1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: French
  4. >
  5. "Bread is bad."


"Bread is bad."

January 26, 2013



The translation is good for: "The bread is bad" I think.


Why "le pain" and not "du pain"?


The statement is about bread in general. "du" refers to an indefinite / unimportant quantity of something. Often if you can use "du" in a French sentence, there is an implicit "some" in the English translation. For example:

Il mange du pain == He eats [some] bread

In this sentence, the some is optional, and doesn't really change the meaning of the sentence. However, think about the sentence "Bread is bad". If you change this to "Some bread is bad" you are actually changing the meaning of the sentence, because the original is a statement about ALL bread, whereas the second is only for an indefinite amount.

If you are making a statement about ALL of something, then in French you use the definite articles (le, la, l', and les).


Further to Patlaf's comments here is a quote.

The definite article is also used in French to indicate the general sense of a noun. This can be confusing, as definite articles are not used in this way in English. endquote. The meaning all of examples of some thing is not something that is used in English.

For this rule and an overwhelming number of others relating to definite and indefinite articles see: http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/articles_2.htm

Duo doesn't spend a lot of time on grammar rules because they use repetition to make their point. You can remember this example and see when it applies elsewhere or you can try and remember a page full of rules. Or even better do both.

Losing a heart will help you remember. Looking up the rule will help you understand.


say if you were at a restaurant and you're friend asks you how the bread is? Do you have to reply with le pain est mauvais? Because this seems a bit too general, this is implying that all bread ever is bad, and not just the bread at that restaurant? Or is there another way you would say that.


If I am not mistaken, I believe you would use 'ca' which sort of means it or this. So 'Ca pain est mauvais' or simply 'C'est mauvais' would be a good response.


This question is poorly worded. If they wanted us to answer "le pain est mauvais" they should have written the question as "the bread is bad".

"Bread is bad" is essentially saying that "all bread is bad". The correct answer "le pain est mauvais" means, specifically, "the bread is bad". In English, when someone says "bread is bad" they are condemning bread. Maybe, they are against carbs, processed grain, baked goods, etc. However, saying "the bread is bad" is referring to a specific bread that is bad. These two sentences are completely different and this question is misleading.


Please see my comment above, or northernguy's comment. Both "The bread is bad" and "[All] bread is bad" translate to "le pain est mauvais". Check out the link in Northernguy's comment for more info, but it's summed up below:

When English drops the article you either imply [some] or you imply [all]. If you're implying [some] then you use the partitive article (du, de la, de l', des). If you imply [all] then you use the definite article (le, la, l', les).


When the article is dropped in English, then "all" is assumed.

Regardless of that, you yourself stated that I may infer "all" or "some" when the article is dropped in English. Then you go on to list the appropriate French articles dependent on which one was inferred. In other words, answering this question with "du pain est mauvais" is also an acceptable answer, when inferring "some".

Hence, my original conclusion which was that the question is poorly worded. Specifically, either the answer list should be expanded or there should be an article added in front of "bread". Either of those would clarify the question creator's intent.


In English the bread means that bread right there.

Some bread means some unknown quantity but not all bread

Bread without clarification means all examples of bread, the idea of bread.

But the French don't like a noun flopping around without a modifier to attach it to. Like English speakers, they don't have a standard article that means all but they want to stick one in there anyway so they have assigned that role to le/ la/ les.

La/ le/ les can mean either that/those one/s right there, or it can mean all examples of something, the idea of something.

When you hear a French speaker refer to le pain you know he doesn't mean du pain/ some bread. When you hear and English speaker refer to bread you know he doesn't mean some bread/ du pain because he didn't say that.

In this example the English speaker is not referring to that bread right there. He isn't referring to some bread. He is referring to all bread. In French you express the notion of all bread by using le in it's dual role.

If you are wondering how to tell if le/ la/ les is being used in one sense (very general) or the other (specific), you can't without context.


I think you misuderstood what I was saying... A noun can appear in English with no article in 2 ways. Examples of the 2 uses are:

  • Bread is bad
  • I am eating bread

In both cases, "bread" has no article, but one implies all bread in the universe, the other implies an unimportant/unknown quantity. These two ideas need different articles in French.

The quick test to figure out what article to use in French is this: Try putting "some" in front of the noun, and try putting "all" in front of the noun, and use the one that doesn't change the meaning! i.e.:

  • All bread is bad (since "Some bread is bad" changes the meaning)
  • I am eating some bread (since "I am eating all bread" changes the meaning)

If you had to use "all" then use the definite article in French. If you had to use "some" then use the partitive article.

So your final answers will be:

  • Le pain est mauvais
  • Je mange du pain
Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.