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Here "Sie" could be either "they" or "you" formal. For formal "you" "Sie" is always capitalized, so when it starts the sentence it may be ambiguous.
If not regarding the verb, "sie" means "she", "they", and "you" (when capitalized), right?
But how can I tell when spoken? How do German people clarify these situations? Are there any stories that revolve around this (maybe mysteries?) where the word "sie" is misunderstood in a murder case or something
Sie in the sense of she can easily be recognized by the form of the verb. Sie in the sense of formal you and of 3rd person plural can be mixed up in spoken language. If there is a chance of mixing them up, you have to clarify, mostly by gesture and looks, because if you talk to someone you look at him/her, while if you talk about someone else you often look in the direction of whomever you're talking about. I'm sure there are mix ups, but I think they are surprisingly rare. One example: http://www.spiegel.de/kultur/zwiebelfisch/zwiebelfisch-sie-oder-sie-du-musst-dich-entscheiden-a-316185.html (Look at the text under the picture)
So... is there no way to tell if it's "You" or "They?" If that sentence stands alone it's ambiguous?
I think you can tell by the verb conjugation:
For example: Sie esst: She eats - verb isst is singular she and Sie essen: They eat - verb essen is plural they
Isn't "She eats" -> "Sie isst"? since "Esst" is for "Ihr" and "Isst" is for "er/sie/es"
I think so, if it comes to action verbs, I can't distinguish between "sie" (they/plural) and "Sie" (formal form of "you"/singular). "You are drinking water" and "They are drinking water" can have the same translation in German : "Sie trinken Wasser".
But in simple verb, we can distinguish it by looking at the context. It's like how you distinguish between the single "you" and the plural "you" in English. For example : "Sie sind ein Mann". I can say the subject of this sentence is singular, because it means "a man". So "Sie" in there means "You" (formal form); You are a man. While in "Sie sind Männer", the subject is plural, because "Männer" is the plural form of Mann. So "Sie" in there means "they"; They are men. Hope it helps. :)
I thought it was she, but when the word is essen, it means multiple so it would be they
I think what he means is that it could be "You (formal) are eating bread", because, you formal also ends in 'en'.
I think maybe the verb form "essen" defines the meaning of the pronoun "Sie"? Because, IIRC, verbs ending with the suffix "-en" are used with pronouns like "We" and "They", and "You" (formal)
So if the question asks me to fill in "esse" or "essen" in to the blank, the answer is "essen" regardless? If Sie is the formal "you" then would "esse" also be correct here? Is this question posed in a different form for some of you?
No, the verb is changed according to the subject. :)
ich esse = I eat.
du isst = You (informal, singular) eat.
er/sie/es isst = He/she/it eats.
ihr esst = You (informal, plural) eat.
wir/sie essen = We/they eat.
Sie essen = You (formal, singular/plural) eat.
Why is there no article for bread? There normally is for all the other nouns I've come across...
Because in the sentence "Sie essen Brot" the noun "Brot" is not preceded with an article such as "ein". So if the sentence was like this "Sie essen ein/das Brot" it would be translated to "They eat a/the bread".
Hope this answer your question. have fun learning :)
what wrong with "Sie esst Brot" , cant i fill esst in " Sie ____ Brot" sentence?
No you can't because we say "Sie isst Brot" means "She eats bread", and "Sie essen Brot" means "They eat bread".
conjugation of the verb eat/essen
Ich esse | Du isst | Er/sie/es isst | Wir essen | Ihr esst | Sie essen |
Hope it help, have fun learning :)