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Near the end of the TV mini-series Band of Brothers about World War II, a short speech is given by a German general to his subordinates. In the speech, he uses ihr (and related pronouns euch and euer). However, in the very last sentence, he switches to the pronoun Sie, saying:

Sie alle verdienen ein langes und glückliches Leben im Frieden.

I’m well aware that it may be an oversight in the script, but I’m curious if there is a real German language reason for this switch in pronouns. As I understand it, switching pronouns from du to Sie in a single conversation would be unusual, and I assume it to also be the case for ihr to Sie.

Also, would the answer be the same in today’s German compared to the German in use in 1945, the setting of the speech?

It should be noted that the actor is a native German speaker.

  • 1
    I just listened to it searching for some clue of changing reference but I can’t find it. It strikes me as weird. – Jan Nov 13 '16 at 18:16
  • Could it be he switched from 2nd to 3rd person plural, speaking to someone other than those "deserving the long life..."? E.g. speaking to the audience present, the cinema audience, or a deity? – Zsolt Szilagy Nov 14 '16 at 11:48
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    Not relevant to your question, but it might be "in Frieden" which would be more common than "im Frieden" (both are possible). – user1583209 Nov 14 '16 at 23:16
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This might not be a mistake, but very deliberately done. As comrades of war the general says du and ihr to his fellows. But at the very end of his speech, he wants to make clear that this is over and he switches to the normal Anrede of civil life, which would be Sie, and that will be used hereafter.

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  • 10
    Yes, this is deliberately done. It's the general's last line, he dismissed his troops that way. – Janka Nov 13 '16 at 22:40

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