A word about registers. We know that French uses different registers just like English. Although we understand they may refer to the same thing, we should use care to stay with the register used in the original when translating. Some examples:
- la mère : mother (both UK and US), standard
- la maman : "mum" (UK), "mom" (US), informal (also: mama, mommy, mummy, etc)
- le père : father (standard)
- le papa : dad, daddy (informal)
- le monsieur : gentleman, man
- l'homme : man
- le mec : guy, dude (US), bloke (UK) (informal)
- le type : guy, dude, man (informal)
- le gars : guy, lad, kid, son (referring to any young boy, i.e., not "le fils") (informal)
- la madame : lady (Consider why Henny Youngman's one-liner is funny: "That's no lady, that's my wife")
- la femme : woman
- la tante : aunt
- la tantine/tata/tatie : auntie/aunty (informal)
- vous : (formal singular) you, and plural "you" (regardless of the closeness of relationship)
- tu : (informal) you
- Other non-equivalent words (not interchangeable): enfant, garçon, fille, bébé, etc.
- "Bonjour/Au revoir" is more standard "hello/goodbye".
Salut falls in the familiar register (expresses closeness, used with friends and family): hi, hey, hello/hullo (there), bye, see you, so long.
The six registers of French: http://french.about.com/od/lessons/a/register.htm
- Tu vs. Vous : http://french.about.com/od/grammar/ss/subjectpronouns_3.htm
@effyleven, my thoughts exactly. Even if it was artificial insemination both are still required at some point (at least for now).
The phrase may be referencing the situation in which the child was raised; i.e. having both a father and mother in the home in which the child was raised. You would need to verify that with someone else. Preferably someone smarter. ;-)
I posted the above comment a long time ago.
The answer to my own question is that while English speakers prefer to generalize a number of tenses to the past tense in ordinary conversation, the French do not do so. They seem to prefer the precision of other tenses. If English speakers use the exact tense carried in the original French tense it will sound awkward or pretentious.
Saying I had had a good time here sounds very stilted. I had a good time here sounds more natural to English speakers. The first indicates, in the context of the conversation, a noteworthy interval occurred between the event and the conversation. The second does not indicate or preclude that the interval occurred. English speakers don't care about the slight difference in meaning. French speakers do. (or are more likely to)
Whenever Duo does seem to require a more accurate translation of some French use of tense, the comments pages are filled with students saying no English speaker would ever talk like that.
I know northernguy's comment, and Konrad-Michal's question, were posted a year ago, but for the benefit of present and future students, I need to jump in here.
To address Konrad-Michal's question, the imparfait (j'avais) is used to describe past events that are repeated or habitual, or states of being, while the passé composé is for more specific, one-time past events. Think of the difference between a video and a snapshot. Having parents is more of a state of being than an discrete event, therefore - "J'avais un père et une mère". (I expect someone could come up with a situation where the passé composé would work, I just can't think of one at the moment.)
And the other thing: "I had had... " only sounds stilted in the above example because it's in the wrong context. It is not a translation of either the passé composé or the imparfait. It is the pluperfect, or past perfect in English, the plus-que-parfait in French: "J'avais eu..." It is used when you're already speaking in the past tense and want to describe something further back in the past.
Ex: "I don't want to leave Provence; I've had a good time here."
"I didn't want to leave Provence; I'd had a good time there."
All of which you say is true except it does nothing to deal with the issue as posted by students of Duolingo.
For most English speakers, I had had sounds stilted in any conversation. Many English speakers don't even think it is a legitimate manner of speaking if their attention is drawn to it. Telling them that there are what seem like contrived contexts where those tenses apply doesn't help them understand the difficulty.
French speakers use granular forms of the past tense all the time and consider simple past tense usage to be kind of vague and imprecise speech by the speaker.
So English speakers should not focus on the degree of improbability of such expressions in English. Instead, they should realize that they are frequent in French and should get used to using them.
Searching for context when English speakers might use those tenses is futile. The point is that French speakers use them a lot. If you are going to understand and correctly translate the French, you just have to accept that difference.