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In American English, I would say "the company...it said" but I know in British English they use the plural as in "the company...they said".

How is this handled in German? Which of these sentences is correct?

Das ist übrigens ein Bild von einer Bildagentur, vielleicht verwendet sie ein ungewöhnliches Newlinezeichen?

Das ist übrigens ein Bild von einer Bildagentur, vielleicht verwenden sie ein ungewöhnliches Newlinezeichen?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Strictly gramatically, it has to be singular. One company. The article tells you this much.

Das ist übrigens ein Bild von einer Bildagentur, vielleicht verwendet sie ein ungewöhnliches Newlinezeichen?

However, in colloquial German you will usually hear

Das ist übrigens ein Bild von einer Bildagentur, vielleicht verwenden sie ein ungewöhnliches Newlinezeichen?

The reason behind this is a shift of focus from the company itself to the people working there, on this particular project.

Das ist übrigens ein Bild von einer Bildagentur, vielleicht verwenden sie [the guys at the company] ein ungewöhnliches Newlinezeichen?

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As a side note / question: how do you translate newline? Zeilenumbruch? Zeilenumbruchzeichen? –  Giorgio Jan 4 '12 at 11:45
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"Zeilenumbruch" is the usual translation of "newline". I have never heard anyone say "Zeilenumbruchzeichen"; maybe you'd rather say "vielleicht verwenden sie ein ungewöhnliches Zeichen für den Zeilenumbruch". –  elena Jan 4 '12 at 12:25
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I think lawyers and other formal bots always refer to companies in singular, female form. This is because practically all companies are "societies", i.e. Gesellschaften, which is a female term. –  TheBlastOne Jan 4 '12 at 13:59
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“Zeilenumbruchzeichen” would be correct if you were referring to the technical character that is responsible for the “Zeilenumbruch”. But you would only do that in technical language. Usually “Zeilenumbruch” or “neue Zeile” is what you will hear. –  poke Jan 4 '12 at 16:31

The Grammar in this case is based on the juristic background, which treats companys as "juristische Person" - to put it in a simple form: a company is a person. This is why in legal context you always use the singular.

Your example sound a little "germish" to me. What are you trying to say?

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I'm trying to say that the picture is from a photo agency, and perhaps they used an unconventional newline character. It's taken from a specific context that isn't included, but the point is whether the pronoun for the company should be plural or singular. –  Edward Tanguay Jan 4 '12 at 16:21
    
...in that case: singular. "Das ist übrigens ein Bild von einer Bildagentur, sie verwendet wohl ein ungewöhnliches Zeilenumbruchzeichen?" "vielleicht" would fit as translation in a lot of cases... but the perhaps here doesn't stand for "maybe", does it? –  blindfold Jan 6 '12 at 10:11

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