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I want to translate the sentce

These are newspapers.

Newspaper is die Zeitung, plural is die Zeitungen. Since this plural has die as an article, I thought this should be diese (because with die it’s meine, deine and so on).

The system I’m using to learn (duolingo) states the translation should be:

Dies sind Zeitungen.

However, I don’t clearly understand what’s the difference between dies and diese.

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I'll be a bit more general. And in general, it depends on context.
The "dies"-version is, as the other answer noted, the same as

Es/Das sind Zeitungen.

Only that "dies", just like "das hier", is a stronger pointer. So strong in fact that, at least to me, it sounds a bit off with abstract thing.

Dies sind gute Ideen.

Unless they are written down on paper, I would much prefer "das" here.

"Dies" will not work, whenever we are NOT dealing with a predicate nominative assignment like "A thing is/becomes a thing". Often the items referred to have been established before.

Bei Captcha werden oft Bilderrätsel verwendet, diese sind allerdings nicht barrierefrei.

More examples here.

So, "dies" works if "das" works. "Diese" works if "sie" (they) works.

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In your last example, it's simply a demonstrative pronoun (I know that you know that, but you haven't mentioned it). Demonstrative pronouns and demonstrative adjectives are usually not just dies. But in some instances the neuter pronoun dieses is replaced with dies though. However, when referring to an abstract thing you rather go with dies. "Ich wollte deine Ideen umsetzen, dies ist mir jedoch nicht gelungen." Using dieses here would be possible though. – Em1 Apr 1 '14 at 6:57

Diese (demonstrative pronoun) will be employed when the contextual focus is on a superset of what is singled out. Adopting your example, imagine several piles of printed material, one of which somebody is pointing at saying Diese [Druckerzeugnisse] sind Zeitungen.

So commonly you'd indeed say Dies sind Zeitungen.

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I think you always use "Dies" in that case. It does not depend on the gender of the object:

These are cars. = Dies sind Autos. ~ Das sind Autos.

These are cats. = Dies sind Katzen. ~ Das sind Katzen.

These are spoons. = Dies sind Löffel. ~ Das sind Löffel.

However, I cannot tell for sure whether this is still the case if the sentence is more complex.

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If I did not fully misunderstand the question, the problem was not about gender but grammatical number, i.e., the conflict between dies (singular) and Zeitungen and sind (plural). – Wrzlprmft Mar 29 '14 at 18:18

These (things) (here) are newspapers.


Diese (Dinger) (hier) sind Zeitungen.

Is correct but the "hier" makes it more clear that you are talking about a group of individual news-papers. Probably not even of the same kind. The hand motion would encompass all of them.

This is newspapers (in a stack/stacked). (This is a stack of newspapers.)


Dies sind Zeitungen (in einem Stapel). (Dies ist ein Stapel Zeitungen. Oder: Dies ist ein Zeitungsstapel.)

In this way you point out that it is a collation, a stack or a group of newspapers. You point in the general direction without highlighting that there are many different newspapers inside the stack. Since it's probably just a stack made up of several copies of the same paper.

The hand motion would just be pointing at the stack and leave it at that. Nothing more to see here.

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Dies is a demonstrative pronoun with the declination table to be found here. It always refers to an element of a set.

„Dieses Buch gehört Peter.“ refers to one (Peter's) element of the set of books.

In contrast du posessive pronouns, they cannot refer to something established later on.

Sein Geschenk hat Peter nicht gefallen.“ works perfectly fine.

„Dieses Buch gehört Peter.“ works, because the set is established along.

„Dieses ist Peters Buch.“ doesn't work on its own, because the set is established later on. It can, however, work if the set of books was established in a sentence before or is conclusively established along by pointing.

But dies can refer to some unknown set (or the class of everything) as well. In that case, it isn't declinated.

In you case, dies refers to some unknown set. So it should be

Dies sind Zeitungen.

Depending on context, Diese sind Zeitungen. might work as well, for example, if a shopowner shows you his goods (Waren) and names them.

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