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It's funny to see how this causes so much confusion. In this case I'm lucky to be Spanish because we use the exact same structure as the French to state that something is needed. Think of it as something like 'It's raining'. It makes no sense to ask what is raining, it's just the way it works. Or if someone told you 'It's five o'clock', would you ask him 'WHAT is five o'clock?'. The same way you say 'It rains' or 'It's five o'clock' we and the French say 'Milk is needed' or 'We need milk'.
To RH1234 above and RossLG below. "He needs milk." is "Il a besoin du lait." and you can also say "Il lui faut du lait." which is "It is necessary for him to have milk." or "Milk is necessary for him." or "Milk is needed by him."
They don't mean "we" specifically but as a generalization in French they use "we" to generalize or "on" while we use "you" or "one" to generalize. To use this verb form for "he" you would say "Il lui faut du lait." which would be like saying "It is necessary for him to have milk." for a specific "we" it would be "Il nous faut du lait." or "It is necessary for us to have milk." (They don't have to say "to have" with this verb in French, but when there is a noun after it instead of a verb in English that is how it would translate.) So as it is written above it is "It is necessary to have milk." and in English that could mean "Milk is necessary." or "Milk is needed." or the generalization: "One needs milk." http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/falloir.htm
No, "il faut" is an expression which means "It is necessary" when in front of an infinitive and "it is necessary to have" when in front of a noun. There is no specific person nor thing that is the subject. It is a generalization. If you wanted to say "It needs milk.", you would have to say "Il a besoin du lait." or "Il lui faut du lait." unless the thing that needs milk happens to be feminine in French in which case you would say "Elle a besoin du lait." or "Il lui faut du lait."
Scroll up and down for more info.
The "we" is not we specifically but the "we" as in all people. "il faut" is an idiom which means "it is necessary to have...." or ".....is necessary." or "....is needed." "Milk is needed." "It is necessary to have milk." The impersonal "you" is also common as in all people, or better yet "One needs milk." "Milk is needed." even works for "it" as well as for someone or people, such as for a recipe. It is not known who or what needs some milk. http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/falloir.htm
"Il nous faut manger." = "It is necessary for us to eat.." = "We need milk."
"Il" doesn't translate as we. "Il faut" translates as "It is necessary..." and "It is necessary for us...." translates as "We need..." Sometimes you just cannot translate word for word and you have to translate idiom for idiom. Without a pronoun indicating for whom or what the milk is necessary, we can say "It is necessary to have milk." or we can put it in passive "Milk is needed." This can be a generalization, that milk is needed by everyone. In which case there are more possible idioms with pronouns used to mean everyone "We need milk." or "You need milk." or "One needs milk." or there is a cultural idiom from an ad for milk "Milk does a body good.", but I doubt that duolingo would accept that last one.
Rachel, there are many impersonal verbs in French. "Falloir" is one of them. Impersonal verbs are only conjugated in the il form. Falloir means "to be necessary".
When I say "il faut du lait", it literally means that "It is necessary for some milk". English, however rejects this sentence formation. Thus, "Milk is needed", is the most correct option. Now let us change the sentence a little bit by saying "il faut boire du lait". Guess it's translation. Doesn't that mean "It is necessary to drink milk". Now, English won't accept "Drinking milk is needed", as it makes no sense at all because "needed" is only used when something is less in quantity.
Other impersonal verbs are "pleuvoir", "neiger", etc.
I do not think you are right ,there are not many impersonal verbs in French there are two ;falloir and neiger . many other verbs can be used impersonally but this use is not exclusive so to class arriver for example as an impersonal verb is not correct as it is not used exclusively in the third person singular
Yes, correct! "Il faut" means something is needed/necessary. Like "il y a," trying to translate it directly won't get you very far. However, don't think of it as a totally fixed phrase, as it is still modified based on the subject – e.g. "il me faut" is "I need" / "I have to" – as well as the tense.
My friend just explained this to me, since I had the same problem as all of you. The short version is because it is an expression and only will conjugate in third person. This site is recommended: http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/devoirfalloir.htm
That is right. " il" can mean "it". http://french.about.com/od/grammar/ss/subjectpronouns_4.htm
"il faut" means "it is necessary" or "it is needed"; "il faut du lait", (literally "it is needed, some milk".) and translated as "Milk is needed." or "Some milk is needed." We don't know who needs it.
Of course, some people would use the general form of we or you or one which is more in keeping with "it is necessary". "One needs milk.", other examples not in keeping with this particular lesson: "You need milk to survive." and "We need milk to be healthy."
"il lui faut du lait." (literally, "It is needed, some milk for him.") which means "He needs some milk." or "He needs milk." (when not specifying in English "some" is assumed for an indefinite amount). http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/devoirfalloir.htm
You can't translate this sentence word by word. The best literal translation is "Milk is needed", although in this situation one would most likely say "We need milk" (which is also a valid answer). [As it's already been said, consider this (french) "il" as it was an (english) "it"]
"il faut" is an expression which is not to be separated. Just as "il" can mean "he or it", so too does "lui" mean "him or it" in this case that follows: "il lui faut du lait." could mean "Milk is needed for him" which is usually translated as "He needs milk." or "Milk is needed for it." which is usually translated as "It needs milk."
Yes, but it actually means "Some milk is needed". If you wanted to emphasize he, she or it, you would say "il lui faut du lait." which would mean "Some milk is needed for him." meaning "He needs milk." or "Some milk is needed for it." meaning "It needs milk." or even "Some milk is needed for her." meaning "She needs milk."
"il faut" is an idiom that cannot be separated like "il y a". "il" can be "he" or "it", but in this expression "il faut" means "it is necessary to have" or "....is needed" with the word afterwards being what is needed. Scroll up for more info. and check the following website: http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/falloir.htm
"I need..." is "il me faut..." literally "it is necessary for me to have...."
"you need..." is "il te faut..." for familiar singular form of you (tu) or "il vous faut..." for plural or formal singular you (vous)
"they need..." is "il leur faut..."
I had trouble understanding it /completely/ because I had no context to figure out what words I was supposed to be listening for. If the question included a picture of a table with an empty glass of milk I would have guessed better, but still may have misspelled some words.
Come to think of it, learning a language might be much easier with pictures with the words, or with a running conversation to provide context. I think Babble does something like that.
In French the generalization "Nous" can be used to mean everyone, but in English we would use "You" so they opted to change for the other generalization "On" which is also used in English "One". "Milk is needed." and "It is necessary to have milk." are still accepted. http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/falloir.htm