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"Happy employees are good employees."

Translation:Les employés heureux sont de bons employés.

February 11, 2014



I'm curious, why is it that both "les employées" and "des employés" are acceptable beginnings of the sentence (with the remainder the same for both options)? I'd think that the latter implies "some" employees and the former "the" employees (in a definite sense); in English, these have different meanings. Is there no equivalent distinction in French?


I'm also curious.

"Les employés heureux" would presumably refer to happy employees in general, here, which would fit the sense of the English.

But "des employés heureux"?


The English phrase: Happy employees can either mean:

some happy employees which translates as des employés heureux

or it can mean happy employees in a general sense and in French generalities for countable nouns will use les and for uncountable nouns will use le or la


This doesn't quite accord with my sense of it.

"Happy employees are good employees" is not equivalent to (and cannot mean) "some happy employees are good employees". While you're right about the different interpretations of the phrase "happy employees" if you imagine it in various different contexts, its meaning is nonetheless restricted by whatever specific context it appears in.

If the sentence were "we have happy employees", then it would be "des employés", because of course "happy employees" would not be referring to "all the happy employees that exist in general (in the world)", but rather a subset of these, the ones that work for us.

But with the gnomic "happy employees are good employees", I can't see "happy employees" meaning anything but "all the happy employees that exist in general", rather than a subset. With the phrase in this initial position in the sentence, a subset, if desired, would need to be explicitly specified (e.g. with "some"). And "in general" (as an implied notion) usually translates to "les", as you've noted.

So "des" in the French sentence seems incongruous.


PJP thanks for your views. Grammar is sometimes tricky. Generalities by their nature are just generalities and are not specific statements.

definition of generality; a statement or principle having general rather than specific meaning..

In English when I say 'I like wine' it doesn't necessarily mean I like drinking all types of wine (dry wines, sweet wines, fruity wines, etc.), it's just a general statement. Equally when I say 'I enjoy running' it doesn't necessarily mean I like all types of running such as running up steep hills or running down a black run on a ski slope, just running in a general sense.

In French, generalities associated with countable nouns will use the determiner les.


Grammar can be tricky indeed, but I'm well versed in it. I've been around the block specifically with "les" versus "des" a number of times (here and here, for example), and unfortunately I'm still no closer to an answer on this one.

Point number one, we can agree on:

  1. In French, generalities associated with countable nouns employ the determiner "les". (In fact "le" and "la" are also possible, but this is a side issue that we can ignore.)

Point number two, I would set forth as follows:

  1. "Happy employees are good employees" is a generality associated with a countable noun.

From these two points we can understand why "happy employees are good employees" would translate to "les employés heureux sont de bons employés". (This explanation is a bit of an oversimplification, but it'll do.)

What has yet to be answered is why "des employés heureux sont de bons employés" is also accepted as a translation (and is in fact the default translation currently shown on the website). If it's correct, then there's something about the French, not the English, that remains unclear to me.

If in fact you're of the view that "happy employees [the complete set] are good employees" can mean "some happy employees [a subset] are good employees", then we'll have to agree to disagree.

I won't bother to parse your examples of statements of preference, because I think they take us on a tangent, but I will mention that in French, statements of general preference invariably employ a definite article, so in any event these examples don't get us any closer to an answer here.

(I've posted a question on the "Les or Des" page. Perhaps someone there can help us out.)


Sitesurf to the rescue! In light of Sitesurf's incisive comment below, I think we have to succumb to the idiom and let go, to some extent, of the notion of "some" for "des".

It's certainly helpful to view it as a simple shift from singular to plural. However, in English, in a shift from

  • "a happy employee is a good employee"


  • "happy employees are good employees",

both of which are aphoristic, "a happy employee" would be equivalent to "any happy employee", and "happy employees" would be equivalent to "any happy employees", i.e. "all happy employees", not "some".

Perhaps a measure of harmony can be found in this sense: "[those of the] employees [in the world] who are happy are good employees".


If you put the French sentence in singular, you get another (hopefully clearer) view:

  • un employé heureux est un bon employé =a happy employee is a good employee.

Now, just put it in plural:

  • des employés heureux sont de bons employés = happy employees are good employees.

In both cases, the sentence is a kind of proverb or generality.

So far, you have learned other ways of expressing generalities, like:

  • les employés heureux sont de bons employés = happy employees are good employees.

Whatever happens, the English sentence will be the same in plural, since "employees" can mean "des/les employés" depending on context.

This is why Duolingo accepts both "des" and "les" in the French translations.



I think we can agree on the following two points:

Point 1: if we start form the English sentence:

Happy employees are good employees

then most if not all native English speakers think this is a general statement and therefore the French equivalent is:

les employés heureux sont de bons employés

Point 2: The Duolingo answer using des employés can be misleading and should be avoided.

I suspect the reason why it was included in a multiple choice answer was because in English, the word some in the construct some of something may be dropped but in French it usually cannot be dropped.


Il y a des fourmis partout. - There are ants everywhere.

Applying this logic, it could be construed that the English sentence: Happy employees are good employees could mean

some happy employees are good employees

although this would be a bizarre interpretation. If a native English speaker wanted to say this they would never leave out the word some

I suspect the person who devised this exercise is not a native English speaker.


Having read Sitesurf's response I still find PeaceJoyPancakes reasoning persuasive. Another point to check out with my French friend.


I should really know this, but why is it de and not des here?


It's one of those funny exceptions. Since the adjective comes before the noun ("bons employés" and not "employés bons," which you can't say), you use "de" instead of "des." Hope that helps!


Ah yes. Thanks. I swear must have remembered and then forgotten that rule a dozen time by now.


Updating doubts:

One of the snags is that oftentimes we don't know why duolingo's team reject an answer. Is it a true error or a sentence missing in the software reservoir?

I personally see as perfectly acceptable: Les employées heureuses sont de bonnes employées + Les employées heureuses sont des bonnes employées. Perhaps the first one is "more french".

Best regards.


The system rejects any answer which does not match the acceptable answers the team has registered, whatever the reason. The computer-checker screens your answers sign by sign and only clears 100% identical sentences, except for capital letters and punctuation which it was programmed to ignore.


Logical, we are dealing with a simple computer Program. An AI program is far too complex to develop for language learning.

After your explanation Sitesurf I will try and be less critucal with DL, for the team has put a lot of time constructive a list of right answers. And it is constantly revising new possible answers to add to the existing list or even removing from the list.

As a former computer programmer knowing your modus operandi changes my outlook on DL completely.

I have seen the light haha.


My reading suggests that "de bon(ne)s employé(e)s" would be the more formally correct version (the rule being to use "de" in front of a plural adjective), whereas something like "des bon(ne)s employé(e)s" might be heard in casual conversation. Further, for adjective-noun combinations that act as a fixed unit, the rule of switching to "de" is less likely to be applied, and might even be incorrect.

But I defer, as always, to natives and generally to the more knowledgeable, and especially to Sitesurf.

Duolingo tries to stick to more formal rules, as far as I understand it, which is reasonable, as it doesn't really have a way to impart all of the nuances of French language usage within its limited scope. At some point learners have to look elsewhere for guidance and further progress.

But it's a great launching pad for the dedicated, and the discussions can be very informative.


So why is it "employés heureux/bons employés" noun, adjective then adjective, noun???


"Bon" (G in BANGS) is irregular and "heureux" is regular.



Les employés heureux sont de bons employés > Happy employee are good employees

Les employés engagés sont de bons employés > Engaged employee are good employees

Un employé satisfait est un bon employé > Satisfied employee are good employees

On the contrary, In HR terms, you can also say that happy or engaged employees are good employees to accomplish organizational goals. Few days, I have also written a worth reading post on employee engagement. You can read it here https://www.millforbusiness.com/why-is-employee-engagement-important/


In another lesson we had, I'm fairly sure, the phrase "les bons comptes font les bons amis". Why is it "les bons amis" in that case but "de bons employés" in this?


One suggestion: It might be a good idea for Duolingo to provide a hint as to the chosen translation: 1. Is it an already made, prêt-a porter, cliché, "buffet" answer or idiom - whatever you call it? or 2. Is it a free translation with several putative right answers?


Often this information does come up in the discussions, though I can certainly see the potential benefit of such a hint associated with the question itself.

Sometimes the allowable translations include both fixed expressions and free translations, which is also understandable.


I fully agree with both your comments.


These words do NOT appear in the 'word bank' --impossible to do correctly without going to keyboard--and maybe not then--I haven't been able to get out of this loop!!!!


If you tell us what words are offered in the bank, perhaps we can help make a correct answer out of them.


They accepted "Des employees heureuses sont de bonnes employees" from a 'word bank' that didn't contain the words they had as the correct translation (heureux, employes, bon). Please excuse the lack of accents.


The French dictation exercise that uses this sentence uses "des employés", but the translation-from-English exercise of the same sentence will accept only "les employés". Reported.


The original, French sentence is "les employés heureux sont de bons employés". The translation to English has "happy employees are good employees". Then the reverse translation back to French can have "les" or "des" since the English sentence without an article can allow for either.


Yes. Thanks for the quick reply. I am talking about a DL frame in which we are given the English first. But DL will not accept a translation that begins with "Des" instead of "Les".

I will watch for this problem next time I go through DL and continue reporting.


I found the glitch so the "des" version should work now... Thanks.


All these comments seem to be about the employees. I put 'heureux' and it was marked wrong and replaced with 'contents'. As far as I know happy is heureux.


Hi Jude,

  1. See DL's correct solution at the top of this page. It uses the word "heureux". (Sometimes the DL computer program will suggest other answers using other words, based on what it thinks you are trying to say.)

  2. Please tell us exactly what you wrote for your answer. That way we can tell if there was some other mistake in your answer that caused DL not to accept it.


Hi, Ion1122. I put exactly what the translation is above. I used ‘heureux’ as above and was marked wrong. Duo said it should be ‘contents’.

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