Why "DIE" instead of "SIE" in this sentence? Cassie erklärte mir, dass (...)

Als ich den nächsten Abend in den Keller kam, hatte die Clique eine riesige Wasserpfeife mitgebracht.
Ich wusste zunächst gar nicht, was das war.
Cassie erklärte mir, dass DIE Haschisch rauchten und sagte mir, dass ich mich dazusetzen dürfe.

In the last sentence, I don’t understand why “die” is used instead of “sie”. Are they both correct? Why this preference?

Thank you.

1 Like

Not sure if this helps you any…I asked chat gpt and here’s what it said. In short, I think maybe you can use sie, but the “die” gives it a little more emphasis…“THAT group” as opposed to just generic “they”:

In the sentence “Cassie erklärte mir, dass die Haschisch rauchten und sagte mir, dass ich mich dazusetzen dürfe,” the word “die” is used as a demonstrative pronoun referring back to “die Clique” mentioned earlier in the paragraph. In this context, “die” functions similarly to “they” in English, and here’s why it’s used instead of “sie”:

  1. Demonstrative Pronoun Usage: In German, demonstrative pronouns like “dieser,” “diese,” “dieses,” and “die” (in this case) are often used for emphasis or to refer back to something already mentioned. It’s a way of saying “that one” or “those ones” in English. By using “die” instead of “sie” (the standard pronoun for “they”), the speaker emphasizes the specific group previously mentioned (i.e., “die Clique”).

  2. Referencing Previous Nouns: “Die” in this sentence refers back to “die Clique.” Since “Clique” is feminine and plural, “die” is used as the plural demonstrative pronoun. It’s common in German to use the definite article as a demonstrative pronoun, and it often carries a tone of specificity or emphasis.

In summary, “die” is used here for emphasis and to clearly link the action (smoking hashish) to the previously mentioned group (“die Clique”). The sentence translates to “Cassie explained to me that they were smoking hashish and told me that I could sit with them.”


@ericb100 it definitely helps, thanks. Conversations about this stuff help me more to digest grammars and details. They stick better to my mind.

Like “that group” makes sense. It doesn’t click natural to me yet, but it makes sense. I would definitely use “sie” at this stage, I would understand it better.


It’s a somewhat colloquial way of referring to someone using the demonstrative pronoun. You might translate: “Cassie explained to me that those guys were smoking hashish” (although to be honest, Eric’s ChatGPT explanation does a better job of conveying the point).

It’s quite common in day-to-day speech, also in the singular: “erklärte, dass der* Haschisch rauchte”. It can sometimes (but by no means always) sound a bit derogatory just by virtue of being a casual way of referring to someone.

*instead of “dass er”


@fabbol thank you, interesting the fact that it could sound a bit derogatory. I understand it better thinking about “that group”, “those guys”, and also the possible facial expression or voice tonality.

Is it more something usually used verbally than written? At least in those context?


Hm, good question. I’d say as a slightly colloquial feature it might be more likely to occur in speech than in writing, yes. But it’s quite common in writing, too, especially when recounting situations in which it might be said.

And like I said, it’s by no means always derogatory. In your example sentence, I’d interpret it more as a way of indicating reported casual speech than a derogatory reference, for what it’s worth. But if, for instance, the speaker had been a professor or some other authority figure, then I’d take the casualness as derogatory, if that helps at all.

One other aspect of your example sentence that occurs to me: it implies that Cassie is not part of the group under discussion. If the sentence read “Cassie erklärte mir, dass sie Haschisch rauchen”, it would be ambiguous whether Cassie is or isn’t part of “them”. She might have said “sie rauchen Haschisch” or “wir rauchen Haschisch”, both of which would turn into “they/sie” in reported speech. But by reporting her as saying “die”, it’s clear that she’s talking about someone else.


@fabbol that’s all very interesting, thank you. Yes, I understood the derogatory part as you intended too. It depends on the context, but it is important to know it’s there.

You are correct about Cassie. Cassie is introducing her friend to this group of teenagers. But I suppose she is seen as a more independent/mature that hang out with different types of people. That group is more seen as older teenagers boys, where Cassie is allowed to be part of them if she wants too, and she is introducing her friend to them as well.

Nice detail, thank you.


I thought of one more way of translating. It’s, again, not quite accurate, because the English version is more colloquial than the German, but it might help understand the connotations:

“Cassie explained that them were smoking hashish.” This is non-standard grammar/slang in English so it’s not equivalent to the German (which is perfectly fine, grammatically) in terms of register, but it’s a colloquial way of expressing the same idea in English: pointing out a group and emphasizing the “pointing”.

1 Like

It’s a good topic to bring up David. It doesn’t exactly click to me 100% either. I actually had the same question a couple of months ago (didn’t ask here) and have kind of interchanged sie/die (or the corresponding male and neuter), not knowing if there was a hardfast rule.

1 Like

Yes, I think the facial expression and voice tonality could play a big role in giving the same idea; even more with them. However, I find it easier now to understand it with “that group”, “those guys”, because there is also a correlation between demonstrative pronouns in both languages.

1 Like

I generally try to “fix” one rule, or one point, if I understand it, so I can always use the same kind of expressions/structure when I speak. This helps to avoid to put oneself in bad sentence situations. Or avoid cul-de-sacs.
One thing is understanding from reading and listening, another is replicate it with confidence by talking or writing. The latters take a lot more time, and it is not always so necessary unless with need to talk or write in a very nuanced or high level way.

1 Like

A followup. I looked this up in Hammer’s German Grammar and Usage. It states that in informal colloquial speech the demonstrative is often used to refer to people rather than the personal pronoun. This coincides with what fabbol said. It states that it is “usually” (my word) only used in writing if there’s a possible ambiguity or need for emphasis. This sounds like as fabbol points out…to perhaps avoid the confusion of including Cassie in “that group”.

It also mentions the “rudeness” factor. It states it can be considered rude to use the demonstrative if the person (or persons) are present and you are referring to them.


This sounds like as fabbol points out…to perhaps avoid the confusion of including Cassie in “that group”.

Although in fairness, that was probably already clear from the context, as Davide mentioned. Still, it’s reinforced by the demonstrative, and I noticed it when I tried comparing the sentence as written with a version where it says “sie” (they) - which would be ambiguous. In this case, I think the main function is to reproduce the casual way of speaking Cassie presumably employs in the scene.