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I'm just a beginner learning to give my three Malinois puppies commands with the German imperative.

When using online translators to learn how to give a particular command in German, I've found it difficult to get the translators to recognize the German second person plural imperative. They often translate it as a declarative, even when I include the plural nouns of direct address at the beginning or end of the sentence, separated by a comma. I've found this to be true of DeepL, Reverso, Glosbe, and others. Surprisingly, I have the least trouble with Google translate, although I would like to use a second for verification.

Am I doing something wrong?

...or should I just stick with the German second person singular imperative as if addressing all three of my pups individually at the same time. I certainly don't want to confuse them, but I can't find anything online about commanding multiple dogs simultaneously in German.

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    An example would be helpful; currently I 'm not even sure what the question is.
    – guidot
    Feb 23, 2023 at 13:48
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    The automatic translators might have difficulties to recognize that you want an imperative addressed to more than one. Please edit your question and show the English sentence and the resulting translation. I'm not sure about your question's intent. Grammatically correct would be the plural imperative, but for training dogs it might be better to use "standardized" commands. (I don't know if the difference singular/plural matters to the dogs.) A more important question is if the translated commands are those that a German trainer or owner of a dog would use. Not all are imperative forms.
    – Bodo
    Feb 23, 2023 at 13:48
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    Do you mean something like the plural of Sitz!? I agree that it would be helpful if you provided the commands you want to use. However, as user Bodo mentioned in the comment above, there are commands like Platz! and Aus! that aren't verbs and therefor have no plural. In general, I think your dogs don't care about grammar and will have an easier time following the commands if you always use the same form, regardless of number. Feb 23, 2023 at 14:39
  • Obviously my pups won't know the difference. I could always use the infinitive and they would respond however I train them to respond (although someone in the park familiar with German may think I'm not making any sense). I just want to be consistent and use what would be easiest for them to follow. Lists of German dog commands online are usually given in the second person singular imperative. It wouldn't be an issue in English, but commanding "Go!" In German would be "geh!", "geht!", and "gehen wir depending on who I am including Feb 23, 2023 at 14:44
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    This gets way off-topic, but: I've had quite a number of dogs (GSD) in the past, and I've never addressed them other than individually. To get your dogs submit to a single command is hard enough already, so I wouldn't try and teach them the difference in concepts between imperative singular and plural ;). Adress them by name and command, and they will know.
    – tofro
    Feb 23, 2023 at 14:56

1 Answer 1

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German has a familar you as well as a distant you. Online translators default to the distant you. The imperative form for that one is indistiguishable from third person plural indicative. Both for single persons and groups — it's both phrased for third person plural. The only indication that this is a command is the missing topic in front of the V2 verb.

The trick is using a keyword that triggers the familiar you. For example Dude.

Give me your papers please. — Geben Sie mir bitte Ihre Papiere.

That's the distant you. Good for single persons and groups.

Dude, give me your papers please. — Kumpel, gib mir bitte deine Papiere.

That's the singular familiar you.

Dudes, give me your papers please. — Leute, gebt mir bitte eure Papiere.

That's the plural familiar you.

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