for you who do not understand @IterMerchtor's singular they and singular their
[warning: IMHO it is a bit too advanced here in the DL context, but it sure is interesting]
: maybe because of the growing need in social media or maybe because the time was right a need to put the emphasize(?) in a sentence on the content and not on who did it has been growing the last 10-15 years. In 2008-ish BBC(I think) had a Swedish word on their 'most significant word of the year' end-of-year list : hen - a mix of the word for she and he, hon and han. Instead of starting to use it (obviously strange in E) .... and maybe 5 years ago I noticed that they/their was used in generated text snippets on soxial media.
Instead of writing (something like this):
-your post was just commented by her/him [the latter being a link to their page]
something like this was/is used:
-your post was just liked/voted/commented on by [them] = [weblink]
Or another example : ''My car was stopped on the autobahn by the police[man], who got off his/her motorbike. She/he just stared at me withoutta word...bla bla...''
In my humble opion it is not relevant and maybe even not possible to know or see if I was stopped by a she or he and maybe I was to upset or worried or whatever to even remember: If I say ''...who got off their motorbike and wanted to know why I was in a hurry. they even wanted to see what I had in the trunk...''
[ please correct me if I am wrong . I am no native (E/D) speaker. That is why we are heree right]
just mina deux cents...
No, they're talking about English. In English, "they" can be used instead of "he/she" (called single they).
In German, "ihr" is used because the water 1. belongs to the cat (which is a feminine word, regardless of its actual gender), or 2. belongs to some other (grammatically) female person/object, or 3. belongs to them (plural 3rd person, i.e. their water, such as belonging to the dogs).
Duo won't let me reply on your longer comment above, but I wanted to mention some English common usage examples of using "they/them/their" as a gender-neutral singular pronoun or singular pronoun referring to a subject of undetermined gender.
-"Someone just ran through here!" -"Which way did they go?"
-"My friend is leaving soon." -"Are you leaving with them?"
-"Someone left a message for you." -"What was their name?"
I'm not an expert on English grammatical rules or cases as my primary education leaned a lot on asking us "what sounds right," so if this is unrelated or highly tangential to what is being discussed, I apologize.
JohanLarss5's comment is correct but a bit misleading. He left out the part where the use of singular "they" was regarded as ignorant and strongly discouraged for most of the last couple of centuries. You are probably about to find out that there are plenty of people who still take that view, although now it's more likely to be seen as a deliberate attempt to destroy English as we know it than mere ignorance.
All of that is correct, but I have to add that in English we often do refer to animals whose gender is known (our pets, a bull, a lioness...) by "he" and "she". In fact, I'd be surprised to read an article that referred to a lioness as "it". The thing about "it" is that most people would never use that word to refer to a person.
The possesive pronoun in the accusative neuter for "their" is "euer" (since Wasser is neuter). "Ihr" is the feminine accusative neuter (for Katze). "ihr" is used because "Katze" is feminine. When refering to a feminine noun, you can use ihr. You can use either ihr or es in this situation, actually. (A male cat is a different word.)
Some of what he said is wrong, though. Which is why he asked us to ignore it.
The tricky part about these German possessives is that a lot of information is packed into one rather small word. It reflects info about both the item being possessed ("water", in this case) and the entity possessing it ("she" in this case).
Note that in both languages, we do not know who "she" is - could be the cat, could be any other feminine entity. It could even be two or more entities - see below. So forget about the cat for now.
We are trying to determine the correct possessive for "Wasser" in this sentence. We know (or can find out) that Wasser is a neuter noun. And because of its position in the sentence - it is the item acted upon - we know it is in the Accusative case.
Possessives for neuter nouns in the Accusative case are:
my - mein
your - dein (informal singular)
his/its - sein
her - ihr
our - unser
your - euer (informal plural)
their - ihr
your - Ihr (formal, singular or plural)
So. "Die Katze trinkt ihr Wasser" - "The cat drinks/is drinking her/their water." Ta da!
Clear as mud?
Actually, we have no information as to who is being referred to, nor does it make any difference - it could be the cat's water, a woman's water, any feminine-gendered entity's water, or even (because "ihr" can mean either "her" or "their") any plural entity's water - like the dogs' water.
Sorry but in English, we do actually say 'It's theirs' when referring to one persons thing. For example, if someone asked me who the juice belonged to, I would say 'It's theirs' whilst pointing at the individual it belongs to. Saying 'It's hers' would also be fine, but 'it's theirs' is usually viewed as more polite.
When stating a grammatical rule in a post, it may be best to state if the rule you are detailing is in English or in German, or whichever language it may be. This would help to avoid confusion.
THEIR is plural, so is wrong in english. The cats drink their water or The cat drinks his/her/its water
Yes. There is nothing stopping 'ihr' from meaning 'their' in this sentence. The problem is translating that back to English without any context. We use 'their' singularly, but in German it is only a plural word. I think Duolingo wants to emphasize the differences between English their and German their.
You are correct - why do you have any downvotes at all? Cat is singular, so you must have a singular possessive pronoun to go with it because possessive pronouns agree in number and gender. "Their" is plural and genderless. Cat is neuter and singular. Thus "their" can never be correct. It must be the neuter, singular possessive adjective = "its."
I'm confused...I thought "The cat drinks its water." Would be "Die Katze trinkt sein Wasser." I'm using this as a reference: http://marathonsprachen.com/whats-yours-is-mine-german-possessive-articles/ sein being the root for "its" and leave it at that because Wasser is neuter I put "The cat drinks her water" and it was marked correctly, I just don't understand how to get to "its"
Please read other comments before posting.
It is Ihr, because the subject of the sentence (the cat) has no known gender, but the word for cat (die Katze) is feminine. Once you've decided on which pronoun to use based on the subject's gender you then need to decline it based on the direct object's gender. So ihr declined to the neuter 'das Wasser' is still ihr.
Subject = Determines which pronoun to use. This is callled the 'stem'
Direct Object = Determines which declension to use on the pronoun. This is called the 'ending'
Die Katze = feminine = ihr
Das Wasser = neuter = no ending unless Dative
Final Pronoun = ihr
This is slightly different from definite and indefinite articles (a, the) where they refer directly to the following word so they are determined by the following word's gender and then declined based on nominative, accusative, dative.
You can also use this for reference: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_pronouns
I did read all of the comments and I was still confused. I don't usually post questions, all I do is read the comments. But, I think i got it now. The reference I was using (http://marathonsprachen.com/whats-yours-is-mine-german-possessive-articles/) listed "its" as "sein-" but in reality "its" can be "sien-" or "ihr-" depending on the gender of the noun. So...is this the case for all "its," even inanimate objects. Would "The flower lost its petals" be "Die Blume verloren ihr Blütenblätter?"
The form of a possessive pronoun in German has two essential inputs -
1. the gender/number of the owner (NB not necessarily die Katze in this case! - we can't tell from the sentence whose water it actually is)
2. the case and gender/number of the thing owned (das Wasser in this case)
So. Working backward from the given sentence, we look at "Die Katze trinkt ihr Wasser." "Wasser" is singular and neuter, and, because it is the direct object of the sentence, it is in the accusative case.
The singular neuter accusative possessive adjectives are:
mein = my;
dein = your (singular informal);
sein = his;
ihr = her;
sein = its;
unser = our;
euer = your (plural informal);
ihr = their;
Ihr = your (sing.&pl., formal - note essential capital I)
From this, all we can tell about who owns the water is that it is not grammatically masculine or neuter. As you see above, "ihr" could refer to a plural owner. Or it could refer to a grammatically feminine, singular owner.
The further wrinkle in this case is that in English, we might refer to a cat as "she" or as "it", so, either "her" or "its" could work in the translation - assuming the cat is the owner of the water in the first place!!!
1) Die Katze isst seinen fisch. "The cat is eating its/his fish." Note: its/his can not refer to the cat in this sentence. The personal pronoun is telling you the fish does not belong to the cat, because the word cat is feminine. This would probably incite the follow-up question. "Dessen Fisch?" "Whose fish?" (masculine whose since seinen was given).
1b) A quick addendum: You asked me to translate "the cat eats its fish." You'll notice I literally translated 'its', used the single neuter for the personal pronoun, and the feminine 'die Katze'. Because I had no context from you. There's a much better explanation later in this post, but just remember for now that if you literally translate from English to German or vice versa it can become confusing. You have to feel out the context as best you can and then account for the quirks of the language you're converting to.
2) Die Katze trinkt alles ihr wasser. "The cat drinks all their/her water"
3) Die Katze trinkt alles ihr wasser auf dem Tisch. "The cat drinks all their/her water on the table."
4) Die Katze trinkt alles das wasser auf dem Tisch. "The cat drinks all the water on the table." Note: das Wasser is in the accusative here. dem Tisch is in the dative.
5) Das Maedchen ist ein Kind. Es ist tall. "The girl is a child. She is tall." Literally 'it is tall', but Maedchen is neuter and she ('it') is still the subject of our sentence. Confused still? One more. :)
6) Der Käse ist gut, obwohl er alt ist.
If we were to transliterate this we would get: "The cheese is good, although he is old." Germans don't really have an 'it' in the English sense. In the same line of thought 'er/sie/es' don't really mean 'he/she/it', they simply relate to the assigned gender of the subject. It's like when we're talking about a car and say, "She's a beauty." The car isn't actually female. We're just assigning that gender to that word. While, in English, we can randomly do this and get away with it..., the Germans have assigned gender to ALL their words and they have to stick to the gender or it just seems like they misspoke. Thus we get sentences that seem confusing, but you just have to remember in real life you can swap the genders of an inanimate object to neuter when translating to English. Thus, "The cheese is good, although it is old."
Hope that helps. :)
I hope this doesn't sound snarky, for it is not my intention. I simply wish to explain (as I can best imagine) the frustration with many of those who've encountered this sentence. If the possessive "ihre" can be translated as either "her" or "their," then those who chose any of these options should be rewarded as correct. To say that there is a more likely translation, when there is simply no context at all, is a bit much to accept. Furthermore, I have encountered many sentences on DuoLingo (even in the German portion) that would not make logical sense (e.g., "A duck eats a horse.") Now while I may not remember the exact sentence, I used a random one to explain the point that DuoLingo isn't trying to use these sentences for mere realistic plausibility, but rather to teach sentence structure, vocabulary, and grammar. In the case of "ihre Milch," there is an ambiguity behind whether "ihre" is "her" or "their." Now while a person may say that "her" (or in the case of an animal like "Die Katze" being characterized with a possessive "its") is the more likely choice because of the nominative, it is not the only correct possibility--for that is exactly what it is, a possibility. DuoLingo should accept this grammatical ambiguity because that is what is intending to teach. "Ihre" COULD be either "her" (or in this case "its") or "their." A student would only wish to feel rewarded for acknowledging this grammatical ambiguity. It shows understanding in their language progress, and if I was their teacher, I would accept either answer as correct. Now my tome-length of a message here is over, I promise. lol Thanks for taking the time to read all 50 chapters of it. Vielen Dank! :oP
First of all: it is clear that "ihr" does not have have to refer back to the cat. An antecedent to "ihr" may lie in a previous ghost sentence. It's very context-dependent.
Secondly: I think we need a proficient German speaker with grammatical know-how to address this question. I'm fairly confused by the comments so far, so I'd like to try to summarize the issues:
1) True or false: If the cat is drinking its own water, then we must use "ihr" to refer back to the grammatical gender of "die Katze." It seems that German regards animals as objects whose gender is determined grammatically, not biologically.
2) True or false: If the cat is drinking the dogs' (die Hunde) water, then we must use "ihr" to refer to the gender of "die Hunde" (by similar reasoning as in case 1). This holds if the cat is drinking water belonging to any grammatically feminine, non-human entity.
3) True or false: If the cat is drinking water belonging to any human or group of humans, then we must use the corresponding biological pronoun. For "ihr" to work, this would have to be "her" or "their/your (formal)," if we let slide that "ihr" is not capitalized. If capitalization is a must, then "her" is the only appropriate translation for a human antecedent.
Again, please only respond if you are grammatically proficient in German.
Note about translating cases 1 and 2 to English:
1) If "ihr" is indeed referring to the cat, then by English grammar norms, it would be appropriate to translate "ihr" as "his," "her," or "its," since we often assign biological pronouns to animals.
2) If "ihr" is referring to a non-human group of things, then "their" would be the appropriate translation in English.
You have to forget this "human/non-human" concept.
1 and 2) 'ihr' is the base for her or its. 'Die Katze' is not neuter, but feminine. You could easily use 'drinks her water' or 'drinks its water'. Also, 'die Hunde' is plural dog not possessive dog. Also, plural genders are irrelevant. The singular genders still hold.
3) False. Das Mädchen refers to a human and is a neuter noun. ihr would still work for this because ihr refers to feminine and neuter simultaneously, but it's the neuter form you want making 'its' the actual translation. If it were a Der Mann you would use seinen.
1) True, but remember we're trying to understand German complexities, not translate German to English for English comprehension.
2) False. 'ihre' refers to 'her/its' or the third person plural in accusative form, 'her/their' Also, this has nothing to do with humans. Any group can be 'ihre'.
Pronouns in general have the possibility of being ambiguous, in both English and German. It all depends on context. In English, if the cat happens to be female, the sentence "The cat is drinking her water" can be just as ambiguous as the German sentence, since animals of known gender are often referred to using he or she in English instead of it. The "her" in "The cat is drinking her water" could possibly refer to the cat if it's female, a female person, or even any animal that is known to be female.
A similar ambiguity exists in the German sentence. The "ihr" in "ihr Wasser" could refer to anything feminine, including a female owner or even a female cat. But it's also possible that the cat's gender is unknown. If the gender is unknown, "die Katze" is still a feminine noun, so you would still use the feminine "ihr"
Only in the nominative (the subject of the sentence) and not possessive. It is just a feature of German that these little words tend to switch around to have different meanings in different contexts. Because "Wasser" is the direct object of this sentence, it is in the accusative case, and the possessive pronouns are different. Sigh.
I've printed off these charts and consult them frequently. Some day I may get to where I don't need them.....
In general, German could sounds strange. Here's a chart that might help you... (look for possessive form)
I read all of the comments including a very technical comment justifying why "ihr" is "its" and not "her" in this sentence. Sorry, I don't get it. Let's say its my cat and it is female and I want to tell you that it is drinking its own water. "Die Katze trinkt ihr Wasser" would seem to work just fine in this situation. If, instead of "ihr" I substituted "sein" the cat would either be male or "it" as "sein" is the possessive pronoun in both instances. If this is wrong, please enlighten me.
You seem to be way passed this, but I'll toss in my two cents for the rest of us. The sentence is literally, "The cat drinks her/their water." But we as English speakers don't want to transliterate German (or any language). We want to translate it for the masses that don't speak and understand German. If you went to a wikipedia article and transliterated it you'd only be half way to a decent translation. So, Duolingo accepts the better answer which is, "The cat drinks its water." Since, in English 'cat' is a non-gendered word.
Also, if you substituted 'sein' for 'ihr' you would literally be saying, "The cat drinks his water." Since Katze is feminine a German would hear, "Die Katze trinkt sein Wasser" and assume you were talking about another masculine gendered word. Who is not the cat.
I think always trying will turn you frustrated. A view to some grammar guides is really helpful. Endings can depend on the article form itself (der/einer), the gender of the word, the grammatical case of course, if the word is a countsable word or not, and one additional fact I just don't remember at the moment. All these facts can work at the same time! A look at some tables is really helpful!
Das Wasser Die Katze trinkt ihr Wasser. (Die Katze; Her Water in german) Der Hund trinkt sein Wasser. (Der Hund; His Water in german)
Die Erdbeere Die Katze isst ihre Erdbeere. Der Hund isst seine Erdbeere.
Der Kaffee Die Katze trinkt ihren Kaffee. Der Hund trinkt seinen Kaffee.
The verbs "essen" and "trinken" need "Akusativ"
More or less. In German the feminine pronoun ihr is used on account of the grammatical gender of the word
Katze and irrespective of the sex of the actual specimen being referred to in the sentence.
In English, there are no grammatical genders (this means that a word is neither masculine nor feminine nor neuter nor any other gender). When we use its we are simply referring to a thing or a child or animal of unspecified biological gender (we do not know or do not care if it's a he-cat, she-cat or anything else).
If in English we had used her, we would be referring to the biological gender of the animal, unlike ihr in German.
I hope this helps.
The possessive form is "its".
My, your, his, her, its, our, your, their.
"It's" is a contraction (shortened form) for "it is". It works just like:
"I'm" - "I am"
"You're" - "you are"
"He's" - "he is"
"She's" - "she is"
"It's" - "it is"
"We're" - "we are"
"You're" - "you are"
"They're" - "they are".
A lot of English natives mix these, too.
The cat is drinking it's water. it's is marked wrong. Why? The apostrophe is used to indicate that the water belongs to the cat. It's can also mean "it is" the apostrophe, in this case, indicating that a letter or letters are missing. English is confusing too, and I am a native English speaker.
1. "es" = "it", not "its". You need the possessive here.
2. In English, nouns have no gender. If we know the gender of a cat, we may refer to it as "he" or "she", if not, we will say "it". But in German, "Katze" is grammatically feminine. Therefore, if the cat is drinking its own water, we use the feminine possessive, "ihr". Not because the cat is female, which may or may not be the case, but because "Katze" is feminine.
It depends on the grammatical gender of the noun referred to. Note that all nouns have grammatical gender, unlike in English. In English, anything that does not have biological gender is an "it", but in German, things with masculine (or neuter) grammatical gender will use the possessive "sein" and things with feminine grammatical gender will use "ihr".
Do not forget, as well, that once you've worked out the above, you also have to consider the number, gender and case of the item possessed! So:
The cat licked its fur: die Katze leckte ihr Fell "ihr" because it's "die Katze" and because "das Fell" is neuter
The cat licked its paw: die Katze leckte ihre Pfote still "ihr" for "die Katze", but now has the feminine ending, "ihre", because "die Pfote" is feminine.
Both "its water" and "her water" are accepted. "Her water" is a direct translation, and, without context, we don't actually know if the water belongs to the cat or some other female entity. "Its water" assumes the water belongs to the cat, which is certainly possible, and because in English an animal of unknown gender is usually referred to as "it".
Duo does not use singular "their". I do, myself, but I recognize that its use is not (yet) widely accepted in English, and, given the ferocious squabbles that regularly erupt in these fora over what is or is not correct English, I do not blame them for standing aside from this one.
3. It could still be "their water", though, if the water happened to belong to some plural entity - the dogs' water, the hamsters' water, whatever. Not entirely sure if Duo has accepted "their water", though.
So if "Die Katze trinkt ihr Wasser" means "The cat drinks it's water" would that mean that "The dog drinks it's water" would be "Der Hund trinkt sein Wasser"?
Am I getting that right or is that wrong? I am still trying to get my head around this.
Thank you in advance for any help.
Short answer: yes!
But note that, just as "ihr Wasser" could be either "its [NB not "it's"] water" or "her water", or even "their water", "sein Wasser" could be either "its water" or "his water". Since we don't know whose water we are actually talking about.
Please note that this ambiguity is somewhat the same in English.
Example: "The cat is drinking her water". Without further context, you don't know if the cat is drinking from your mother's water glass, or from her (the cat's) own water dish, or, for that matter, from some other (female) animal's water dish. "Her" could mean any of those things, but in a normal conversation, you would know which. Right?
A point to remember: In English we can refer to an animal by its biological gender - "The cat is drinking her own water" - or we can just refer to it as "it" - "The cat is drinking its own water". In German, the grammatical gender is attached to the word - "eine Katze" is a feminine word, and "ein Hund" is a masculine word.
[Side issue: there are specific words for "male cat" (ein Kater), and "female dog" (eine Hundin) but I gather they are not usually used unless you need to make a point of the animal's biological gender.]
Hope that helps.
Haha - I'll tell you a secret. When someone asks a question I think I know the answer to, I first have to check sources and try to make sure I really do understand what I'm talking about. By the time I've done that, and then put my understanding into words, I've learned a ton! I've learned at least as much from both asking and answering questions on these fora as I have from the lessons themselves.
It is evident that Duolingo has permanent problems with some pronouns. Ihr - you (Nominativ plural ) ; ihr - her ( Accusativ singular ) ; ihr - your ( Accusativ plural ) . Similar problems are also with pronoun - sie. In sentense given above the first translation will be - the cat drinks her water. And now, " the cat drinks its water" also can be translated -Die Katze trinkt ihr Wasser. Bove sentenses are proper. Unsure is only the meaning.
The answer that DUO gave me was - "The cat drinks her water." I was just wondering where the Her part came from? this indicates in English that either the cat is a female or it is owned by a female neither of these two options are revealed by the context of the statement.
I could easily accept "The cat drinks its water" because that is a gender neutral statement but "Her water" is confusing to any native English speaker in this particular instance mostly because a cat is neither male nor female in English a cat is a cat there are other words for its gender In German a Pferd is Pferd whatever the gender is, it is still a horse one of the things that is infuriating about learning German is the different uses of grammar Mark Twain was correct about most the difficulties of Learning German.
Do you understand that die Katze is a feminine noun?
Are you ranting about the idiosyncratic use of her in the English translation? This course is meant for German practice. It is neither an English course nor meant to teach translation and it may take some licence in order to emphasise points of German (not English) grammar.
This is one is a total mess from what I can tell:
"Die Katze trinkt ihr Wasser"...
Should be "Die Katze trinkt seine Wasser" ... sein(e) for "it's" (possessive, and Katze being a feminine noun), if we have no previous context about the Nominative Personal Pronoun's gender. This is confusing everyone because they wrote it wrong I believe.
Bottom line, I don't think "ihr" should have any place in this sentence at all. It makes zero sense and I think it's a typo unless someone has some actual reasonable explanation.
It is "ihr" in German because the word Katze is grammatically feminine. It doesn't indicate anything about the biological gender of the cat. In any case, we don't even know if the water belongs to the cat or to some other feminine-gendered creature or object. (Might it be the water for a flower? Could be.)
So, I see two possibilities here where "ihr" might be plausibly translated as "its":
1. The water is water that is used for a flower, or some other feminine-gendered thing that has no biological gender.
2. The water is the cat's water, and we don't know the cat's biological gender. In English, if we don't know the gender of the cat, we might well say "its".
Therefore, "its" is a possible correct translation of "ihr" in this situation.
Actual German-speakers, please correct or confirm.
No. My hunch is that if you call the cat by its name, it being your pet or a male specimen you know closely, than you may treat as male. But not if you are referring to it just as "Die Katze", then it becomes feminine, otherwise it will be confusing for the listener. But that is a GUESS based on how we deal with animal gender in my language, not a proven fact.
Why? It is a correct translation. There's nothing in the sentence to indicate possession. It could well be that the cat is drinking from a womans cup. Also since cat is feminine it is correct, though odd to native english speakers, to refer to all cats, toms included, as she. In this case, from my understanding, even though the cat could be male you would still say 'her water'.
The reason is that, technically speaking, their, even in English, is not singular. We use it that way, of course, to avoid the sexist singular general singular "his", but their is plural (genitive of "them"), and so if you're translating it literally into German, their would cause disagreement in number for a singular subject.