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I've found these sentences in a book:

"Möchte Sie Banknoten mit Bildern von Kaninchen?"

and a couple of lines later:

"Welche möchte Sie lieber - mit Bildern von Kaninchen oder von Hunden?"

Is this correct? I would have expected "Möchten Sie".

The sentences are part of a conversation, so it's definitely meant to be 'Sie' rather than 'sie'. Also, the book is "A Second German Reader" by Elisabeth May (Kindle edition, 2012), so it's supposed to be teaching me modern German.

  • so person A is asking person B what kind B would prefer, right? Then it should be "möchten". – Emanuel Nov 17 '14 at 20:41
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    How old is this book? Once upon a time third person singular was used for politely addressing someone. – Hulk Nov 18 '14 at 6:26
  • @CharlesAnderson: I wouldn't necessarily agree with that conclusion. Though that may be regional, I have met some Germans who adressed others in the third person (in which case "Welche möchte sie lieber?" would be the correct way to write this), especially in situations when they were unsure whether to use "du" or "Sie". – O. R. Mapper Nov 18 '14 at 11:10
  • @CharlesAnderson: Bitte keine versprenkelten Korrekturen in Kommentaren ansammeln, die jeder lesen muss, sondern die Frage verbessern (Editfunktion). Die Frage muss ohne das Lesen der Kommentare verständlich sein. – user unknown Jan 5 '15 at 0:29
  • Die Frage bitte in ihrem desaströsen Zustand den sie jetzt hat abwerten und schließen, bis die Fehler behoben sind. Ich fass es nicht, 7 Upvotes für diesen Schrott! – user unknown Jan 5 '15 at 0:31
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Strictly speaking,

welche möchte Sie lieber?

would mean something like

which one likes you better?

Meaning Sie would be the object of mögen, and welche the subject.

Without any more context I would say that it was indeed a typo, the construction would only work in certain situations (in this case welche would have to refer to a previously mentioned feminine noun).

Another possibility would be that the sentence actually goes

welche möchte sie lieber?

sie being the third person singular.

Edit: Judging by your comment on the question, I would say it's definitely a typo and should indeed be möchten.

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    Damn straight. +1 for being the only one to actually mention the (admittedly theoretical) context in which this would be correct as is. – Emanuel Nov 17 '14 at 20:38
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    Could you elaborate on an example for this context? I fail at imagining one. – Harald Nov 18 '14 at 14:49
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    A sitzt neben ihrem Freund B und telefoniert mit ihrer Schwester C. A: "Meine Schwester C fragt, ob du ihr eine Schwimmbrille leihen kannst." B: "Ja, klar. Ich habe eine mit hellen und eine mit dunklen Gläsern. Welche möchte sie lieber?" – Sumyrda - Reinstate Monica Nov 19 '14 at 17:16
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    @Ornello no, möchtet is the conjugation for the person ihr. See also: de.wiktionary.org/wiki/m%C3%B6gen_%28Konjugation%29 The downvote was not appreciated ;D – clinch Jan 2 '15 at 15:44
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    @Ornello I would be careful about the sites you use. That site seems to assume that every verb that's not in its database is a regular verb or something like that. möchten is not a full verb, it's the Konjunktiv II of the verb mögen, it's not a verb of its own. – clinch Jan 2 '15 at 15:50
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You are right, in both cases you need an "n"

  • "Möchten Sie Banknoten mit Bildern von Kaninchen?"
  • "Welche möchten Sie lieber - mit Bildern von Kaninchen oder von Hunden?"

It also doesn't matter if you are talking about "eine Banknote" or "zehn Banknoten". Asking a good friend, I would say "Möchtest Du Banknoten mit Bildern von Kaninchen?" The ending of the word relates to the person - not the "Banknoten".

In all these cases you are directly talking to this person, hence the polite "Sie/Du". As a sidemark when I write a German letter I should use "ich" in lowercase and "Du/Sie" in uppercase. In English it's the other way round - for me often a problem.

In the proposed alternative "Welche möchte sie lieber?", two persons are talking about a third, no need to be polite ;-)

  • No, if two persons are talking about a third (female), it would be: "Welche möchtet sie lieber?" See: konjugator.reverso.net/… – Ornello Jan 2 '15 at 16:19
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    @Ornello - Sorry but your example is wrong and doesn't exist. It's either "Welche möchte sie lieber?" (female third person), "Welche möchte er lieber?" (male third person), "Welche möchten sie lieber?" (multiple third persons) or "Welche möchtet Ihr lieber?" (direct talk to multiple persons), "Welche möchtest Du lieber?" (direct talk to one person, good known), "Welche möchten Sie lieber?" (direct talk to one person, polite). New year greetings from Switzerland. – Kitana Jan 3 '15 at 17:09
  • @Ornello - Please keep your tone a bit more kindly. I must admit that I didn't had a look at reverso. However I have to remark that the use of möchten as an independent verb is disputed. See link (german). Usually möchten is a flectional form of mögen. See link. Now we have another special case, the so called präteritopräsens. Even if disputable, "Welche möchte sie lieber?" is the normally used form. – Kitana Jan 5 '15 at 12:42
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  1. It is an old way of being polite: addressing your dialog partner in 3rd person.

    [Directly talking to a female person]
    DE "Welche möchte Sie lieber?"
    EN "Which one would she like to have?"

  2. The text is written in dialect spoken in Hessen, Germany (hessischer Dialekt).

    "Welche Farbe möchte sie habe, mei Meister?"

    In this example, someone is talking to another person in plural (polite form).

  • Wie wird "sie" im Hessischen ausgesprochen? – Carsten S Nov 18 '14 at 8:16
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    You 1. may be it - at least this Google Ngram indicates this. – Takkat Nov 18 '14 at 12:08
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There are two possibilities what this sentence could mean, but both would contain misspells:

  1. The sentence is a direct question to the reader and uses the polite Sie-form. This is implied by the capitalized Sie. In this case, the verb needs an n, just as you suspected.
  2. The reader is being asked about the preferences of a female third person. In that case, the capital Sie is wrong.

To decide which meaning was intended, we'll need more context.

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    there are 3 possibilities. See clinch's answer. – Emanuel Nov 17 '14 at 20:39
  • Option 2 doesn't have to refer to a third person. In some regions, it is not completely unusual that others are adressed in the 3rd person form as "er" and "sie", respectively, when the one talking is unsure whether to use "du" or "Sie". cf., for example, this article: "Eine andere Zwischenform ist (...) die dritte Person Singular (Ansprache mit „Er“)" – O. R. Mapper Nov 18 '14 at 11:12
  • But it would be "Sie" (capital letter) if adressing s.o. in the third person /honorific use. – Stephie Nov 18 '14 at 11:45
  • @O. R. Mapper: addressing somebody using 3rd person is entirely unusual today; that’s reserved for addressing the king but Germany doesn’t have a king… – Holger Nov 18 '14 at 16:03
  • @Holger: It may not be widespread or just a regional use, but it is still somewhat common today, also among "younger" people (of, say, less than 30 years of age). As I explained, it can serve as a way to avoid the decision whether to use "du" or "Sie" when adressing someone. – O. R. Mapper Nov 18 '14 at 17:10
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We need more of the context to give a useful answer.

The sentence could be correct, and if it is correct its translation is:

Which one does she prefer?

  • This would be right if it weren't for the capital S in Sie. – clinch Nov 17 '14 at 20:10
  • No, that would require the small s in sie. Capital S Sie requires möchten. – Ornello Jan 2 '15 at 15:59
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Judging from your comment on your initial question

Okay, the full sentences are: "Möchte Sie Banknoten mit Bildern von Kaninchen?", and "Welche möchte Sie lieber - mit Bildern von Kaninchen oder von Hunden?" They are part of a conversation, so it's definitely meant to be 'Sie' rather than 'sie'.

"möchte" is valid, if "Sie" refers to a woman that isn't present in the scene. Basicly the person is asking what the woman would like, bunnies or dogs.

You can read about it here. At 2.d you (last paragraph) you can find an example similar to the one you provided.

sie möchte (hätte gern) ein Fahrrad zu Weihnachten

  • I forgot to mention that "Sie" (capital letter) is perfectly fine in this case, but unusual. I don't know why the people here keep insisting otherwise. – Hannay Nov 18 '14 at 14:04
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    Well, the capital letter is the indication that it is not a "woman that isn't present in the scene" but a honorific second-person pronoun, and thus singular. – Harald Nov 18 '14 at 15:14
  • I think "Sie" is "Femininum Singular" and thus correct in this case – Hannay Nov 19 '14 at 8:54
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So far as I know:

If Sie is capitalized, it means 'you' and takes the verb möchten.

If sie is not capitalized, it means 'they' if the verb is möchten.

If sie is not capitalized, it means 'she' if the verb is möchtet.

See: conjugation tables for möchten

If it is Konjunktive I, it would require a wenn, or Falls, I think, or it would have to be placed at the beginning of a question.

Why are people voting this down? It's the correct answer!

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