Why not the 'horse eats the roses'? I understand 'le' is the and 'des', some, but surely this is a valid translation? I've fallen foul of it a few times in other sentences.
No it is not, for the reasons you have just recalled. "des roses" is "roses" or "some roses".
Seems to be the difference between a horse eating some specific group of roses ( les ) and a horse which habitually eats roses in general ( des ). These are two distinct ideas, I'd say.
Is there a distinguishable difference in pronounciation between Les chevals mangent and Le cheval mange?
Another distinguishing difference in general is the pronunciation of "les" vs "le" vs "la". Phonetically, "les" => "lay", "le" => "lew", "la" => "la". Hence, listening closely, you can discern feminine/masculine and plurality from the pronunciation of the article.
The e in 'les' - the e in English 'very'; the e in 'le' is the same vowel sound as in English 'a' or 'the'.
How is the real pronunciation of "roses"? Google's translation page says doesn't pronounce the last "s", but Duo's recording does.
I know that des roses could mean some roses or just roses, in this case. If I said "le cheval mange les roses" instead of "le cheval mange les roses", it would mean that the horse, in general, eats roses (or the horse is eating THE roses), as opposed to eating SOME roses, right?
"des roses" is the plural of "une rose", ie an indefinite quantity of roses (more than one).
In English, you get this meaning with "roses" or "some roses".
"les roses" is specific with this action verb, they are those mentioned before or those the speaker can see right now.
In English, you get this meaning with "the roses"
"les roses" would be viewed as "general" in sentences where all roses are concerned, like:
- les roses sont des fleurs = roses are flowers
- j'aime les roses rouges mais je préfère les roses blanches = I like red roses but I prefer white roses.
In English, a general statement about "all roses" does not have an article.
"le cheval" is specific here, it was mentioned before or it is the one the speaker can see right now.
In English, a specific horse is "the horse".
"le cheval" can be made 'general' within a sentence that makes it general and not specific, but I think this would rather happen in plural, like:
- les chevaux sont les meilleurs amis de l'homme = horses are man's best friends.