Yes, one can. On this particular question, I don't know if it's an accepted answer. "Quelque chose" means "something," whereas "un truc" means "a thing" and is much more informal. It's almost like the word "stuff" in English.
I translated this, correctly, as "I want a thing to write" which to me means a topic, something to write about.
Since the translation is about something to write with may I assume that I was actually wrong and that I should not use it in the sense that I intended?
That was my first thought too, but I was put off by the fact that it's a thing "pour écrire", which struck me more as "a thing for writing (with)" than "a thing that I can write" (which I would imagine would be more likely "un truc à ecrire", though I have no idea if that's grammatical). Finally all these bloody prepositions are actually being useful.
The sense of "un truc pour écrire" tells us that is means "something to write with" which is the natural expression in English when you need to write something down and have no pen/pencil to write with or paper to write on.
I haven't heard it for awhile, but in English there is the familiar expression "thing-a-ma-jig" or "thing-a-ma-bob" which is used, at least in parts of the United States, when you momentarily forget the name of something or you don't actually know its name. "Give me that thing-a-ma-jig over there". One might say this when asking for a tool while working on a machine. "Truc" can be used the same way, I think.
Certainly. Here, the use of "truc" shows that the person is not being choosy about what kind of writing instrument but merely saying "I want something to write with", anything, I don't care what it is.
The act of writing requires several tools, a pen, paper and table (optional). Can the truc refer to something other than the pen?
Something to write with refers to the pen (or pencil etc). Something to write on would refer to the paper.
This rather informal French sentence doesn't explicitly refer to "with" or "on". Though I haven't tried to enter "I need something to write on." Would this translation also be correct?
Yes, it sure can. When I lived in France, "truc" was one of my best friends, haha. It could be used for any "thing"... maybe a great description would be calling something a "truc" when you don't know what else to call it... or, you need a pencil or a pen or a crayon, a "whatever"...just some THING to write with... "truc" says this perfectly.
In my understanding, "truc" is more slang... also, I think people rarely, if at all, just say: "un/une chose"... as opposed to "quelque chose" which is "some thing/something"... whereas "truc" is a really useful word for a "thing"- whatever it may be.
Is that helpful?
Shouldn't it be "I want something with which to write"? This translation is poor English.
I guess it's just one of those things that doesn't directly translate but means the same thing as "I need" in English when said like this.
The "hover" "thing-y" sometimes gives unacceptable suggestions. Now why would Duo Lingo do that? ;)
I sometimes feel great sympathy for Duolingo, we English speakers talk in so many different "languages"!
Google translate has this as "I want something to write" Of course, duolingo counted it wrong. Very confusing.
Always take any translation from "Google translate" with a grain of salt. If you have any doubts about a translation use an online dictionary together with "Google" or another translation service.
Where is 'with'? The literal translation appears to be 'I want something to write' and that would make sense if looking for a topic to write about.