"The animal eats."
French is a language of reductions. In English, cannot CAN become can't and should not CAN become shouldn't, but in French Le animal MUST become L'animal and le homme MUST become l'homme. It is mandatory in French that if an article such as le/la precedes a noun that begins with a vowel or silent "h", then that article must become l' in front of the noun. Instead of saying "le animal", you would say "l'animal", basically saying "animal" but adding an "l" to the front...understand?