"des filles" was probably not at the beginning of a sentence. So you could say "J'ai des filles." for "I have daughters.", but if you were to say "Des filles boivent de l'eau." that would be "Some girls drink water." because the generalization "Girls drink water." would strangely to us English speakers require the definite article in French: "Les filles boivent de l'eau."
So "Les filles boivent de l'eau." could mean "The girls drink water." or "Girls drink water." as a generalization. If you wanted to be specific in French, you might add more details. "The girls at my house drink water, but the boys drink milk."
Where did "some" come from - from "des", but keep in mind that the partitive article, though required in French is not often required in English. So "J'ai des filles." could also mean "I have some daughters.", but we already know that there is more than one since it is plural and the number is indefinite since no number is involved. We just don't usually bother to say "some".
A generalization, though, generally means "all" rather than just "some", so that is treated differently in the two languages. In English generalizations do not use definite articles, but in French, they do. Think of the fact that if we wanted to say that "All the people in the world drink water." we just say "People drink water." so to us it means "Any and all people" while in French they focus on "all the people".
No in English we use the indefinite form for generalities, but in French they use the definite form both for specific “The women drink wine.” and for the generality “Women drink wine.” So “Des femmes boivent du vin.” can only be “Some women drink wine.” I try to remember by thinking “ All the women...”. which does have “the” in it. “Toutes les femmes...”. So keep that in mind for English indefinite which begins a sentence - ask yourself if it is a generality. Do we mean any and all or some? If we mean “any and all”, then the French use the definite article as if it were “all the”. https://www.thoughtco.com/introduction-to-french-articles-1368810
(Error fixed) Thanks Sitesurf, I changed it. I can’t believe I still make that error “Tous les femmes” doesn’t even make sense to me any more.
Yes, it is wrong, “Women drink wine.” is a generality and in French, believe it or not, they use the definite article for a generality, so that would be “Les femmes boivent du vin.” https://www.thoughtco.com/introduction-to-french-articles-1368810
The function is the same in the French sentence, but the meaning is different in the English sentence when you leave out “some” at the beginning of the sentence. In English, “Women drink wine.” means “Any and all women drink wine.” and the French sentence « Des femmes boivent du vin. » cannot mean that.
So to keep the same meaning as the French sentence which is that some (an unknown quantity) of women drink some (an unknown quantity) of wine, we have to add “Some” in front of women at the beginning of the sentence. “Some women drink some wine.” is not a generality.
Unless we say “a glass of wine” or “a bottle of wine”, the amount of wine is always an unknown quantity and so we don’t actually have to say “some” wine, as it will be understood to mean “some wine” anyway. This works especially with the verbs “to drink” and “to eat” also, because often food is an unknown portion of something bigger.
A better generalization would be “People eat food.” It is true. All people do eat food. The danger of the wrong generalization is that it can lead to stereotypes. I think “Some women drink wine.” is the better sentence, because not all women drink wine, do they?
Now in reality, we English speakers take generalities with a grain of salt which means that we know that statements with “all” or “none” will likely have exceptions. So if not all women are included in “any and all”, then it stands to reason that “some” could also be true.
The French seem to be stricter about generalities as they use their definite article as though it were short for “All the” and maybe they are more careful not to make false statements.
Just stick to Duolingo’s rule that the French partitive article cannot be used to mean a generalization and if the partitive article or indefinite plural article is at the beginning of the sentence, put “some”.
Yes, see Sitesurf below, “des femmes” does not use the partitive article, but the plural indefinite article. Sorry, “some” is used for both in English.
Yes, “Les femmes....” begins a generalization and “du vin” is an indefinite quantity of wine. You will find that if the verb were “to like” or « aimer », that what someone likes is considered to be in general again, so you would have « J’aime le vin. » for “I like wine.” You could have a generalization in which both the subject and the direct object were generalizations, but not always.
"Women drink wine" can be a generality, as can "some women drink wine", no?
The given sentence is "Des femmes boivent du vin." It should either be able to be translated as "Some women drink some wine", or leave out some both times "women drink wine". How is it the second some can be left out?
Des/du is "some", for plural/ masculine singular, no? Doesn't it function the same in both uses in the sentence?
No, the choice of the correct article is not placement dependent but meaning driven.
Definite articles: le, la, les
- for specific things: the women here = les femmes ici
- for generalizations: women are human beings = les femmes sont des êtres humains
Note that a generality is not a truth. Of course, la terre tourne autour du soleil, but many silly or false things can be said in any language. This does not change the grammar rules.
Indefinite articles: un, une, des
- the woman has a dress = la femme a une robe
- the women have dresses = les femmes ont des robes.
Partitive articles: du, de la
- the woman drinks tea = la femme boit du thé (uncountable, masc. singular
- the woman drinks beer = la femme boit de la bière (uncountable, fem. singular)
- the woman drinks water = la femme boit de l'eau (uncountable, fem. singular and starting with a vowel sound)
Contracted definite articles: du (de+le), des (de/les), au (à+le), aux (à+les).
- the woman speaks about the tea = la femme parle du thé (uncountable, masc. sing)
- the woman speaks about the bananas = la femme parle des bananes (countable, fem. plural).
Scroll up, please this is explained. In English that is a generality, like “People drink water.” In French, they have to use the definite article for generalities. So “Les femmes boivent du vin.” can mean either “The women drink wine.” or the generalization “Women drink wine.” So watch out for “Des” at the beginning of sentences meaning “Some” in Duolingo.
I researched it and on a forum post someone explained: du pain ==> une quantité qui n'est pas connue de pain le pain ==> un pain en particulier I was so confused because my mother tongue is spanish and when I was translating "des filles" it translated to "las niñas" or "niñas" and I thought "the girls" was correct enough simply because it was plural. Thank you for helping me figure it out.
The problem is that in English we don’t always have to say some, but we do at the beginning of a sentence to make sure that it is not a generalization. “Women drink wine.” is taken as a generalization while “des” can never be used as a generalization and always means “some” whether they say it in English or not. In French, there must always be an article, so they cannot omit “du” even though in English we can omit “some” before wine.
However, contrary to the French, technically “Women drink wine.” does have the possibility of meaning “Some women drink wine.” Or “All women drink wine.” To us, it means “Any and all” while in French they use “Les femmes boivent du vin.” To mean both “The women drink wine.” or “(all the) Women drink wine”. So, the reason they are not accepting “Women drink wine.” is to make sure that we understand that “des” cannot mean a generality.
There are countless questions here using de, des, etc. and Duo is not consistent regarding what they accept or do not accept. In many questions, Duo does not require the words "some" in the English sentences, so you people can argue/explain all day what something means what must be used in English to be equivalent, but clearly Duo does not agree with you. Many people here keep explaining a grammar point to the English speakers, but repeatedly ignore the fact that we do not need the word "some" in these sentences to give the correct/equal meaning/nuance. Some learners here might be clueless, such as the ones that want to use "the", but at least some people here probably do understand what is going on in French; the problem is the people who do not seem to understand what is needed or not needed to say the same thing in English. "Some" should be optional in the English sentence, and "some" is indeed optional in countless sentences of this type on Duo. Duo insists on the inclusion of "some" in this case, but it is not necessary when giving the same meaning/nuance in English.
Think about “People eat food.” do you think it can mean “Some people eat food.” ? The difference is that without any difference, we know already that not every woman drinks wine, but all people must eat to survive. You cannot tell from the sentence at all. What they accept or don’t accept is a way to teach us what a sentence can or cannot mean in French. If someone said “Men drink wine.” and then someone also said “Women drink wine.”, we would know that is a generalization. We would not be talking about an indefinite amount of women. We would be talking about women in general.
I understand your frustration, but sometimes if they accept a sentence then the computer will turn around and give us “Women drink wine.” to translate back into French and we will be marked wrong if we put “Des femmes boivent du vin.” We will then need to put “Les femmes boivent du vin.” for the generalization. So what would the answer be? Will they need to put (generalization) or (indefinite quantity) after the English sentence so we know what to translate and (generalization) or (definite) after the French version? Here for this sentence, there is a solution. We can be clear about the fact that it is an indefinite quantity by putting “some” even though we don’t have to, just to let the computer know that we understand.
The problem is twofold. Firstly, English has three possible constructions: "women" "some women" and "the women." French has only two: "des femmes" and "les femmes." It is thus impossible to consistently map one on the other. Secondly,Duolingo does not recognise this impossibility and thus has a degree of inconsistency in the answers that it deems correct.
Not quite true. Even if the sentences are short, there is no ambiguity as to when "women" means "all women in the world" or "a few/several/some women".
In any event, "des" is the plural of "une", so it cannot be a generalization and you are left with "women are drinking wine" (now) or "some women drink wine" (usually), to get the same meaning as "des femmes boivent du vin".
For the rest, "the (specific) women" is "les femmes", so there is no problem at all.
"some women" tells you that there several women performing the action.
In French, "more than one" is "des", the plural indefinite article that English does not have: "une femme" is the singular indefinite and "des femmes" is the plural indefinite. This rule applies to all countable nouns: "un homme, des hommes", "un chien, des chiens", "une pomme, des pommes", etc.
"wine" or "some wine" tells you that they are drinking an unknown quantity of a mass (uncountable) thing.
In French this meaning is translated with the partitive articles: "du" if the mass noun is masculine and starts with a consonant sound, "de la" if the mass noun is feminine and starts with a consonant sound, and "de l'" if the noun starts with a vowel sound.
- du vin = (some) wine
- de la bière = (some) beer
- de l'eau (feminine) = (some) water
- de l'alcool (masculine) = (some) alcohol
So, what this discussion boils down to is that in English there are three ways of beginning a sentence:
Women Some women The women
All of which have subtly different meanings.
But in French these three meanings have to be shouldered by only two constructions:
Des femmes Les femmes
Thus English is a more flexible language than French.
Yes, the present progressive would change the meaning away from a generalization. Try reporting and explain. I don’t know if it is a simple addition of the sentence or if they need to change the programming for recognition of generalizations at the beginning of the sentence.
By this date, 3/15/19, this question still considers "women are drinking wine" to be wrong, and it seems to only accept "some women are drinking wine" as correct. I have reported it now, though, based on the differences between the simple present and the present progressive in English.
I'm pretty sure the translation "women are drinking wine" is correct. In English this sentence would be taken to mean that a certain number of women (but not ALL women) are currently drinking wine... so exactly the same meaning as "des femmes boivent du vin".
At the same time, "women drink wine" is incorrect as argued above. It doesn't seem like anyone has mentioned this point about "drink" vs "are drinking" yet. That's a subtlety on the English side that doesn't exist in French...
(Also, does anyone know why my French level is listed as 12 here while on my profile it's 14?)
You are correct about the differences between English "drink" and "are drinking," as with all English verbs, for that matter.
Generalizations in English usually do not use the present progressive forms of verbs. As such, "women are drinking wine" should be acceptable, since it is not a generalization, but merely a statement of fact about the current context.
And in fact, in English, if we were to say, "Some women drink wine," that would be a generalization about a subset of all women. It has nothing to do with the word "some," but everything to do with the verb form. Now I know that this is reversed, basically, in French, but if we're translating into English, then the verbal distinction must be accounted for.
Not quite true. In English "the" is only needed when the noun is specified.
"des" and "les" are distinct and do not have the same translation to English, because it depends on the meaning of the whole sentence:
- des femmes boivent du vin = some women drink wine: more than one woman
- les femmes boivent du vin = the women drink wine: I can see them, they are identified
- les femmes boivent du vin (en général) = women drink wine (in general): all women in the world do (true or not, this is generality).
The problem is that in English that is a generalization and in French “Des femmes” cannot be used for a generalization, so you must put “Some women” at the beginning of the sentence. In French the generalization meaning all women uses the definite article “Les femmes” while in English we use the indefinite form “Women”
With "some of the women" you are picking several of them within a group. The French for this is "certaines des femmes" ("des" here is the contraction of "de+les" = of the).
"Des femmes boivent du vin" is merely the plural of "Une femme boit du vin". It just means that there is more than one woman drinking wine.
"Des" is the plural of "une" (or "un") and its meaning is "more than one".
For lack of a plural indefinite article in English as the plural of a/an, the best translation is "some women drink wine".
Sitesurf, in English the continuous form “Women are drinking wine.” cannot be a generalization, so shouldn’t that be added as correct?
“Women are drinking wine.” in English can only mean “Some women are drinking wine.” as we know that not all women are drinking wine at the same time all over the world at this moment.
You cannot distinguish the generalization from the definite or specific nouns in French. They both use the definite article in French.
This sentence, however, is using “des” in French which cannot mean the generalization. This is the
partitive (see Sitesurf below) plural indefinite article and cannot mean “Women” meaning all women, so you will need to put “Some women” which indicates a part of the whole when using most verb forms. I now believe that the continuous form does not allow a generalization, so that should be reported.
When you have « Les femmes boivent du vin. », both “The women drink wine.” and “The women drink some wine.” as well as the generalization “Women drink wine.” will be accepted. Again, that is not the sentence above though, and yes this has been explained above. I have also given sites to go to for more information above. Sitesurf has also thoroughly explained this.
Notice that in English you don’t seem to have a problem with the fact that “wine” can be both an indefinite amount “some wine” or a generalization “wine in general”. We don’t distinguish for the indefinite article, but when translating we have to be specific to show that we understand that “des” cannot be the generalization when it is at the beginning of the sentence, so that is when you have to add “Some”.
Well, if it is too hard to find it above, I will give the link again: https://www.thoughtco.com/introduction-to-french-articles-1368810 Please press “Continue reading” as the information that I would like you to get is further down.
Here is what I suggest. When you don’t like the French ambiguity of the definite article and you want to be sure that someone understands that you mean specific as opposed to a generalization, use the demonstrative adjectives and pronouns.
“I like ice cream.” is « J’aime la glace. » , but if you say “I like the ice cream.”, it will look exactly the same. So you might want to say “I like this ice cream.” or “I like that ice cream.” which would both be « J’aime cette glace. ».
I used the shorter form “la glace” as it is so commonly used for ice cream though literally it means “ice”. The longer form is « la crème glacée ».
You can specify “that ice cream” by saying « cette glace-là » if you really needed to specify the location.
You can also use French demonstrative pronouns to say “this one here” and “that one there” to be specific.
There are many examples here: https://about-france.com/french/demonstratives.htm There is an error in one of the tables (Plural feminine demonstrative pronoun for “this one here” is « celles-ci »)
https://www.thoughtco.com/french-demonstrative-pronouns-1368928 On these last two, you will need to press “Continue” to see all the information.
On Duolingo, we are teaching that "des" is the plural indefinite article that English does not have. It is the plural of "un" or "une" and it is required to mean "more than one".
The partitive articles "du" and "de la" are reserved for uncountable nouns with the meaning of "an unknown amount of a mass thing".
I believe it is confusing to classify "des" as a partitive article.
Please re. our Tips and Notes here:
Sorry, Thank you for the correction. I think I confuse them because we tend to translate the partitive article, and the plural indefinite article as “some”. I get the difference between “an unknown amount of a mass thing” and “an indefinite number of a countable thing”. It is just that an indefinite number is also an unknown amount, but it is like the difference between “much” which is used with a mass item and “many” which is used with countable things. I hope I have it once and for all. Thank God you are always around.
That’s right. You were wrong. “Women drink wine.” is a generalization (All women drink wine.) and in French they use the definite article for a generalization: « Les femmes boivent du vin. » can mean that a particular group of women drink wine or the generalization (all) women drink wine.
Which brings me back to a variation of the question I have asked before: If presented with the sentence "Les femmes boivent du vin" how do you distinguish between the generalisation "Women..." and the more specific "The women ..." ? From the answers given above, it seems that you cannot distinguish between the two.
Common sense can help as well. If you were to first understand "les femmes boivent du vin" as "women drink wine", you would think this cannot be true and therefore you would eventually correct yourself to "the women drink wine".
By the way, I suspect all languages have their flaws, especially in the eyes of foreigners who tend to compare new notions with the language their brains have unconsciously been formatted with since their birth.
It is wrong. The generalization “Women drink wine.” actually uses the definite article in French: “Les femmes boivent du vin.” https://www.thoughtco.com/introduction-to-french-articles-1368810
if 'wine' means 'an unknow amount of a mass thing' then 'some wine' means 'a lesser amount than might be available' or 'less than they might have drunk in other circumstances' These are valid interpretations. So if, according to you 'du vin' does not have these interpretations, what wording in French would do so?
In this sentence, "wine" and "some wine" mean the same thing. This is why "some" is optional before mass nouns. "Some" does not give a precise amount, neither "more" nor "less" than "wine" by itself.
In French as in English, you can be more precise with the amount: "un peu de vin" (a little wine) or "un petit peu de vin" (a little bit of wine) can imply a small(er) amount than just "du vin" which is as neutral as "(some) wine".
Only in exclamative phrases can you use "some" to give an appreciation for the mass noun and "that's some wine!" would be back-translated to "ça, c'est du vin !".
Actually, the audio is pretty clear to me, but I am used to listening to French. Try developing your ear by listening to native speakers at Forvo.com https://forvo.com/search/Des%20femmes%20boivent%20du%20vin./
You may want to look up less at a time as they did not have this particular sentence.