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  5. "Les canards boivent."

"Les canards boivent."

Translation:The ducks are drinking.

February 11, 2013



I translated this as "The ducks drink," which is correct, but it also gave "Ducks drink" as another correct translation. Wouldn't that be "Des canards boivent" and not "Les canards boivent?"


Ok, I'll try to be as clear as possible, but this "des" vs "les" thing is not easy to explain, because articles don't work the same way in French as they do in English.

"des" is an indefinite article, used for things that are not specified in any way. This is the easiest part.

"les" is a definite article, used for things that are specified USUALLY. Which means there is an exception. This exception is the following : We also use the definite article for concepts, general ideas, for example "Le bonheur est important" (Happiness is important). Here you can see that we're not talking about a specific "bonheur", but about the concept. The idea of "bonheur". It works with objects too. "Les roses sont rouges." But a sentence like "Les roses sont rouges." without any context is troublesome, because we don't know if we're talking about the roses in general, or about specific roses that were mentioned earlier in the discussion. That's why two possible translations are possible in English :

1.Roses are red. (all roses)

2.The roses are red. (some roses we know about)

It's the same for this exercise. If we take the sentence "Les canards boivent." alone, we don't know if we're talking about specific ducks or ducks in general (even if the use of "boivent" probably means that it's the first option, but we can't know for sure). That's why both "Ducks drink" and "The ducks drink." are acceptable.

What's even more troublesome, is that English drops the article when talking about general concepts, as we saw earlier, but ALSO when the objects are plural and use the indefinite article (which doesn't exist in English), which confuses things, because French use "des" as a plural indefinite article : "I want roses." = "Je veux des roses."

And now, the final mind boggling touch : "des" can also mean that we use a definite article xD. Indeed, when we use the preposition "de" with articles, we often merge "de" with the article :

"de + un" = "d'un"

"de + une" = "d'une"

"de + le" = "du" or "de l' "

"de + la" = "de la" or "de l' "

"de + des" = "de"

"de + les" = "des"

Here we go, brain damaged. Now, if you want a technique to recognize this tricky "des" which is in fact a "les", you can try the noun with its singular version : "J'ai besoin des vélos du voisin." (I need the neighbour's bikes.) becomes "J'ai besoin du vélo du voisin." (I need the neighbour's bike.) As we have "du", we know that the hidden article is "le", and therefore, that we use a definite article. Also, a merged article with "de" won't usually be used at the beginning of a sentence, so that also helps.

I hope I was clear enough, and didn't forget anything important.


My brain didn't explode until "de + des" = "de".

If I'm understanding it though, you can figure out a little bit based on the fact that "de" means "of" or "from".

So "Je mange des poissons" would mean "I am eating of the fish", which obviously means specific fish.


I think you've confused yourself. Je mange des poissons simply means I am eating fish, which means NOT specific fish.


It was really hard to notice the plural on this sentence. Any tip please? :S


Here you can guess the plural with the followings :

  • "les" (plural) instead of "le/la" (singular)
  • "canards" (plural) instead of "canard" (singular)
  • "boivent" (plural) instead of "boit/bois" (singular)

As for the audio part, "canards" is pronounced the same as "canard", so don't look for anything particular here.

However the other two have a difference of pronunciation. The audio is good enough on this exercise, so if you still can't make the difference, I'd suggest to use the audio on Google Translate for both, you'll get use to it soon enough.


Le canard boive (the duck drinks) should be allowed within the combined limitations of the sound clip and aural perception.


Well do pay attention to the article. "Les" sounds like "Lay" and indicates plural. "Le" sounds like "Luh" and indicates singular. If these are indistinguishable in the audio you hear then do, please report it.


There is no "le canard boive"; it is not possible. First, "les" sounds like lay; "le" sounds like luh. That is a good clue to the plural. The 3rd person singular for boire is "boit" (pronounced bwah). The fact that you heard the "v" tells you that it is "boivent" (3rd person plural).


There is no "le canard boive"; it is not possible.

Just to say that, the form "le canard boive" is actually possible as a valid French construction, in the correct context, inasmuch as "boive" is the third person present subjunctive of "boire".
eg "Il faut que le canard boive...".


what's the difference between boisson and boivent?


Hi Alex. Boisson is the noun Drink. Boivent is a conjugation of the verb Boire (To drink)


By audio only how can you tell if it's singular or plural. It's near impossible to tell "les" and "le" apart


"Les" sounds like lay. "Le" sounds like luh. You will also hear the "v" in the third person plural conjugation boivent. So you have two excellent clues to tell you it is "les canards boivent".


Correcta "The ducks drink" to "The ducks are drinking" seemingly assuming it's already taught me the grammar lesson. I have no idea how to distinguish present tense from continuous present tense in French.


They are, for all practical purposes, the same. Both "The ducks drink" and "The ducks are drinking" should be accepted here, and it appears that the former was accepted at one point but not now. If you have not reported it, please do so. If it's something the mods can fix and not a Pearson glitch, then it should get fixed eventually, but reporting it is important.


Since French has no present continuous tense, the present tense may be translated to English as either Simple Present (the ducks drink) or Present Continuous (the ducks are drinking). This is normal. There is no difference in French. Choose the English form that sounds the most natural for what you need to say.

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