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I see many times sentences like:

Ich nehme diese schönen Äpfel. Die sind billig! (or: Wie schmecken die?)

whereas I'd say: "sie sind billig/wie schmecken sie?", or

"Mark ist dort. Den will ich kennen lernen"

whereas I'd say: "ihn will ich kennen lernen" etc. and similar.

Since they're so common, I guess it's correct. But, are the other forms (with "sie/ihn") also correct? Is there some rule to prefer one form to the other?

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3  
Interesting question. My first instinct was to say "Spoken German often substitutes personal pronouns for definite articles." I'm still sure it happens at times, but it does seem to follow a pattern. "Hast Du Petra gesehen?" - "Die war eben noch da". But: "Ich hab mit Petra gesprochen." - "Was hat sie gesagt?" Note that this is colloquial style; in written (or very correctly spoken) German you'd definitely use the personal pronoun. –  elena Sep 11 '13 at 8:24
    
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2 Answers

If you say:

Ich nehme diese schönen Äpfel. Die sind billig!

you mean:

I take these beautiful Apples. These/those are cheap!

Instead, if you say:

Ich nehme diese schönen Äpfel. Sie sind billig!

you mean:

I take these beautiful Apples. They are cheep!

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This is not quite accurate... what is this then: "Diese sind billig"... And for the second example of OP the "den" is actually more a "that one" than a "this one". So my point is... the definite article is NOT the same as the English demonstrative pronoun "this". I am afraid it is not that simple. Hence -1 –  Emanuel Sep 11 '13 at 11:00
    
OK, I'm neither a native German nor English speaker, so I'm clearly no expert. For me, the "Die sind billig" stresses the fact that those are cheap, whereas "Diese sind billig" would just state that those are cheap, without the same intensity. What do you think? If you can come up with a better answer, please reply to the original question :-) –  Pierre Arnaud Sep 12 '13 at 13:08
    
To me it is the other way around... "Diese sind billig" stresses the fact that we're talking about "these/the afore mentioned"... die sind billig is just they or those without any special emphasis. I don't really have a good answer otherwise I would have given it a shot. But in context of the apple example I am tempted to say that if you said "Sie sind billig" you're making them into some kin dof protagonist of a longer story... so I would expect more about the life of those apples, if that makes any sense. Don't hesitate to answer in the future by the way :) there is no better way to learn –  Emanuel Sep 12 '13 at 18:16
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In case there is more than one sort of apples, the definit article (der, die, das) stronger delimits the aforesaid apples from the others.

Ich nehme diese schönen Äpfel. Die sind billig! / Wie schmecken die?

If there are other sorts, that indicates that these apples are cheaper than the others (die unlike the others).

Sie sind billig! / Wie schmecken sie?

used in the same situation would do so as well, but only in a slight manner. Instead it more emphasizes the billig and schmecken.


Note
It is worth to mention that in any case both adjectives would rather appear in the second statement

Ich nehme diese Äpfel. Die/Sie sind billig und schön!

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