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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Anja here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common German questions.
The question for this lesson is: What is the difference between lowercase sie and capital Sie?
Sie with a capital “S” means “you” in formal setting, and sie, with a lowercase “s” means “she” singular and “they” plural. The German language has a formal and an informal way of addressing people. The formal address is used when speaking with adults, excluding family and friends, and is used in everyday life. It's often used with your colleagues at work and always in business situations such as between a customer and a sales clerk. The informal address is used for children and young teenagers up to the age of 16.
Let’s do some examples so that you can learn how to use capital Sie and lowercase sie correctly.
In this sentence, Sie geht jeden Tag einkaufen, which means, “She goes shopping everyday,” Sie is capitalized, therefore it means “she.” It's also at the beginning of the sentence. The third person singular geht is from the verb gehen which means “to go,” so, there is no confusion that the proper address is “she.”
Now take the sentence Sie gehen oft zusammen in die Stadt, meaning “They often go into town together.” Here, Sie is only capitalized because it's at the beginning of the sentence and means “they.” As this is a statement, not a question, it's clear that it means “they” despite using the same conjugation gehen as the formal Sie.
Another example is, Gehen Sie heute früher nach Hause? which means, “Are you going home earlier today?” In this case, the Sie is the formal “you” and is used to ask a person a question. Here, the listener has to pay attention to the context. If someone was pointing at a group of people leaving the office and said, Gehen sie heute früher nach Hause? it would mean, “Are THEY going home earlier today?” but if they are looking straight at you, you know they are asking about you. It could also be used in a statement. If your boss sees that you look sick, he or she might say Gehen Sie heute früher nach Hause! meaning “Go home earlier today!”
An interesting fact is that when two people, excluding two young people in a social setting like school, university, a party, meet, the younger person has to wait for the older person to suggest using the informal Du instead of the formal Sie.
If you're feeling confident about the differences between sie and Sie, try this tongue twister-- Sind Sie sicher, dass sie Sie begleiten soll? That means “Are you sure that she's supposed to accompany you?”
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them!
Tschüss, bis zum nächsten Mal! “Bye, see you next time!”