There are a lot of rules, but also some patterns to them.
Keep learning, practicing, reading and asking questions, and eventually your brain will make sense of it. Good luck!
With my above table of declensions, you should have been able to answer the question yourself.
You correctly identified the gender of "Apfel" (m) and "Zeitung" (f). Next you have to figure out what declension to apply to each noun in the sentences.
In "ich habe x" or "ich lese x", "x" is always in accusative. So, looking above in my table, the declensions of the indefinite article for a masculine and feminine singular noun in accusative are "einen" and "eine", respectively. So, the sentences must read:
Ich habe einen Apfel.
Sie liest eine Zeitung.
I'm really confused: I put in "She's reading a newspaper" and it corrested me to "She's reading one newspaper". And then when i look here it says that the definition of "Sie liest eine Zeitung" is "she reads a newspaper". So which one is correct??? And what's the difference between "one" and "a" in "eine"???
That's just Duolingo being confusing. Either is fine.
In English if we wanted to count things we would say: "One newspaper, two newspapers, three newspaper...". But we could also say "That is a newspaper". Different words for "one" and "a".
German does not have this. It uses the indefinite article (ein/eine/etc.) in both situations: Eine Zeitung, zwei Zeitungen, drei Zeitungen. Or just Das ist eine Zeitung.
German does have a number "one" (eins), but it is only used for numbers not quantities (i.e. in reading out a phone number, house number, doing mathematics, etc.).
Depending on context, it may be more natural to translate eine as "a/an" or "one". I would say that this sentence is more natural as "a", but "one" is also correct. In English though, this would be giving some emphasis: "She is reading one newspaper, not two!". You could express this same emphasis in German with emphasis on eine when speaking too.
Ok hold on. I'm reading the comments because I got the wrong answer submitting "she is reading a newspaper" and the app said nope, I used the wrong word and told me it should have been "She is reading a gazette" like what the heck. Zeitung so far has been newspaper and newpaper only? Why gazette all of a sudden?
That depends on a number of factors. First off, in the sample sentence "Sie liest eine Zeitung", "eine Zeitung" appears in accusative case and "Zeitung" is feminine. If you were to use the same sentence structure with the word "book", which is neuter in German, the sentence would read "Sie liest ein Buch." If, however, a masculine noun was used, for instance, "the report", it would read as follows: "Sie liest einen Bericht."
Up to here, all nouns in all (three) genders appear in accusative.
Simply changing the case used already changes the declensions of the nouns and articles used.
Let's say, the sentence "a newspaper is white" was used. Here, "newspaper" appears in nominative case.
So the translations for all three genders would be:
Eine Zeitung ist weiß.
Ein Buch ist weiß.
Ein Bericht ist weiß.
Note the different endings of "ein" - being different from "eine", "ein" and "einen" in accusative.
It gets more varied with genitive and dative cases, that I am omitting for brevity.
The formal you (Sie) is grammatically equivalent to third person plural (they). So, if you know your conjugations you can easily tell by whether it's third person singular (sie=she) or third person plural (Sie=they or (formal) you). Another hint is that the formal you (Sie) is always capitalized, unlike "she" (sie). However, this will only help you if "sie" appears in the middle of a sentence and not at the beginning.
I just found a great EASY tool for conjugating verbs, I'll use it a lot I'm sure :) http://german.about.com/library/verbs/blverb_Conjug1.htm
I quote from a grammar book: "There are two forms for "you" in German 'du' and Sie. du [singular] and ihr [plural] are used for close friends, family and children. Sie [singular] and Sie [plural] are used for politeness and with people you do not know. Sie is written with a capital S and the verb used with Sie has the same form as that of the 3rd person Plural. sie can be "she" or "they" depending on the verb ending. for example "sie ist" = she is sie sind = they are if 'sie' is NOT the FIRST word in the sentence then "Sie sind = You are" which could be singular "you" or plural "you". The problem arises when "sie" is the first word in the sentence and has to have a capital letter for S in which case it can mean sie = she, sie = they or Sie = you. The clue to whether Sie at the start of the sentence is she, they or you depends on the 'person' of the verb that follows "Sie". In the case of "Sie liest eine Zeitung" The Sie is really sie = she because liest is the 3rd person SINGULAR of lesen. "Sie lesen could mean "they are reading" if Sie is really "sie" with a capital S for the beginning of the sentence. OR Sie lesen could mean "You are reading" if the 'sie' is really Sie with the capital S and the 3rd person PLURAL of the verb. In short "liest" tells you that Sie is really "sie = she" Heute sie liest = Today she is reading Heute sie lessen = Today they are reading Heute Sie lessen = Today you are reading Complicated but I hope this helps Gilly
If you are talking about the formal you (Sie), i.e. why does the sentence not mean "you are reading a newspaper," it's because that would be "Sie lesen eine Zeitung." The formal you (Sie) is grammatically equivalent to third person plural. So the latter sentence could also mean "they are reading a newspaper."
The conjugations of "lesen" in present tense are:
So, you can see why the sentence can only mean "she is reading a newspaper."
It's because of the case and the gender of the noun "eine" is linked to. Here it is "Zeitung," which is feminine - die Zeitung. "Zeitung" appears as the accusative object in this sentence, and the ending for "ein" with a feminine noun in accusative is "eine."
If instead the object was "Buch" (book), which is neuter (das Buch), the sentence would read "Sie liest ein Buch."
If the object was "Roman" (novel), which is masculine (der Roman), the sentence would read "Sie liest einen Roman."
So the word endings of "ein" in accusative (singular) in the three genders are "einen" (masc.), "eine" (fem.) and "ein" (neut.).
You may also want to read my comment on a related topic at https://www.duolingo.com/comment/526169, in which I am explaining word endings for possessive pronouns. The principle is the same. I am also mentioning the nominative case there.
In German there are two versions of saying "you": "Sie" (formal) and "du" (informal). "Du", of course, is second person singular. "Sie", however, is equivalent to third person plural. So, the two possible translations of "You are reading the newspaper" are:
"Sie lesen die Zeitung." and
"Du liest die Zeitung."
The first sentence, however, if you don't have any context, can also translate back to English as
"They are reading the newspaper." (3rd person singular).
All conjugations of "lesen" in present tense are:
Ich lese die Zeitung.
Du liest die Zeitung.
Er/Sie/Es liest die Zeitung.
Wir lesen die Zeitung.
Ihr lest die Zeitung.
Sie lesen die Zeitung.
No. "Ein"/"eine" can both be translated to "one" or "a."
The different word endings of "ein" depend on gender and declension.
For instance, the feminine word "Frau" is prepended by "eine": eine Frau.
"Mann," however, being masculine, is prepended bei "ein": ein Mann.
A neuter noun, "Schwein," is prepended bei "ein," as well: ein Schwein.
The above are all in nominative case.
When you get into other declensions there are, for feminine nouns:
Eine Frau - nominative.
Einer Frau - genitive.
Einer Frau - dative.
Eine Frau - accusative.
With "Mann" (masculine) it's as follows:
Ein Mann - nominative.
Eines Mannes - genitive.
Einem Mann - dative.
Einen Mann - accusative.
And "Schwein" (neuter):
Ein Schwein - nominative.
Eines Schweines - genitive.
Einem Schwein - dative.
Ein Schwein - accusative.
Because Zeitung is a feminine noun (i.e. die Zeitung. You just have to memorise this when you learn the word for the first time).
When you would otherwise use die for a feminine noun, you need to use eine. The other comments have good explanations, so have a read of them too. There's also Duolingo's own tips page for this lesson (scroll down). Good luck!
English distinguishes between a ongoing, continuous action and a habitual action. "I am reading" means NOW. "I am (in the process of, currently engaged in, at present involved in) reading a newspaper". "I read" means I read habitually, I read on specific occasions, or I read specific papers. "I read newspapers" means that I am in the habit of reading newspapers on a regular basis. "I read newspapers every week". Habit. "I read a paper on Thursdays". Habit. "I read expensive newspapers" Specific, habitual. But "I am reading an expensive newspaper today". Non-specific, continuous action. German does not make this distinction, and nor does French, for example. But English does, and so do other languages - Irish, for example, but with slightly different application. I read = Léim. I am reading = Táim ag léamh. Táim = I am (now). Bím = I am (habitually, regularly). Táim fuar inniu = I am cold today. Bím fuar i gcónaí = I am always cold.
It can't be “Sie“ (formal address), because then the sentence would read “Sie lesen eine Zeitung.“
Grammatically, “Sie“ (formal address) is identical to third person plural (“sie“).
So, “Sie lesen“, could be “You are reading“ (formal address) or “they are reading“.
And so “sie liest“ (third person singular) has to be “she is reading“.
einen is the accusative form for a masculine noun.
Zeitung, however, is feminine.
So, the following would be correct:
Sie liest einen Roman. (= novel)
Der Roman. (masculine)
Die Zeitung. (feminine)
And for completeness' sake, for a neuter noun it's
Sie liest ein Magazin.
Das Magazin. (neuter)
There are multiple ways to tell.
You should never mix up "she" with "they" and "you", as the verb is conjugated differently.
- sie liest = she reads / she is reading
- sie lesen = they read / they are reading
- Sie lesen = you read / you are reading
When "Sie" means "you", the letter "S" will always be capitalized, no matter where it is in the sentence. However, at the begging of a sentence, "Sie" will always be capitalized no matter what is meant.
- Ich weiß, dass sie liest = I know that she reads
- Ich weiß, dass sie lesen = I know that they read
- Ich weiß, dass Sie lesen = I know that you read
In most situations, there will be context, you'll know what (or whom) the other person is talking about. On duolingo, we do not have the required context, so we need to look at the conjugation and capitalization. If you see a sentence such as
- "Sie lesen ein Buch"
Duolingo will accept both:
- You read a book / You are reading a book
- They read a book / They are reading a book
It will not accept:
- She reads a book / She is reading a book
because the conjugation is not correct for the "she-form" of "sie".
Newspapers can be countable or uncountable depending on the context.
In the context of reading, it is countable: "I am reading a newspaper" or "I subscribe to three newspapers", because you are generally referring to specific editions/publications.
In the context of using old newspapers for some other purpose, such as a packing or cleaning material, you can use it as an uncountable/bulk noun: "I wrapped the plates in newspaper before packing them into the box" or "Using scrunched-up newspaper is a common way of cleaning windows without leaving streaks".
Check the link bellow and good luck https://www.duolingo.com/skill/de/Accusative-Case/tips-and-notes
The difference is in the nouns’ gender, whether masculine, feminine, or neuter. https://www.duolingo.com/skill/de/Accusative-Case/tips-and-notes
You have to consider the context. Is the action going on right now, in the moment? (She is reading the newspaper now). Or is it something that happens regularly, habitually, or always? (She reads the newspaper every morning).
If you have no context, as in this sentence, then either translation is possible.
For most nouns, you can’t. You just have to memorize the definite article—and thus, the noun’s gender—along with the meaning. Der Tisch (the table, masc.); das Zimmer (the room, neut.); die Wand (the wall, fem.).
Some noun endings are always feminine, or always neuter, but generally you can’t tell by looking.
They don't mean the same thing in English. (Present Simple) is different than (Present Continuous). Present Continuous usually describes an event that is happening right now. While Present Simple usually describes a habit, fact, etc.
So, there is noway in Germany to differentiate between them?
That's right. Only context can tell.
Also, you can't use the fact that the formal address (Sie) is always capitalized to your advantage, because the pronoun appears at the beginning of the sentence at which words are always capitalized anyway.
If, however, you were looking at the sentence/question in its two possible variants, as follows:
Lesen Sie eine Zeitung?
Lesen sie eine Zeitung?
you would be able to tell the difference.
The former asking
do you read a newspaper? and the latter
do they read a newspaper?.
Every section has grammar notes. https://www.duolingo.com/skill/de/Accusative-Case/tips.
You have to become familiar with conjugations. The verb form, the conjugation, is the only way; you can’t tell just by looking at the pronoun. Sie liest is singular; Sie lesen is plural.
That’s why learning the conjugations is essential. I strongly recommend a book called 501 German Verbs.
First, read this: https://www.duolingo.com/skill/de/Accusative-Case/tips.
Second, read the comments thread here on this forum. It’s been discussed very thoroughly several times. You should be able to find what you need here. The moderators are great.