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A german friend of mine wrote simple sentence today "Das sind beides schöne Akzente", to which I asked her, shouldn't it be "Die sind beide schöne Akzente"? She told me my version sounded wrong but she couldn't tell me why and provided a few more examples where I would have also said "die" instead of "das".

I thought I should use die as it is the plural article and in these instances we are talking about a plural. I would like to understand why "Das" is correct here instead of "die". Here are a few more examples:

Das sind große Hunde
Das sind blöde Touristen.
Das sind viele Mädchen

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Das may look like an article meaning the in this context - But it isn't.

Der, die, das can actually cover three functions:

  1. Article - That is what you seem to be concentrating on
  2. Relative Pronoun - translates to which or that in English, used as a subject of a relative clause
  3. Demonstrative Pronoun - translates to that or this. This is what we have here.

If a demonstrative pronoun is used do predicatively denote something using "sein" (like in "This is a green house") the pronoun is normally not flexed and instead used in nominative singular neuter, even if it relates to something that is not neuter, not singular, or both:

Wer ist das? Das ist seine neue Freundin.

Wer ist das? Das sind seine Kinder.

Wer ist das? Das sind ihre Männer.

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Das sind große Hunde. Das sind blöde Touristen. Das sind viele Mädchen.

Es sind große Hunde. Das sind große Hunde. Dies sind große Hunde.

Es, das, dies are all the subject, with no, a small and a big pointing finger at the large dogs. The reason why das and dies are singular is because es is strictly singular, too, and they replace an es here.

You could use the plural, but then you aren't referring to große Hunde any more but to arbitrary things or persons from a previous sentence.

Kennst du die Hansen-Brüder? – Ja, die sind große Hunde. Alle beide.

  • Is it possible to elaborate a little more? I feel like I am on the cusp of understanding but still didn't quite get it. Specifically to me, I would have also thought es is incorrect. – Aesir Apr 3 '18 at 8:46
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    The important part you miss, I think, is, das isn't an article to große Hunde. You can easily spot this because the predicate sind is between them. Instead, das is the subject and große Hunde is an articleless Prädikativ (a "nominative object"). That's why they don't have to agree on number and gender. – Janka Apr 3 '18 at 8:53
  • Under what conditions can you tell that it shouldn't have an article as opposed to when it should? – Aesir Apr 3 '18 at 8:57
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    Oh, you got me wrong. Consider Das sind die großen Hunde. Here's the die you are missing so badly. This die is an article to große Hunde. – Janka Apr 3 '18 at 8:58
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    Who's making all that noise? – It's large dogs. – Janka Apr 3 '18 at 9:09
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"Das" in this context isn't an article, it's demonstrative pronoun, your "pointing" to e.g. the "big dogs". It can be compared to the english "this/these/that/those".

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