3

Ich hatte gehofft, Frauen würden sie anders behandeln.

  1. {sie as the subject}: I had hoped they would treat women in a different manner.

  2. {Frauen as the subject}: I had hoped women would treat her/them in a different manner.


If both are indeed possible, do different intonations or something help to distinguish between the two meanings? Or does the sentence leave some ambiguity in any case?

  • Depends on the context, as so often. – Robert Apr 19 '17 at 0:48
4

Your sentence can be interpreted in many different ways.

The written version, as posted in your question, can not only be interpreted in two ways, but in four different ways (numbers 1 to 4 in the list below).

If this sentence would not be written, but spoken, you even have four additional possibilities, because then you don't know if it was »sie« (she, her, they, them) or »Sie« (yousingular, youplural). (#5 - #8).

You can eliminate the hope-part, and condense the sentence to its relevant part:

Frauen behandeln sie/Sie anders.


And here is the list of all eight possible interpretations:

  1. Frauen = subject (in nominative case); sie = lower case; accusative object, 3rd person singular.

    Women treat her different.

  2. same as 1, but sie is 3rd person plural

    Women treat them different.

  3. Frauen = accusative object, sie = subject in nominative case, 3rd person singular

    She treats women different.

  4. Like 3, but sie = 3rd person plural

    They treat women different.

  5. Frauen = subject; Sie is uppercase, 2nd person singular

    Women treat yousingular different.

  6. Frauen = subject; Sie is uppercase, 2nd person plural

    Women treat youplural different.

    (As you see, here also is an ambiguity in English; you don't know if you is singular or plural)

  7. Frauen = accusative object, Sie is uppercase, 2nd person singular

    Yousingular treat women different.

  8. Frauen = accusative object, Sie is uppercase, 2nd person plural

    Youplural treat women different.

    (Same singular-plural-ambiguity between 7 and 8 as between 5 and 6)


Only context can help you to distinguish between those possibilities. Intonation can be misinterpreted, so it doesn't help very much.

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  • "I had hoped they would treat women in a different manner." Danke. So if you have this specific meaning in mind, how would you construct the sentence without causing ambiguity? – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Apr 16 '17 at 17:14
  • Ich hatte gehofft, Frauen würden von ihr/von Ihnen anders behandelt. Ich hatte gehofft, von/durch Frauen würde sie/würden sie/würden Sie anders behandelt. – Janka Apr 16 '17 at 20:07
  • The best way is to build a sentence in passive voice: "I had hoped women would have been treated by them in a different manner." = "Ich hatte gehofft, Frauen würden von ihnen anders behandelt werden." – Hubert Schölnast Apr 16 '17 at 20:15
  • Die Mehrdeutigkeit von sie/Sie ist gar nicht Thema. – user unknown Apr 19 '17 at 6:33
  • @userunknown: Diese Mehrdeutigkeit besteht aber, und da das Thema der Frage Mehrdeutigkeit ist, wäre es falsch, diese Mehrdeutigkeit zu verschweigen, nur weil der OP sie gerade nicht im Sinn hatte als er die Frage stellte. – Hubert Schölnast Apr 19 '17 at 7:20
-1

Ich hatte gehofft, Frauen würden sie anders behandeln.

Is indeed ambiguous.

Better would be:

Ich hatte gehofft, sie würden Frauen anders behandeln.

bzw.

Ich hatte gehofft, Frauen würden sie anders behandeln.

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  • 2
    Moving the words around does not resolve the ambiguity at all. It is still ambiguous in your re-ordered sentences. – tofro Apr 18 '17 at 17:05
  • Satz 3 sieht auch nicht viel anders aus, als Satz 1. – user unknown Apr 19 '17 at 6:31

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