"The rice and pasta"
I didn't understand why they used 'les pâtes' since, in English, they didn't specify with the definite article. I thought it should be 'Le riz et des pâtes' or somehing? So the translation could be "The rice and pasta".
Yeah, I didn't understand the distinction either. When do we know when we should use 'les' instead of 'des' and vice versa, in the cases where the definite article is not provided? Seems kind of random to me so far.
"le" and "un" and "les" and "des" are not interchangeable. In both English and French language, their use is defined by rules which are not always similar.
DEFINITE ARTICLE "the" => le, la, les
As their name explicits, they define nouns: the meal = le repas, is a specific meal, not any meal. Often, when you get longer sentences or a full text, you get hints by context.
- ex: the woman eats THE rice that the cook prepared = la femme mange LE riz que le chef a préparé.
Note1: in English, when you claim a generality, like "men are stronger than women", the French use the definite article: "LES hommes sont plus forts que LES femmes". The same goes for "LE riz et LES pâtes".
INDEFINITE ARTICLE "a/an" => un, une, des
In this case, the object is not defined, it is rather "one" thing out of several. - ex: the woman eats A banana = la femme mange UNE banane.
Note2: in English, "a/an" has no plural, whereas in French, the plural of UN/UNE is DES.
- ex: the woman eats bananas = la femme mange DES bananes (= a certain quantity of)
In this case le riz/ the rice would lead one to think it would also be les pâtes/ the pasta. Had it started by talking about some rice..du riz then I would have continued on to des pâtes.
Your statement Le riz et des pâtes would translate as The rice and some pasta. While grammatically correct it would imply something special about the rice but not the pasta.
In French, "pâte" means "dough" in the singular form and "pasta" in plural. So if you mean pasta, you will always use the plural.
And by the way, "pâte" or "pâtes" are feminine : "une pâte".
I didn't realise that but then what if you are talking about say two kinds of dough? Is it same as for pasta?
The context would tell what you are talking about if you refer to more than one dough. Example: if you find a recipe for a pie, made of 2 sheets of dough, it would refer to "les pâtes", but there would not be any ambiguity.