I have heard people simply start sentences with "y a". Im not quite sure what the il is used for but otherwise its important to understand the cultural importance of conjugation. For example, the english versatility of do and get are not translated in french. On the other hand, the french use words such as have and are in some places that we do not in order to conjugate what they mean. For example Weather is conjugated by saying "Le temps fait" or the time "does".
The only time a sentence would start like that would be in a question. "Y a t-il des animaux?"
I'm pretty sure you are talking about the "il" being dropped entirely though. What they're actually saying is "Il y a". The "Il" just gets dropped sometimes by some speakers when speaking fast or with friends. You wouldn't find "Y a" in written form unless it was someone sending you a text or in the comments section of Youtube.
Read up on "il y a" here: http://french.about.com/od/vocabulary/a/ilya.htm
I'm having trouble disambiguating with the word "des." I know "des" has multiple meanings, but how can I tell when "des" means "some" as in this exercise, but means "the" as in the exercise "Elle parle des robes" from a previous lesson? This could be an important distinction if looking for something, say if you were lost in France and someone pointed out the people you were looking for versus just some people that were around.
It needs to understand the context and the meaning of the sentence itself.
"il y a des filles" = there are (a certain number of) girls or some girls, or a few girls. In all these meanings you don't know how many they are, nor whether there is something specific and well-defined aout them.
This is simply an indefinite article, plural of un/une (which does not exist in English).
"elle parle des robes" = she speaks about the dresses. In English, you have definite article "the", so in French, you simply pick definite article "le/la/les". In addition, you have to remember that speak about" is "parler de" and that with preposition "de", there are possible contractions:
- de-le => du
- de-les => des.
- de la is never contracted.
nope, that would be "Il a des filles". Il y a is a very common set phrase, just learn that it means "there is" or "there are", no need to look for alternative meanings.
There's just one exception – with time periods it means "ago":
Il y a vingt ans j'ai habité en France. – 20 years ago I lived in France.
our teacher told us "filles" means gals,like teenage girls and a bit older... but here they mean daughter or a little girl...
I don't get it.
You can translate "gal" by "fille" in an informal context unless you're talking about your girlfriend. In that case it could be "ma meuf" (it's the word "femme" but backwards, what we call "verlan", a type of slang). However, not every girl might be happy to be called that so be careful ;)