Die haben sicher bei der Bank einen Fehler gemacht!

DreißigVögel

New Member
Turkish
Hallo,

I'm still struggling to grasp the basics of German and there's a particular sentence in a dialogue that I couldn't make sense of no matter how much I looked for an explanation online. I've read about relative and demonstrative pronouns but I still don't understand this exchange:

— Erst der fünfzehnte und schon wieder kein Geld mehr auf dem Konto!
— Das ist nicht meine Schuld! Ich habe nichts Besonderes gekauft.
— Ich auch nicht. Die haben sicher bei der Bank einen Fehler gemacht!

What does "die" stand for here? If the speaker is talking about "the people at the bank", shouldn't the subject be "sie" instead of "die", since they weren't mentioned before, nor is the speaker pointing at them (as would be the case with a demonstrative pronoun)? Maybe I'm completely off the mark.

Thank you very much! Vielen Dank!
 
  • bearded

    Senior Member
    Hello and welcome to the German forum!

    It's a common feature (in colloquial language) to use 'der/die/das' - in this case demontrative pronouns - instead of the personal 3rd-person pronouns.
    Cf. this thread: die / sie
    In some cases, if referring to people, it might represent a slightily derogatory indication of the person(s) concerned. However, I think that as a beginner you should abstain from using these forms, as the correct usage can only be learned through practice.
     

    DreißigVögel

    New Member
    Turkish
    Hello and welcome to the German forum!

    It's a common feature (in colloquial language) to use 'der/die/das' - in this case demontrative pronouns - instead of the personal 3rd-person pronouns.
    Cf. this thread: die / sie
    In some cases, if referring to people, it might represent a slightily derogatory indication of the person(s) concerned. However, I think that as a beginner you should abstain from using these forms, as the correct usage can only be learned through practice.
    Thank you, I've consulted WordReference.com countless times before but it's only now that I had to join and ask something myself. I hope this can help other people in the future too.

    So does "die" really mean "they" or "the people (at the bank)" here? If so, does the speaker use "die" instead of "sie" to convey annoyance, or maybe blame? Or do people speaking colloquially sometimes substitute the personal pronoun for the demonstrative pronoun for no reason (not referring back to anything, not pointing with finger etc.)?

    Sorry, I just don't want to be confused and stuck next time I see one—I've been really confused with this one, I thought "die" might even refer back to "die Schuld". Thank you again, you've already clarified most of the ambiguity for me.
     

    Gernot Back

    Senior Member
    German - Germany
    Die haben sicher bei der Bank einen Fehler gemacht!

    What does "die" stand for here? If the speaker is talking about "the people at the bank", shouldn't the subject be "sie" instead of "die", since they weren't mentioned before, nor is the speaker pointing at them (as would be the case with a demonstrative pronoun)? Maybe I'm completely off the mark.
    I guess, this is a sloppy word order (split noun phrase/discontinuous NP) for:

    Die bei der Bank haben sicher einen Fehler gemacht.
    Literally:

    Those at the Bank have made a mistake.
    Meaning:

    The bank employees have made a mistake.

    You have to use the definite (demonstrative) pronoun "die" here, because it is defined by a prepositional attribute "at the bank".
     

    bearded

    Senior Member
    Or do people speaking colloquially sometimes substitute the personal pronoun for the demonstrative pronoun for no reason (not referring back to anything, not pointing with finger etc.)?
    G.Back is probably right with ''die bei der Bank'' and the necessity to use ''die'' in this case. However, the original word order makes me think that ''bei der Bank'' was perhaps thought of - by the author of the sentence - at a later moment, and the phrase would work even without it (die haben sicher einen Fehler gemacht). So I think that my above explanation is valid (if not at 100% in this case, but I wouldn't be so sure) at least in general.
    ''Der/die/das'' are often used as demonstrative pronouns - in colloquial language - in order to refer to objects or people that have just been mentioned or taken into account. I don't think that ''die'' is derogatory in the sentence in question, but in other cases it might be (e.g.: Ich kenne die Frau: die hat immer so einen Ausdruck, als ob sie die ganze Welt hasste : here ''sie'' could be used instead , but with ''die'' you have a somewhat different feeling..). As I told, only practice can teach you how to use the feature correctly.
     
    Last edited:

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    — Erst der fünfzehnte und schon wieder kein Geld mehr auf dem Konto!
    — Das ist nicht meine Schuld! Ich habe nichts Besonderes gekauft.
    — Ich auch nicht. Die haben sicher bei der Bank einen Fehler gemacht!
    With "Sie" it will become unclear. It can mean "You" or "They" here.
    But as you and the others stated, only "they"="the people at the bank" is right here.

    "Die" as coll. personal pronoun always means "they". It has a connotation of distance/distancing here.
    I agree you should not use it as beginner, but you should understand the meaning
    If the speaker is talking about "the people at the bank", shouldn't the subject be "sie" instead of "die", since they weren't mentioned before, nor is the speaker pointing at them ...


    You cannot use "Sie" here without clear context. It would be ambiguous.
    But if it refers to a sentence before, you could and should use it.

    Example: Ich auch nicht. Ich habe die Leute bei der Bank beobachtet. Sie/die haben sicher bei der Bank einen Fehler gemacht!

    In this example "Sie" is defined and not ambiguous.

    I agree to Gernot (#4)
    Die haben sicher bei der Bank einen Fehler gemacht = Die (Leute) bei der Bank haben sicher einen Fehler gemacht.
    The sloppy word order in such cases is used frequently - especially in coll. style.
     

    bearded

    Senior Member
    Natives unanimously say ''die bei der Bank'', but I wonder if the sentence
    Die haben sicher bei der Bank einen Fehler gemacht
    could not be interpreted as if it were Bei der Bank haben die sicher einen Fehler gemacht.
    If so, then perhaps it is not necessarily ''die (Leute) bei der Bank''... (rather 'haben die' = 'hat man'?).
    I mean, ''those at the bank made a mistake'' is not 100% identical with ''they made a mistake at the bank''.
     
    Last edited:

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    "Die", "those" and "die Leute dort" have the same meaning to indicate the people working at the bank.
    ''those at the bank made a mistake'' is not 100% identical with ''they made a mistake at the bank''
    The same in German.
    The more complete form would be:
    Those at the bank (they) made a mistake there at the bank.

    Die Mitarbeiter der Bank haben sicher bei ihrer Arbeit in der Bank einen Fehler gemacht.
    This is neutral, includes redundancy and definitely it is not colloquial style. It is too long and I use it only for explanation. But it is correct language. It is the expanded form to show it.

    It usually will be shortened in a pragmatical way.

    Die haben sicher in der Bank einen Fehler gemacht.
    Die in der Bank haben sicher einen Fehler gemacht. = Die von der Bank haben sicher in der Bank einen Fehler gemacht.
    In der Bank hat man sicher einen Fehler gemacht.
    Man hat sicher in der Bank einen Fehler gemacht.
    (removes the problems with "die").

    All has the same meaning. (Meaning in pragmatical sense.)
    "Die" may have a connotation of additional distancing - it was not you but they.

    There are a lot of similar phrases in German.
    Examples:
    In der Bank, bei der Bank, von der Bank. (Partly synonymes, depending on context.) Die - man - jene von der Bank etc.
     

    DreißigVögel

    New Member
    Turkish
    Thank you all, I think I understand the matter much better now, I'll definitely give everyone's posts another read in a while. I agree that 1- to acquire the correct usage, the only surefire method is practice and exposure, so I hope I'll eventually have an intrinsic sense of what word to use when, and 2- understanding the "theory" first definitely helps to acquire the correct usage, not as a strict prerequisite, but as a basis for educated practice and exposure.

    The part where "die" is preferred to "sie" to eliminate ambiguity resonates a lot with what I know in English and Turkish—in languages, there's often a self-correction drive towards distinctness of meaning.

    Understanding the phrase as "die bei der Bank" helps a lot too since it's intuitively parallel to English. We say "those at the bank" instead of "they at the bank" without consciously understanding the case. However, since English isn't structured like German, it has a much firmer syntactic schema—you never say "those have certainly in the bank made a mistake". I assume there is more room for this in German thanks to it being less reliant on word order for sense.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Natives unanimously say ''die bei der Bank'', but I wonder if the sentence
    Die haben sicher bei der Bank einen Fehler gemacht
    could not be interpreted as if it were Bei der Bank haben die sicher einen Fehler gemacht.
    That is another possible explanation for the word order. I agree. But as there isn't any serious difference in meaning, it is hard to tell. The adverbial bei der Bank can be applied either to the subject noun phrase or to the sentence as a whole. The meaning of the sentence stays the same.
     
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