This sentence having reached over a 100 comments, I think it's time to make a summary of the knowledge people need to better understand this exercise. I deleted, and will delete comments related to the following matters, unless they can bring something new, or correct something :
Subject-verb inversion : It's used for a certain type of questions in French, even though common French tend not to use it as much. That's why we use "mangent-elles". Note that there's always a hyphen between the verb and the subject with the inversion. You can learn more about the interrogative form in French here : http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/questions.htm. Most of the time you'll use the inversion if it's used as well in English, and vice versa.
The singular form "Mange-t-elle une salade ?" is also accepted when listening to audio, simply because it's impossible to differentiate the two by ear, only the context will help you make the difference. The singular form shouldn't be accepted of course when asking to translate "Do they eat a salad?".
The "t" in "mangent" is pronounced in this sentence because of the liaison between "mangent" and "elles". It's not an optional liaison. You can learn more about liaisons here :
The three categories of liaisons :
The "s" in "elles" is not pronounced, because it's a forbidden liaison, see above for the different categories of liaisons.
"Est-ce qu'elles mangent une salade ?" means the same thing, but using "est-ce que" indicates that the person is expecting a "yes/no" answer.
"Elles mangent une salade ?" is also acceptable, but not using the inversion and not using "est-ce que" means that the question is informal. This type of question belongs to common French.
If you're asked to translate the sentence from English to French, you can use either "elles" or "ils" to translate "they". If the group has both genders, you have to use "ils".
To know more about when to use the hyphen : http://french.about.com/library/writing/bl-tiret.htm
You can't use "the women" or "the girls" instead of "they" simply because the original sentence uses a pronoun, so an accurate translation should use a pronoun as well.
To differentiate "elle" from "elles" in an audio sample, you can use the conjugation of the verb or the rest of the sentence, if it provides enough context. Without any of those, both answers should be accepted.
Note that there is an "enchaînement" between "mangent" and "elles". You can learn more about enchaînements here : http://french.about.com/library/pronunciation/bl-enchainement.htm
There is no hiatus in this sentence.
Contributors : yaur, GAllen2, moonious, Giorgio_mendieta, Australis, charlieg30, ThanKwee, kubalaw55, castguy, 1km, pingu632, Fuman-chu, MonsieurThibault, AasaLundin, DXLi, MR52, Ash2of6, skyisland21, RebeccaNYC and myself.
Links provided by the community :
- http://french.about.com/library/weekly/aa110601.htm (inversion in French)
- http://french.about.com/library/pronunciation/bl-liaisons-f.htm (forbidden liaisons in French)
- http://translate.google.com/?source=osdd#auto|auto|Mangent-elles+une+salade+%3F (the French sentence on Google Translate)
- http://french.about.com/library/pronunciation/bl-enchainement.htm (Enchaînement in French)
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-BcRKKRbxA (Reportage in French)
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ybJEZgc8A0 (French song)
- http://www.ted.com/talks/luis_von_ahn_massive_scale_online_collaboration.html (a talk by Luis)
If you think that you have been forgotten as a contributor, please contact me.
It sounds like this = mang telle une sa lade (the 'en' in 'mangent' is silent. In fact, the 'ent' in 'mangent' is normally silent except when there's a liaison, then just the "en" portion of the word is silent). Note that not only is there a liaison here, but also "enchaînement". http://french.about.com/library/pronunciation/bl-enchainement.htm
A liaison is the phenomenon whereby a normally silent consonant at the end of a word is pronounced at the beginning of the word that follows it
Enchaînement is the phenomenon whereby the consonant sound at the end of a word is transfered to the beginning of the word that follows it
True, but since "a salad" doesn't specify a particular salad here, the general case of 'salad' would be used. You could ask "Do they eat that salad" if you meant a particular salad or kind of salad. If you are asking if they want to eat some salad, you'd ask "Will they eat a salad?" or "Do you want to eat a salad?"
You miss my point. If you meant a particular (single serve of ) salad you still wouldn't ask "Do they eat a salad" as "a salad" in this phrase doesn't mean a particular (single serve of) salad, it means a non specific single serve of salad or a particular type of salad. You would have to use a different phrase like "that salad", "this salad", "one of those salads". In English the question has the meaning of whether "they" would eat a salad given the opportunity, not whether they are currently eating a salad. I have to admit that I don't know whether the french version has both meanings. Can anyone help me out?
Ok, it can mean a particular type of salad. But what's the problem ? You admit that it's correct English to use "a salad" in this particular sentence then ? Because the French sentence implies that the salad itself is unspecified, but it can be part of a set of salads (the set could be different kinds of salads or simply a bunch of salads).
However, I'm surprised about the meaning of opportunity you're talking about. As far as I know, English has conditional tenses to imply possibilities, so if it was about knowing if "they" would eat a salad or not, I think it would rather be "Would they eat a salad ?".
Anyway, the French sentence can't imply a possibility, we would have to use the "conditionnel".
(Can't reply to your last comment) 'Do they eat salad' and 'Would they eat salad' have almost the same meaning in English. The first refers more to a property of the people in question, whether they are salad eaters. The latter has more of a sense of whether 'they' would decide to eat salad in the near future. Hence you could also ask 'Would they eat a salad"
'Do they eat salad' does not mean the same in English as "Are they eating (a) salad' which seems to be the meaning of the french phrase in question. This is why "Do they eat a salad" can't exist in English as you can't refer to a particular salad when talking about the property of the people in question. (Funny to be spending time discussing English when I'm learning French)
Well, the difference between the two seems important enough to me. Anyway, I'm afraid we reached the limits of my English knowledge, so I think it's better if I let native English speakers finish this debate.
But it's alright to discuss about English matters, since we need correct translations, we need the help of native English speakers as much as the help of native French speakers.
I keep forgetting the article "a" in this sentence. No one ever says "Do they eat a salad?" but "Do they eat salad?" Either our grammar is decidedly bad, or this is a translation error. There should be no article "a" in this sentence at all! For instance, you wouldn't say "Do they eat a meat?"
vertforet, I already had a discussion with b_adger on this matter, you can have a look at it above and give your opinion.
What about habits? For example, let's say you're a friend of a couple, and you want to know what diet they're following. So you're asking someone who lives with them a couple of questions, for each day of the week :
- "Monday at lunch. Do they eat a salad?"
- "No, usually green beans, and a tomato salad with tuna for dinner."
- "What about Tuesday?" ...etc
As you can see I still think that "Do they eat a salad?" is correct English, and could be used with the correct context. However I lack the knowledge to prove it, so I'm waiting for native English speakers to give their opinion on the matter. Please feel free to give your input on this, it's important to reach a conclusion on the matter.