I don't understand the structure- would it not be "l'eau est indispensable (a nous)" or something?
It is indeed what it means, but pronoun "nous" needs to be placed before the verb.
"nous" before the verb is the correct form and preferable (more fluid). If the object is not a pronoun, you put it afterwards: "l'eau est indispensable à notre santé"
- xxx nous est utile (useful to us)
- xxx nous est agréable (nice to us)
- xxx nous est recommandé (recommended to us)
- xxx nous est impossible (impossible to/for us)
- xxx nous est autorisé (allowed to us)
yes, 'xxx' can be any noun and the pronouns (indirect objects) can be:
me/m', te/t', lui (both masc and fem), nous, vous, leur (both masc and fem)
"Nous" here is an indirect object. In english it means "to us,' with l'eau being the subject. Il nous parle, for example, has the same structure and means "He speaks to us" in english.
"To us, the water is vital". I get that "water" in general is the better answer, but "l'eau" can't mean "THE water" here?
If you say: "l'eau est froide", it won't be a generality and then you can translate it to "the water is cold", which refers to specific water (already mentioned or implicitly pointed to).
But imagine that you are packing for a hike. Your partner feels that his pack is too heavy and starts to remove the water bottles. In that context, could you not say "L'eau nous est indispensable," referring specifically to the water you packed?
Yes, that is right, this is why "the" is optional in English (generality or specificity) but not in French where both generality and specificity need a definite article.
She doesn't enunciate the "t" at the end of "est". That seems to happen a lot here.
I'm not sure why the downvotes, you make a good point.
The following link seems to indicate that the liaison after "est" is optional, but more likely to be heard in formal than everyday speech.
I always thought "est" was pronounced "eh", but the male speaker here seems mostly to pronounce the 't' at the end of the word--'et'.
Yes, the male voice is marking the liaison "est-T-indispensable" that is necessary to avoid the vowel conflict [eh-in].
I thought water should be pronounced more like "low" than "lu"
Thank you for that. My American ears can't recognize the small differences in pronunciation without these corrections.