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given that lovely, beautiful and pretty all have semantic overlap in English when referencing aesthetic judgements i fail to see why "pretty" is not an acceptable rendering here. I know that French joli is usually translated as pretty, but there is certainly not an exact 1 to 1 semantic mapping between the two terms and we are talking about translation from French to English here, not the other way round.
Hi Andrew. There's a guide to the adjectives which precede the noun they modify. It's called "BANGS" where B=Beauty/Ugliness, A=Age, N=Number,S=Size. There are exceptions but this guide will work most times. BTW, Bel is used here replacing Beau because Oiseau begins with a vowel. Same applies to vowel sounds like "Homme".
Um, except not here.
When to use "c'est" and when to use "il est" is kind of confusing for Anglophones. But FlyingDucks is quite right, "He's a beautiful bird" is right, although not so much because of "un" but because "oiseau" is a noun. "Il est beau", but "C'est un bel oiseau".
This is a pretty good explanation: http://www.frenchtoday.com/blog/cest-versus-il-elle-est
You're at a much higher level than i am, but as i understand it, belle is used for feminine nouns and beau is usually used for masculine nouns, but cannot be used before a noun that begins with a vowel. When a noun is masculine and begins with a vowel and the adjective is meant to describe beauty (i.e. a "BANGS adjective that must precede the noun) then "bel" is substituted. "Oiseau" is one such noun. I suppose if it were a "big" bird, one could use un beau gros oiseau. But i am a complete novice, so take that with a bit of salt.
Don't take too much credence on the levels, I could do level one basics a thousand times, know no French and have a 25 level. Russ. You seem to know your onions, mate. So I must admit that you have opened up some grammar for me which I will now research and I thank you for that, this is what these threads are for even if Duo are now restricting them. I did know about Bel(le) and Beau by the way but your post is useful. Votre ami JJ.