Can we say instead of

Anstatt sich gesund zu ernähren, essen sie Fast-Food.

the following?

Anstatt sich gesund zu ernähren, essen se Fast-Food.


I had an oral exam in german I used this. Can you tell me if it is correct? Can we say it in spoken language? Is it formal?

  • I had an oral exam in german I used this. Can you tell me if it is correct? Can we say it in spoken language? Is it formal? @CarstenSchultz – Mary Star Feb 8 '15 at 15:22
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    Wenn du ein Dialekt sprechen würdest, könnte 's und se schon richtig sein, aber dann müßtest du alles in Dialekt sagen. Bei einer Deutschprüfung ist se für sie bestimmt nicht richtig. – rogermue Feb 8 '15 at 17:52

In some German dialects “sie” is pronounced “se”. If you do not speak such a dialect, then using “se” is out of place.


It should be clear that using se for sie in written language is incorrect, except for reproducing spoken language.

However, in oral language, se for sie (3rd person singular or plural) or Sie (formal address) is quite common and I cannot assign it to a special dialect. It is colloquial speech that can be heard from Berlin to Munich to Cologne. For example:

Na, hörnse mal! (Hören Sie...)
Hamse das gesehen? (Haben Sie...)
Kommense mal her! (Kommen Sie...)
Kommen deine Eltern zu Besuch oder kommense nicht? (...kommen sie nicht)
Kommt deine Schwester zu Besuch oder kommtse nicht? (... kommt sie nicht)

In my understanding, it is essential that the pronoun se can only be used when it comes after the verb. It is then a clitic with reduced schwa vowel.
And sometimes this schwa even gets omitted, see the comments below.

I don't think that your grades get worse for using the colloquial form se; at least not as long as the task wasn't explicitly to use formal German.

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    I do doubt that you will hear "se" in southern Germany - and certainly not in Munich. Unless this person is not from Munich, of course. In Munich it's "eana" ;) – Gerhard Feb 8 '15 at 17:24
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    @Gerhard: Laut Wikipedia gibt es das klitische s(e) auch im Bairischen. Als Beispiel wird gegeben: Håm’s da’s scho zoagt? - Håm s(e) d(ia) (de)s scho zoagt? - Haben sie es dir schon gezeigt? Das Zweite soll laut Wiki "'weniger' Bairisch", dafür "typisch fränkisch" sein. Ich will jetzt auch nicht auf Fränkisch vs. Bairisch rumreiten oder auf dem Schwa in se bestehen. Mein Punkt war der: Dieses angehängte, unbetonte "sie" kommt unsystematisch verteilt fast überall vor. – Chris Feb 8 '15 at 20:14
  • @Gerhard im Schwäbischen hört man das sehr oft: z.B. "Henntse des scho g'hört?" (Haben Sie das schon gehört) - "Des hennntse doch net ernscht g'meint?" - (Das haben Sie doch nicht ernst gemeint?) "Essetse no älles uff" (Essen Sie ruhig alles auf) – Takkat Feb 8 '15 at 20:55
  • In Bavarian, the mentioned Schwalaut is simply not there, rather than being omitted. One could use it (say, for intonation purposes), but it's rare. – user6191 Feb 8 '15 at 23:10
  • of course "se" is a special dialect. It's used in many german regions, but not in all (e.g. Bavaria) In Austria it's also not used. We just use a simple "s". So your examples would be: Na, hörens mal! Kommens mal her! Hams das gsehn? usw. – kappadoky Feb 9 '15 at 14:06

No, not in written language. "sie" means "they", "se" is no word at all. But in spoken language some people could talk like that.

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    Is it formal if we use it in spoken language? – Mary Star Feb 8 '15 at 15:15
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    No, it is just a simplification and not formal. – Benjoyo Feb 8 '15 at 15:36
  • I used it in an oral exam in german. Will I get now some negative points from that? – Mary Star Feb 8 '15 at 15:43
  • @user159870 I doubt that you get negative points only because of this. – Bartłomiej Zalewski Feb 8 '15 at 15:58
  • Like Carsten Schulz said, it's out of place but it sounds similar to "sie", so maybe it wasn't even recognized. – Benjoyo Feb 8 '15 at 16:05

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