I have so much trouble distinguishing horses and hairs :(
I'll learn, eventually...
edit: I eventually learned this when I finished the tree! Here's an easy way to remember the difference. -Eux sounds like "uh" (like the "i" in bird) while -aux sounds like "oh" (like the o in bold).
When I'm stuck it always helps me to put the two words side-by-side on Google Translate and listen to the playback. This helps train differentiation which is a lot faster:
After I did that I was able to create a mnemonic to remember which meant what:
Les chevAux (horses) sounds like chev-oh. "The Chef's OLD horse can only carry 2 sacks of oatmeal at a time"
Les ChevEux (hair) sounds like chev-uh. "Hair SHAVER (chev-uh)"
I believe we are facing a cultural difference here. In my culture - and I don't know to what extent this is North American, or English-speaking, or what - we make a clear distinction between "grey hair" and "white hair". But I gather that this is not the case among Francophones.
As Sitesurf has observed, what we think of as "grey hair" is just a mixture of dark and white hair. The only difference between "grey hair" and "salt and pepper hair" is the evenness of the distribution of white hair among the dark. "Salt and pepper" tends to have larger clumps of both white and dark, so that the contrast is noticeable, while "grey hair" has a more even distribution.
Hmm. Maybe it's regional. Salt and pepper is a mix of dark and white/gray hairs. But gray hair or white hair or silver hair can describe a hair color which is all turned from the original color of youth. Gray hair can be either mixed dark and light, or a full head of homogenous silver/white/gray hairs. If I find a stray one of these imposter light colored hairs, i am most likely to say "a gray hair!!" even though mine aren't gray, but sort of a gold/silver. Some people turn silver. Some turn white. Some turn blond. Some turn gray. Gray is the most common descriptive i would use to describe someone unless they had a very stand out shade of white or silver.
In English, I could ask "How much white/grey hair?", and the answer might be "none" or "not much" or "quite a lot" or "about half". Or I could ask "How many white hairs?" in which case I would expect a number. Is there a way to distinguish between these two English questions in French? If not, I think both should be accepted.
I think this is a bit unfair as it is not purely translation, but cultural. It is unfair to ask a student to literally translate 'blanc' as grey.
EDIT: Also, where is it stated we are talking about people? I have a white dog, and I can literally ask "how many WHITE hairs do I have to vacuum off the couch today". This is a very isolated translation example. If it was "How many grey hairs does s/he have?", then insisting on the idiomatic usage of "white" for grey hair is warranted, but this is not clear. I uphold my ruling of "unfair".
It's not "unfair" because we are not children and because there are no bad consequences of not understanding the first time. This is an immersion-style learning platform We learn rather the same way we learned our first language, by trial and error. I'll bet there isn't a person reading this who will ever forget that the French consider grey hair to be the same as white hair. Boom! Lesson learned. It's what we're here for.
The ambiguity comes from the fact that "un cheveu, des cheveux" is a countable noun.
Grey hair is actually a mix of white hairs and dark(er) hair(s).
Since the French noun allows to isolate every piece of hair, it is fair indeed that we can use "des cheveux blancs" because it is exactly what we are talking about.
What? Have you not seen gray-haired people. I am blond and grey. Mother calls it salt and pepper but there is no black hair and my gray hair is not white. Ofcourse there can be a few white ones but a person with gray-hair also has a lot of grey in there. My grandfather got totally white hair at about 30 years of age. And some elderly I have met has really gray hair, not white.
It must be okay to talk about "Mes cheveaux gris"!? Or "Ses cheveux sont gris, pas blanc." But in general French people talk about grey hair as white! Am I wrong?
By now I am pretty well confused about the translation of "Cheveux" to either "Hair" or "Hairs"
I was marked wrong for "How many white hair"? The correct translation shown was "How many white hairs". On this page it is "How many white hair?" In spoken English, one doesn't say "hairs on the head" , etc.
Sitesurf, you have commented on Hair Vs. Hairs in the past. I am not sure I understand your explanations. Perhaps you could explain which is correct as the English translation, Hair or Hairs, without splitting hair, if you please! By the way, how do I attach a screenshot to this post?
"Hair" is usually uncountable, so you can say "how much white hair?". Yet the answer may be "not much/quite a lot..." but not a number.
A single hair is "un cheveu" if you count them, as in this sentence, so you can say "how many white hairs?" and then the answer can be a number.