Translation:His letters used to be read by all the family.
That's the least that can be said about the pronunciation here, verging the 'ghastly grating' range on too many occasions. Main grief: lack of ar-ti-cu-la-tion. I've been moaning at it quite systematically in the "report a problem". A few days ago I was doing the "English from French" tree. Comes a sentence : "I will lose my job", spoken any old how. My mate's comment (he's English) : "she will, talking like that...". Gosh, I wish she does. Either that or they both, lad and lassie, get to darn well Ar-Ti-Cu-La-Te!!! Just opening the mouth wider (wider than it's done while speaking English, that is) will do the trick for French, mind. You can't swallow letters when the mouth is open wide enough. Right now it's bloody hopeless. "me" sounding as "m' ", like an aborted cow moo. No audible difference between "chat" and "chien" even in slow mode. Missing ligatures. And many of the same vein. I love you, Dl, but that side needs changing, definitely.
Selma-Ibrahim mispoke with "after étaient", but was otherwise on point. "After a plural noun" and "before étaient" are the same thing in this sentence. The liaison is forbidden. From Wikipedia:
There are other contexts where speakers produce liaison only erratically (e.g. due to interference from orthography while reading aloud), and perceive liaison to be ungrammatical.
- between a non-pronominal noun phrase (e.g. a non-pronominal subject) and the verb: Mes amis arrivent /me.z‿a.mi (.z‿) a.ʁiv/ ("My friends are arriving.")
if it was singular it would be "cette lettre était lue...", fem. pour "lettre".
And yes, possible and even likely (because of no context) confusion with the possessive. I almost wrote that, "ces (lettres étaient lues...", and seeing that there is no oral difference DL should accept it. I don't know if it does.
I'm not sure that I understand how "read" here is being conjugated as an adjective. I understand that in English, past participles can be used as adjectives (e.g. "I was bored by the lecture" > "The bored student fell asleep in class"). And I can imagine that other languages might do something like this (though I don't know if French has a similar allowance like the example I showed for English). But what I'm confused about is "lu" being conjugated this way. Isn't "lu" a participle here ("The book was read by many fan"), and not an adjective ("the much-read book")?
Past participles have an adjectival quality (and, indeed, often act as adjectives plain and simple) in both English and French, and for French that does partly explain the necessary accord between subject and participle when the participle is linked to the subject with "être".
It's an accurate and helpful link to make, and a deeper explanation than simply quoting a bare rule, but you can also simply remember that when a past participle is connected to the subject of a clause by "être", it accords with the subject in gender and number.
Picking up on one of your examples, we can further elucidate the adjectival connection: "I was bored. I was a student. I was a bored student. I was bored by the lecture. I was a student bored by the lecture." "Bored" is more of a verbal in the last two sentences, but in all of these cases it's the same word with the same derivation, i.e. the past participle of "to bore", used passively. This is especially obvious if you compare the first of these sentences with the last two. It becomes apparent, then, that the grammatical distinctions we make between verbal participle and participial adjective are really just contextual.
(And as for basicdesign1's comment below on invariable adjectives, they are the exception, not the rule, so that's not a particularly relevant comment on the matter at hand.)
huh, adjective???!! It's the conjugation of "lire" in passive form. http://leconjugueur.lefigaro.fr/conjugaison/verbe/lire_voix-passive.html. Donc participe passé. Accordé au sujet car conjugué avec l'auxiliaire être.
I don't see the point, since there's a perfectly good conjugation for it, the explanation of why it's 'lues' and not 'lu' (aux. 'être' before it), and even a link to the lot. I'd have thought that was better than misguiding people into thinking that all adjectives agree with the subject (here https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/Cat%C3%A9gorie:Adjectifs_invariables_en_fran%C3%A7ais a list of those that don't, add to that those numeral adjectives that don't either). But I'm through arguing, say what you want. And no point shouting, I ain't the deaf one here.
No, it's a passive construction ("were read"), in the imparfait (so I think it also translates to "were being read"). Pluperfect, in the passive, would be "avaient été lues", which follows exactly the same pattern as "had been read".
The active pluperfect would be "avait lu", but you'd have to change the sentence around so that the subject was correct: "Toute la famille avait lu ses lettres."
And you may be aware, but just to confuse things a bit, if you used the pronoun "les" as a stand-in for "ses lettres", you'd see the accord in the active construction (because of the direct object preceding the participle in the sentence): "Toute la famille les avait lues."
This is an interesting question. I think a helpful thing to consider is that "tout" (or any form of it) can act as a pronoun on its own, and we can say that in a sense it retains its pronominal character here, even if we do call it an adjective. In other words, in a sense the expression "toute la famille" is an appositional phrase, with a pronoun and a noun side by side, each retaining its own weight.
An example of a true appositional construction that can help to clarify this idea is "my friend the baker", "mon ami le boulanger". In "toute la famille" then, "toute" acts something like "mon ami" and "la famille" acts like "le boulanger".
Another thing to remember is that "tout" means "all". In English, if we want to use "all", we don't say "the all family", we say "all (of) the family" (even though we do say "the whole family", which is "la famille [tout] entière", where "tout" is an adverb).
If nothing else, I hope this will seem a helpful way of looking at it.
I didn't include "all" because it didn't sound right in English and my answer was wrong for that reason. "The entire family" seems like a more appropriate tranlation of "toute la famille" than "all the family" in my opinion. Perhaps the answer should be reworded to avoid confusion. Does anyone else think the same thing?
ces or ses can't be distinguished only by hearing... that's just the way it is. As for the mute "e", well, every "e" at the end of a word in french is semi-mute. The e itself is not pronounced but often affects the pronunciation of its surrounding. If the word ends with "es" then the "e" is slightly pronounced along with the "s" (sounding z) when the following word starts with a vowel.
- sa lettre était lue par toute la famille (e mute) = sa lètr étè
- ses lettres_étaient lues par toute la famille = sè lètre zétè (very short e between "r" and "s" because of the following ligature) In this case, the absence of "e" would sound like mispronounced french.
To be honest, that's the rule, but I admit that most of french speakers don't pronounce them all correctly... But as a general rule, the more you pronounce the ligatures in french, the more your language is elevated and sophisticated. So DL stands on the slang side of the language in this example... Please note that I'm french
It's not c'est because that would mean "it is" (or this is or that is, but you get the point). While they sound the same, it just isn't a logical sentence. Even given that the plural and singular are largely indistinguishable and easily confused without more context, out would still read, "it is letter was read by all the family." Logic dictates that it must be "ses" or "ces", though deciding between those two just on sound is beyond my ability to distinguish or logic out.
Well, "lettre" is feminine, so the singular is "cette lettre".
If you're having difficulty hearing the difference between "ces/ses" and "ce", then it's likely that you need more listening practice. To begin with, you can try the slow-play option, and you can also try putting all of the words together into Google Translate and playing the sound over and over, to get more used to the difference.
MOD: In the absence of a context, when the voice asks to transcribe what is said, HOW is one to differentiate between "ses" and "ces." In the stand-alone sentence, in the absence of an antecedent sentence, "Ces lettres étaient lues" (THESE letters were read. . .) and "SES letters. . ." sound alike.
"Ses" and "ces" (and "s'est", "sait", "sais", "c'est") are homophones. The system is unable to disambiguate them and accept correct homophones because it compares your sentence with the original, written sentence which happens to have "ses". We are still expecting Duolingo's developer to find a solution.