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"Le garçon améliore sa lettre."

Translation:The boy is improving his letter.

January 10, 2013



Tip to remember the verb: the English verb "ameliorate" means "to make better" or "improve." :-) two birds with one stone!


The irony is that "ameliorates" isn't accepted.


Is that a word that you would typically use in this context? If not, just use natural words which convey the same meaning.


I used "The boy edits his letter" which would be appropriate in English. What other way is there to improve on what one has already written? I think Duo's translation is awkward if not totally wrong.


Maybe the improvement didn't involve editing. He might have copied it with better handwriting or changed the font.


Editing a letter does not mean the result will eventually be better.


Like "fixes"? When you fix something, you make it better.


I tried "fixes" but the program didn't accept it


So how do we know that the boy might not be improving HER letter. He might be helping out his girl friend who is writing a letter to someone. How do we know for sure? It's only "sa" because "lettre" is feminine, right?


The answer to your question appears 5 times on this very thread. Please scroll down.


Anyone have trouble differentiating between ca and sa all the ime, as in this case it could be ca lettre as in that letter and sa lettre being his letter?


I take it you mean ça, since ca isn't a word in French. In that case, no, because ça is a pronoun, not an adjective; you won't find it modifiying a noun like that. As DianaM mentioned, the adjective for "this/that letter" would be cette, and that would be hard to mistake for sa.


"That letter" would be "cette lettre".


Why is there no conjugation table for améliore?


Duolingo doesn't always show the conjugation table; it seems to be a bug. I just use this site:



I think Wordreference is a superior site for French conjugations.



Why is it not "Le garçon améliore son lettre"? Is it because the possessive "sa" has to match the feminine "lettre"? Merci beaucoup!



Yes that is exactly right - the possessive must match the thing owned. "Lettre" is feminine so we must use "sa".


Can he be editing/proof-reading his letter?


Maybe he's adding some adjectives here and there... bah, it doesn't make sense!


Au contraire ! A key of good writing is to use no more words than necessary to express your meaning. Good editing begins with deleting words that add nothing of value.


That's why I chose, simply, "fixes." It was marked incorrect.


That's one way I took it. I also thought of it as him expanding on the letter. Maybe he turned it in to his teacher as a first draft, and now he's going back to make sure all sentences are complete, each idea he wants to express is fully laid out, etc. Or maybe there's some artistic flair in his letter, and he finally figured out how to complete his creative concept. There are numerous ways to improve any written document.


After doing many of these questions, I always thought that you could you his/her when it was sa/son because sa and son are only used for the feminine or masculine word. I put "The boy improves her letter". Why is this not accepted?


Since our possessives agree with the object, you have to know that, conventionally, the object belongs to the subject.

  • He improves his letter = il améliore sa lettre
  • He improves her letter = il améliore sa lettre à elle.


In English, it should be "handwriting" instead of "letter."


No, you can improve a letter's content (a second draft, perhaps) and this is what you would say if that were the case. This sentence could be referring to handwriting, as in "The boy improves his letter [C]" but still that's more specific than "handwriting."


Just think of it in terms of editing. Works for me.


In French, lettre doesn't mean handwriting; that would be écriture.


i thought the same thing, it's weird to "improve a letter", to improve the handwriting makes more sense for me ...


Why would it be weird to improve a letter? If you are applying for a job, you might need to improve your cover letter, for example.


I got the "correct" translation "...betters his letter". Obviously terrible. I said "fixes", which is close, I think.


'fixes' implies there was something specifically wrong with the letter, which may not have been the case; while 'improves' or in this case 'betters' just connotates making something better in general, without any one thing being glaringly wrong.


Why can't he "amend" his letter?


EN "amend" simply means to change something. "Améliorer" means to improve something.


It's interesting how many variations of the same sentence Duolingo accepts. It accepted both "He betters his letter" and "He makes his letter better".


hi, if 'sa lettre' is correct, why the correct translation is 'his letter'?


Because in French the pronoun agrees with the object, not the subject. In this case, you use "sa" because "lettre" is feminine.


It's not the pronoun, but the article that agrees with the noun. (Though I keep forgetting this.)


Just a little correction, if you don't mind. "Sa" is actually a possessive adjective, not an article. It serves here also as a grammatical "determiner", so no article is required, since we always have only one determiner for each particular noun.




I thougt his=son, her=sa!


No, the possessive pronoun agrees with the object, not the subject. In this case, 'Lettre' is feminine, therefore the pronoun is the feminine 'sa'. It is always 'sa', even if the possessor is 'il' or 'elle'.


That's correct, but son/sa are not possessive pronouns; they are possessive adjectives. A possessive pronoun would be something like 'mine', 'yours' or 'ours'.


This confused me for a while as well. So how would you say, "the boy is improving her letter"?


"Le garçon améliore sa lettre." That is, precisely the same as "the boy is improving his letter". As has already been pointed out, the gender of the possessive ("son" or "sa") conforms to the gender of the object owned, and has nothing to do with the gender of the owner. Since "lettre" is a feminine noun, the possessive must be "sa".


In simple sentences, you can assume that the possessive relates to the subject.

If it were "her" letter, the French sentence would need to point to the fact that it is not "his", since the possessive is the same:

the boy is improving her letter = le garçon améliore sa lettre à elle


I intentionally chose to respond with "her letter" to see if Duo would accept it. It did not. So are you saying that in French, you would always take the time to specify the gender if there was any chance of confusion? In other words, if I knew my brother had edited my sister's letter and I was relating this to a friend, I would not say "sa lettre" with the expectation that my friend would understand from context?


If your friend knows the story, he won't need "à elle" or rather "la lettre de ma soeur".

If he doesn't and he is interested, he will ask "La lettre de qui ? La tienne / Ta propre lettre ? ou celle de ta soeur ?".


Whenever the word garçon pops up, I can't help but thinking of a waiter instead of a boy (portuguese speakers will understand)


When I was a girl (lo, these many years ago), we were still being taught that the French word for "waiter" was "garçon". Some time over the past 50 years, that term has been discarded as being disrespectful.


Why isn't 'the boy improves his character' accepted? Character is the second translation of the word according to the information bubble that pops up when you hover over the word lettre.


That would be completely misunderstood as a translation of the French.

"A letter" in English and "une lettre" in French can be either a written communication or a graphic symbol. In English, in the latter case, a "letter" refers to a symbol from our own alphabet, while a "character" refers to a different sort of symbol - a Chinese character, for example. As I understand it, the French use "lettre" to refer to both kinds of symbols.

So, while it is technically possible that "Le garçon améliore sa lettre." could refer to the boy improving his rendition of some Chinese character, there is just no way that "The boy improves his character" would convey that meaning to any English speaker. To "improve one's character" would invariably be taken to mean doing something to make oneself a better person - and that is not what the French sentence says..


There is a reason that "letter" is listed as the top-most hint. Other hints may be possible depending on the context, but by venturing into that territory, you may unintentionally change the meaning. It is always preferable to go with the most likely meaning. DL is not designed to reward more creative "translations".


Why wouldn't "The boy is modifiying his letter." not work? I meant the same thing as duolingo's translation, but couldn't think of a word other than modifies.


Because "modify" doesn't say anything about whether the change is for the better. "Améliorer", like "improve", is more specific.


Can '...lettre...' be interpreted as calligraphy?


No. EN "calligraphy" = FR "calligraphie". L'écriture = handwriting. La lettre = letter. There are many free on-line dictionaries available for checking these kinds of things.


I put "ameliorate" as a translation of "améliore" and it was not accepted. Does the French not have connotation of it being initially bad, perhaps? Why doesn't this count?


"Ameliorate" is a very formal version of "improve". "Améliorer", as I understand it, is much less formal; it's just the word for "improve" in French. Matching the level of formality is one of the important aspects of translation, therefore "improve" is the better translation.

That said, the main reason "ameliorate" was not accepted is probably because no one thought to include it in the list of acceptable responses. In general, I find DL is pretty (overly?) accommodating about differences in register.


Why does 'sa' work the same as 'son' when you can't interchange them?It accepts 'sa' as her or his, but 'son' is just his. Confused!


Grammatically, both "son" and "sa" may be either "his" or "her". The French possessive adjective must match the gender and number of the noun it modifies. I.e.,

  • sa lettre (f) = his letter (or) her letter
  • son livre (m) = his book (or) her book

In a sentence like "Le garçon améliore sa lettre", it would be understood as "his letter" because of the subject of the sentence, "le garçon". If you wanted to say "the boy is improving her letter", you would say "Le garçon améliore sa lettre à elle".


If DL actually refused to accept "her" for "son", that would be DL's mistake and should be reported. I admit, however, that since there is no place in the sentence we were given to put the word "son" in translation, I'm thinking that you might have made an error of your own. "Lettre" is a feminine noun and must be "sa", whether the meaning is "his" or "her". It cannot be "son lettre".

DL sometimes gives peculiar "reasons" for marking something wrong - that is, the translation can be wrong, but DL will indicate a different word than the actual mistake. No wonder you're confused!


I feel somewhat confused. I submitted "the boy is improving her letter" as a translation for "le garçon améliore sa lettre". I don't understand why this is wrong. I apologize if you've already explained and I'm just missing something.


Conventionally, the object belongs to the subject.

In 3rd person singular, the possessives are identical for "il" and "elle", because they agree with the possession and they do not give any indication of the owner's gender.

The boy improves his letter = Le garçon améliore sa lettre

The boy improves her letter = Le garçon améliore sa lettre à elle.


i was booted by DL for using 'amends' his letter and then having read some of the comments, i tried again, with 'the boy ameliorates his letter' but this was also rejected.


Please see my reply to lucas-wilkins just a little way further up the page.


The best translation is the one which conveys the meaning of the original sentence naturally in the target language. If you feel compelled to translate "améliorer" as "to ameliorate", you have chosen the sound-alike version over the natural version. So you have to ask yourself, do you really use the English word "ameliorate" in conversation when you want to say that you are improving something or making it better.


J'améliore mon français = I am improving my french.. Is it correct?


Oui, très bien.


Can we also use "sa" when a girl is used instead?


"sa" can translate to "his / her / its".

"sa" is an adjective, and as such it has to agree in gender and number with the noun it modifies:

  • sa lettre (feminine singular) = his/her/its letter
  • son livre (masculine singular) = his/her/its book
  • ses lettres et ses livres (plural) = his/her/its letters and his/her/its books

In other words, "son, sa, ses" does not give you the gender of the owner.


mine said sa meant her... err....the boy/her... errr no


French possessives are adjectives. As any other adjectives, they agree in gender and number with the noun they modify.

  • sa lettre (feminine) = his/her/its letter
  • son livre (masculine) = his/her/its book
  • ses lettres (feminine plural) = his/her/its letters
  • ses livres (masculine plural) = his/her/its books


Does "sa" mean both "her" and "his" and why don't we use "son" instead ?


"une lettre" is feminine, so every adjective relating to the noun has to be feminine as well, including possessive adjectives:

  • his/her/its letter = sa lettre.


can't we use son, I thought they were synonyms ?


I tried "the boy is revising his letter." Is there a reason that that isn't a correct synonym for "improving"?


"revising his letter" does not mean that the letter will eventually be better.


An issue with consistency. "He betters his meal" was accepted, as it should have; but, "he betters his letter" was not. Better is also a verb and duolingo clearly understands that it is acceptable; but, it does not apply it to all of its phrases. Needs fixing


Why is it 'sa' as in 'her'? Shouldn't it be 'ca' (with accent)


At best, with its cedilla, "ça" is the contraction of "cela" and it means "that thing".

In front of the noun, you need a possessive adjective: "her letter" = sa lettre.


Can somebody explain "Sa" and "Son" please. I thought Sa was for feminine and Son was for Masculine but now I'm a little confused. Haha.


Explanations on the French possessives are all over the place on this very thread. You can also find details in the Tips & Notes you can access via the web version or from a PC.


What would we say if he improves 'her letter' and if it is the same how do we know which?


"He is improving her letter" = "Il améliore sa lettre à elle"


You cannot say ..sa letter ...is not her letter


"Sa lettre, son livres, ses lettres, ses livres": French possessive adjectives, like all other adjectives, agree in gender and number with the noun they modify, which is the object owned.

"Sa lettre "= his/her/its letter


The correct translation should be "improves"


can this also mean "the boy improves HER letter"??


Conventionally, the object belongs to the subject. If it were "her" letter, the French sentence would be "il améliore sa lettre à elle".


The answer given is "The boy betters his letter". Not a sentence in English.


Would "the boy is amending his letter" not be the correct translation?


The boy ameliorates his letter should undoubtedly be accepted.

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