I decided in a moment of wild abandon to see whether Duolingo would accept "Patricia is cooking rice." It seems to be an offense. So I ask for a native speaker's advice: in English, Americans would answer a question "where is Patricia?" with "She is cooking rice" if, in fact, that was what she was doing at that time. Answering "Patricia is cooking the rice." would also be co"rrect, if the person actually knew that Patricia was cooking for us, but would not be appropriate to answer a stranger who did not know Patricia. So may question is, how do you translate "Patricia is cooking rice", or does Spanish not differentiate between the two meanings???
Well... It's interesting how you've given this a lot of thought. The meaning is practically the same, but you could argue that you can do the same distinction in Spanish in the same scenarios. You would just leave out the "el", just like the "the" in English. It's about whether you're talking about specific rice or not.
patricia cocina el arroz = this refer about of a rice that we had identified, patricia cocina arroz,= to answer the question. ¿que esta haciendo patricia? esta concinando arroz, but basically you can use both prhases , the two are correct,these means the same, if you still have doubt, you can ask me. saludos
I am going to take a stab here. I am a Spanish learner, so if I am wrong, please let me know. With that disclaimer out of the way, I am going to answer as if I know what I am talking about....
Spanish uses definite articles when the noun is in the general sense. This may be confusing, I don't mean generic usage, such as "una pelota". General sense is when the noun is not referring to anything specific, like "me gustan los tacos" . I am just saying I like tacos. If there was a specfic taco I liked, I might say "me gusta esto taco".
With "está cocinando", the following verb can be general, like 'food' or specific like 'rice'. If the question is "what is Patricia doing?", the answer can be
"Patricia está cocinando la comida" or "Patricia está cocinando arroz "
In English, Patricia is cooking food or Patricia is cooking rice.
"el" doesn't precede "arroz" in this case because arroz is not a general noun, it is specific.
"la" is used with comida because food is a general thing.
Duolingo asked us to translate "Patricia está cocinando el arroz.". Because of that, we know the question was not "what is Patricia doing?". No, it must be something like "who is cooking the rice?" The answer, just like in English, is "Patricia está cocinando el arroz."
In a nutshell, "Patricia está cocinando el arroz. " is not the same as "Patricia está cocinando arroz. ". They are both valid but used in different ways.
However "Patricia está cocinando la comida" can be translated two different ways to English "Patricia is cooking food" (if answering "what is Patricia doing?") "Patricia is cooking the food" (if answering "who is cooking the food?")
This is confusing and I may be more confused and just made it worse for everybody. But I thought I would put my thoughts out there.
Incidentally, I like that Duolingo does things like this because it forces us to really think about it and try to determine when to use the indefinite articles and when to omit articles altogether.
I'm almost with you so far. Now, if you were with your son in the kitchen and mommy is preparing the thanksgiving turkey, and wild rice is on the menu, AND she was working on getting said rice cooked, and ;your son says "What is mommy dong?" you would, I bet my bottom dollar, say "Mommy is cooking THE wild rice". Nest-ce pas?