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I am a total beginner in German language, sorry about that. I noticed "sie sagen" AND "ihr sagt" both mean "you say". May I ask what is the actual difference between them? Is it just a matter of formality?

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German has 3 persons (I, you, he/she/it) two numbers (I, we) and two T-V-forms, and the pronoun Sie is used in four of these combinations:

  • 1st person singular

    Ich sage. = I say.

  • 2nd person singular
    • for children, close friends etc. (»Du-Form«)

      Du sagst. = You say.

    • for adult strangers etc. (»Sie-Form«)

      Sie sagen. = You say.

  • 3rd person singular

    Er sagt. = He says.
    Sie sagt. = She says.
    Es sagt. = It says.

  • 1st person plural

    Wir sagen. = We say.

  • 2nd person plural
    • for children, close friends etc. (»Du-Form«)

      Ihr sagt. = You say.

    • for adult strangers etc. (»Sie-Form«)

      Sie sagen. = You say.

  • 3rd person plural

    Sie sagen. = They say.

Examples:

2nd person singular, Sie-Form
Tom works in a larger company and he gets the opportunity to meet the founder of that company. Tom has never met him before. Tom only knows him from pictures and videos. In this case it would be extremely rude if Tom would use the Du-form to address the founder of the company. So Tom could say this to the founder:

Sie leiten dieses Unternehmen.
You manage this company.

(If Tom was a good friend of the founder, he might say »Du leitest dieses Unternehmen« which means the same, but uses a different honorable form)

3rd person female
Karl meets his friend Klaus, and they talk about the new coffee machine Karl recently bought. The German noun Kaffeemaschine is a female noun, so you have to address it with a female pronoun. (In German not only pronouns (er, sie, es = he, she, it) have a grammatical gender, but also all nouns, and the grammatical genders of noun and reference pronouns must always match.)

Ich habe mir gestern eine neue Kaffeemaschine gekauft. Sie war gar nicht teuer.
I bought a new coffee machine yesterday. It was not expensive at all.

2nd person plural, Sie-Form
Tom was invited to speak to the management of the company where he works. The management consists of 3 men and 2 women, none of whom Tom knows personally. Again, he has to use the polite form. But you are lucky: The German plural Sie-Form and the singular Sie-Form are identical. (btw: The same is true for the English singular and plural "you")

Sie leiten dieses Unternehmen.
You manage this company.

(If Tom was a good friend of all 5 people in the management, he might say »Ihr leitet dieses Unternehmen« which again means the same, but uses a different honorable form. But as you can see here, singular and plural are no longer identical if you use Du-Form)

3rd person plural
Karl has bought 5 coffes makers. (Now you are lucky again: 3rd person plural is exactly identical to 2nd person, Sie-Form)

Ich habe mir gestern 5 neue Kaffeemaschinen gekauft. Sie waren gar nicht teuer.
I bought 5 new coffee machines yesterday. They were not expensive at all.


Also note, that the verb changes its form (In English you have to add an "s" if you use a verb in 3. person singular. What happens in German is more complex, but related to this mechanism.)

Example verb: schlafen = to sleep

  • singular

    Ich schlafe. = I sleep.
    Du schläfst. Sie schlafen. = You sleep.
    Er/sie/es schläft = He/she/it sleeps.

  • plural

    Wir schlafen: We sleep.
    Ihr schlaft. Sie schlafen. = You sleep.
    Sie schlafen. = They sleep.

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