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I am struggling with the basics of German grammar. In translating the following sentence from English to German:

I do not see her

I have arrived at

Ich sehe sie nicht

Which I believe to be correct, however to change the accusative of the sentence (in this case sieher) to they — ‘I do not see them’, the result is exactly the same in German. Is this normal in German or have I made a mistake?

5

In the German "case" structure, the feminine and the plural are most alike (and similarly, the masculine and neuter genders are most alike).

Specifically, the feminine and the plural are alike in the nominative, genitive and accusative cases. So you are correct, and not "seeing things" when you note that they are the same in the accusative case.

(The masculine and neuter are not alike in the nominative and accusative cases, but are alike in the genitive and dative cases.)

5

Yes, your translation is correct.

The conjugated forms of the female singular personal pronoun are: sie, ihrer, ihr, sie.

On the other hand the conjugated forms of the third person plural personal pronoun are: sie, ihrer, ihnen, sie.

As you see the accusative cases are the same for both pronouns.

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That's perfectly normal. If you think, that it can lead to ambiguity, you might want to provide additional information or rewrite a part of your sentence.

2

Not a mistake. It is indeed ambiguous.

"Ich sehe sie nicht." alone can indeed mean "I don't see her." and "I don't see them." as well as (in speech) "I don't see you." with 'Sie' capitalised as the formal/polite 'you'.

2

Languages have homographs (words spelt the same), homophones (words pronounced the same) and homonyms (words spelt and pronounced the same).

In German, a particularly tricky set of homophones (two of which are also homographs) are sie (3rd person singular feminine), sie (3rd person plural) and Sie (formal 2nd person singular or plural). In writing, one can at least distinguish between the formal Sie and the others, and in every case where sie is the subject the verb’s form will help you distinguish between singular and plural. Other than that, context is king and sometimes even with context sentences remain fully ambiguous.

German is not a particularly special language here; English has you (2nd person singular and plural, subject and object form), too. So if I took the following German examples, they translate identically into English, too:

Ich sehe dich nicht.

Ich sehe euch nicht.

I do not see you.

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