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I'm learning German and as it often happens, I am completely astonished by the way the language works, and this time because of this phrase "Die brauchen wir noch"

The context is "Pirates of the Caribbean: The curse of the Black Pearl", when the Interceptor is being chased by the Black Pearl and they're throwing everything off the ship to gain speed but Will Turner stops someone from throwing the cannon, saying "We will need them".

I would normally write this as "Wir brauchen sie noch". Why is "Die brauchen wir noch" valid?

I'm mostly confused by the use of Die + verb

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  • Those are still needed. It put emphasis on those ('die') while there is no emphasis on it in your translation. Context warrants that most German speakers would use the version as in the film Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 4:45
  • @planetmaker That's an answer. So why do you write a comment instead?
    – Olafant
    Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 11:50
  • It's basically only a summary of what RDBury wrote an hour before my comment Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 12:16
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    "Wir brauchen diese Kanone noch" -> "Wir brauchen diese noch" -> "Diese brauchen wir noch" -> "Die brauchen wir noch". Also, the last sentence conveys a colloquial undertone.
    – dialer
    Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 16:06

2 Answers 2

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Die in this case is playing the role of a demonstrative pronoun, similar to "this" or "that" in English. It's odd for an English speaker to see a word that's normally seen as an article used this way, but you can think of it as a different word that happens to look and sound the same as the article. As English has a "this/these" set and a "that/those" set of such pronouns to account for meaning and inflection, German has a der/das/die set, a dieser/dieses/diese set, and a jener/jenes/jene set, though the last set is disappearing from the spoken language. German inflects by case as well as gender and number so each of these sets has an inflection table with 16 entries, though they all follow the same general pattern. Also, the circumstances for when to use which set, as well as when to use any of them in place of a personal pronoun, are rather tricky to master, but I'm sure the rules have been covered elsewhere on this site as well in any good German grammar, so I won't try to explain them here too.

The other issue here is flexible word order in German. Remember that any functional part of a sentence can go before the verb, not just the subject as in English. You can tell that wir is the subject in Die brauchen wir because it's wir and not uns. Putting die first marks it as what the sentence is actually talking about even if it's not the grammatical subject. Note that "Those we need," would be possible in some varieties of American English, due no doubt to the influence of the many immigrants who spoke German or some dialect of German such as Yiddish.

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RDBury said it perfectly, another thing to add in is that when you refer to demonstrative pronouns as articles (in this case "die") it has a bit of a different connotation. Using "die" is a bit less polite in the meaning opposed to "sie"

Something to remember when referring to other people

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