I wish there was a section where we could save the comments that we find most helpful for future reference. hint hint
The first principle is that nouns are rarely left alone in French. In particular, articles are used where the English skip them.
"She eats bread" = she eats some bread = a certain quantity of bread
In French, that notion is expressed with construction : de + definite article - with the masculine definite article "le", de-le is contracted in "du" -> elle mange du pain - with the feminine definite article "la", no change: "de la" -> elle mange de la soupe
But 'She eats bread' isn't always about a certain quantity of bread. It could very well be a question of eating bread in general, right? Whereas 'Are you eating bread?' would be more time specific and thus about a certain quantity.
I ask this because I had some troubles with it in an earlier question.
The verb's tense makes "she eats bread" a generality, or at least a habit. But every time she does, its only "some bread".
This is why the object is the same in "she is eating bread".
Someone in another thread left a comment about this that I've found helpful in combination with Sitesurf's explanation: where the noun is the object of an active verb, the article is indefinite, e.g. "elle mange du pain," and where the noun is the object of a verb of appreciation (like, love, hate), the article is definite, e.g., "elle aime le pain."
"Du" in masculine and "de la" in feminine are not indefinite articles, but partitive articles used with uncountable nouns to mean "an unknown amount of a mass".
The indefinite articles are "un, une, des" for countable nouns only.
She eats THE bread (specific) = elle mange LE pain (specific).
She eats (some) bread (undefined quantity of a mass) = elle mange DU pain (partitive = undefined quantity of a mass thing).
I keep forgetting to translate 'du' as 'some', it is a real /pain/. Oh well, gotta practice more.
If it were pomme it would have been de la pomme, not du pomme, I think.
Why is 'mange' translated as 'eats' as opposed to 'eating'? I'm assuming that 'mange' isn't translated as ate because the sentence is present tense. So, in this sense, it seems to make more sense -grammatically- to suggest that 'she is eating some bread', right? I guess I'm confused by the language used.
In English, to mean that an action is in progress at the time you speak, you use the continuous verbal form, ie verb BE + action verb in the gerund form (-ing).
o she is eating means she currently eats
In French, this verbal form does not exist (directly translated “elle est mangeant” is incorrect).
Therefore, you can translate either “elle mange” or “elle est en train de manger”, where the construction verb être + en train de + infinitive correctly expresses the English continuous form.
The essence of what Sitesurf is getting at is that both are in the present tense, whether you say she eats or is eating. With French, you can often let the context of the sentence take care of itself, so long as you have the right tense for the verb.
I wrote 'ils mangent du pain'. what is wrong with this? i didn't detect any reference to gender in the audio.
danbalam, the sentence was written and it was feminine and singular. Elle mange du pain
Danbalam-I also got it as an audio clip. Make yourself listen to the slow clip so you assure yourself-or try to get the right words. I put Il first then heard Elle. Some words are so flippin' tricky!
What is the difference in sound between "Elle mange" and "Elles mangent"?
sometimes mange is translated as "is eating" but other times it's translated as "eats" so if I'm reading something in French that says mange, how do I tell which one it means