1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: French
  4. >
  5. "I only like cats."

"I only like cats."

Translation:J'aime uniquement les chats.

February 15, 2013



Why is it not des chats?


Because it is a generality, which in French needs a definite article.


I got it a while back, but I find it hilarious that a generality requires a definite.


What is really hilarious is that English does not have an article of any kind that expresses generality and thus forces the listener/reader to try and figure out if some or all is intended.


Incorrect. I like the cats = i like the cats in question; i like cats = i like cats in general. "The" would not be used in english unless it were referring to particular cats. The lack of an article is what indicates the generality of the sentence.


You are Correct. Northern guy seems not to understand that he uses English to show the different possibilities. "I like some cats", and "I like all cats" are english phrases. He proves the precision of correctly used english phrases, albeit unknowingly.


Your argument does not make any sense. Im French saying "J'aime les chats means you like cats in general, but of course doesn't mean ones that attack you either. Very few French people mean they like all cats either, or they would specify that they were meaning all cats, as would an english speaking person who was using correct english and using it clearly. If an english speaking person wanted to convey that they liked all cats no matter what, it would be required to add a modifier if one wished to be understood.
Communication means getting your point across and being understood. It can be done sloppily or precisely in any language.



It is unfortunate that comments in given threads don't always appear in sequence in Duo's site design. As a result I have no idea where this post will end up in the chain.

Duo, about.com and many others say that French has a system of articles that are roughly equivalent to the, some and all in English. English speakers routinely drop the general articles in ordinary conversation leaving it up to the listener to figure it out from context. French requires that the article or some equivalent be present. Because of that requirement language learning programs insist that the article be the correct one.

Whatever speech patterns you and your friends use when speaking French, on Duo, if you use les/all in an example where des/some expresses the correct meaning of the sentence they will mark you wrong. If you simply drop the article in French they will mark you wrong. If you drop the modifier in the English portion of examples, leaving out all/some entirely they will accept the answer.

In your example j'aime les chats where you yourself say that you mean only some cats, Duo will mark that wrong if the Duo example indicates that only some cats are being referred to.

I don't dispute local French speech patterns may be as you claim. But on Duo, a clear distinction is drawn between all/some in French which they insist is how French should be spoken. They also insist that the distinction should be drawn in almost all circumstances.

I do not claim that English cannot match French in its use of precise articles. My claim is that English allows the precision to be dropped whereas French does not. Because English speakers can they do. They do routinely fail to distinguish between all and some. But on Duo that isn't an option when translating into French.

I suggest to English speakers who have difficulty sorting out the correct use of the French articles in question that they should go back to their English and think about how they would talk if they had to always indicate whether it was some or all that they meant. If they do that, then the French part is easy.

Telling students on Duo as you did in your comment, that j'aime les chats is a perfectly good translation of I like some cats is doing them a disservice. In the Duo world it is not a good translation and will get marked wrong every time.


I like cats = some cats (not the ones that are diseased, fight all the time and aren't house broken but then you figured that out without me saying)

I like cats = all cats (because I am just into cats and no matter how despicable they might seem to others I still like them without qualification, but then you figured that out without me saying)

Until students figure out the difference between French and English in this use of articles they will find it difficult to process them appropriately.

French goes to considerable trouble to make clear what English leaves up to the listener/reader to figure out. This is so basic to English speakers that many do not even realize that they do it. French specifies whether they are referring to particular, some or all. English routinely does not.



I can assure you that people who routinely say I like cats usually do not mean they like all cats. Very few people literally like all cats. It is a rare individual that genuinely likes the rabid cat that just bit him.

Some and all are different concepts. English speakers very often leave it up the listener/reader to figure out from context which is meant...all cats or just some cats. They say I like cats. They do that because most times it doesn't make any difference to their intent.

English has words that limit the generality but are not required. French has words that connote a degree of generality and one of them is required quite often. It isn't that I think English lacks the words needed. The point is that in English, you don't have to deal with that if you don't want to. In French, you do.


Thank you, you keep on answering this question and I keep on forgetting it! Hopefully this time it will stick in my memory!


You also cannot use an indefinite article after the verb "aimer", right?



You are correct.

Stand alone appreciation verbs cannot be limited in that way. You can not say j'aime du vin.


I'm struggling with this. My last sentence was "I have principles" and it says I was wrong to use "les." Here it says I'm wrong to use "des." When the article is missing in English, how do we decide whether it should be des or les?


Remember: the object of verbs of likes and dislikes are general, always.

  • j'aime le vin, les chats...

With other verbs, try to add "in general" after the English plural noun. If the sentence still works with no change in meaning, use "le, la, les".

Alternatively, put the sentence in singular: if you get "a/one", remember that the plural of "un/une" is "des", the plural indefinite article that English does hot have.


Good advice. Thanks, Sitesurf.


You use "les" when talking in general about "all kinds" of the noun. You use "des" when talking about an indefinite number of the noun.

For this question, you use "les" since you're talking about all cats in general.

In your previous question, your answer could be right or wrong, depending on the context. For example, if you were asked "Êtes-vous républicain ?" ("Are you a republican?") then it would be correct to say, "Oui, j'ai les principes." ("Yes, I have the [republican] principles.") I.e., you have all the principles in question, in general.

But if you were asked "Êtes-vous un homme politique ?" ("Are you a political man?") then it would be correct to say "Oui, j'ai des principes." ("Yes, I have some [political] principles"), since you're not talking about any specific breed of principles.

Let me know if this makes sense. My French isn't perfect, but, believe me when you read enough French you get an intuitive feel between "des" and "les," even if it's not so easy to express the difference.



One way to be clear about the use of les/des is to be really clear about what you are saying in English. English speakers typically leave it up to the reader/listener to figure out what is meant when it comes to articles. French puts more obligation on the speaker/writer to specify what is intended.

Le/la/les = the particular ..those ones right there

du/de la/des = some, many but not all

le/la/les = all examples, the idea of the examples, all the examples in the world.

If you think the statement I have principles should be taken to mean...I have those particular principles that we are talking about or understand that we are referring to, then use les.

If you think I have principles should be taken to mean ...I have all the principles in the world, all known examples of principles, the idea of principles, then use les.

If you think I have principles should be taken to mean .... I have some principles some of which are relevant to this discussion, then use des.

Of course, English speakers like to drop the article and let the audience figure it out. Because of that it isn't always evident which use should be offered when translating. That means you have to sometimes try to figure it out.

Use the context to tell which is the correct choice. You wouldn't be saying you want all the apples in the world when speaking the English sentence ...I want apples. So les general doesn't work. You wouldn't be saying I want the apples right there if there were no apples right there or understood to be the subject of the conversation, so les particular doesn't work. Without any context you have to assume that the English statement means you want some apples and translate accordingly. Des

Students tend to look at the sentence and think what could this possibly mean in French instead of what does it actually mean in English. The French choices are always pretty straightforward if you are really sure about the English.


As I stated, I do not have problems figuring out les and des in french. I have problems deciding whether to translate principles to des principes or les principes, and Duo said I was wrong to use des. So I appreciate you answering, but both of you basically say the same things I'm saying.


Remember this is a Duo prompt, not mine. I know what I mean. I just don't know what Duo means.


But how could you have trouble figuring out what you mean in English? If you know what you mean in English the French is obvious.

If you mean you have all the principles in the world (which you can't actually have) then it is les. If you mean the context indicates that you are talking about a particular set of principles then it is les. If you mean you are talking not about all the principles in the world, not talking about a context that indicates a particular set of principles but something in between then you use des.

I'm not sure which example from Duo you are referring to that marked you wrong for using des but here is a copy paste of a Duo question and answer.


"J'ai des principes."

Translation: I have principles.



I remember it by thinking that "des" = some, and this statement means all cats


Can you also place the adverb in front of the verb and say "Je seulement aimes les chats"?


No, you can't. The only other place for the adverb, in this sentence, is at the end : "j'aime les chats seulement"


And yet when DL corrected me, it placed "seulement" before "les chats". That said, For me, sitesurf trumps the red box.


I did not make myself clear enough; there are 2 possible placements here.

  • j'aime seulement les chats (Best translation)
  • j'aime les chats seulement (good alternative)

You will never get an adverb between subject and conjugated verb.


I have never heard anyone say 'uniquement' except 'seulement'


So, you don't know my boss...


What is the difference between uniquement and seulement? I find them both translated as "only" in dictionaries so I don't understand why "j'aime seulement les chats" is wrong here.


There is not much difference in this sentence and you could also use "exclusivement" as another synonym.


Why does j'aime seulement les chats not work?


Why not de chats? I saw somewhere else that "de" is used for generality?


Generalities are built with definite article le/la/les.

To remember it for next time you get a generality, maybe you could try to learn this by heart: "men are stronger than women" = "les hommes sont plus forts que les femmes".

When it comes to "de", it is a preposition used in a wide variety of constructions that I think you can't all swallow at this point. So, if you have a specific question on a sentence with "de", I will be pleased to answer to you.


How about "je ne veux jamais manger de pains"? Assuming that is a correctly constructed sentence of course! Why isn't that "je ne veux jamais manger les pains"?


Your sentence is correctly built, with only one point wrong: "pain" should be singular because remember that the singular is "je mange du pain" -> je ne mange pas de pain". Again a partitive for an uncountable object.

"je ne veux jamais manger d'animaux" would be plural (countable)


That's a very fine point of difference, I'm not sure if I would pick it up were it to happen again. Thanks for explaining it to me, I guess I just need to be exposed to more French to learn these nuances.



I guess if I think of uniquement as exclusively rather than only it will be clear why des doesn't work in this example. In English, one could say I like only some cats but it would be very strange to say I like exclusively some cats.

Besides, I remember you saying appreciation verbs cannot be matched with du/des. This example neatly shows what can happen if you try to.


"seulement" and "uniquement" or "exclusivement" are not interchangeable in French either. I would have used "je n'aime que les chats" which is yet another way of saying the same as "I only like cats", and less committing than "uniquement" (vs what? living beings? humans? animals? dogs? "chattes"?). So context will tell, in English and in French as well, I think.

This example neatly shows what can happen if you try to: does it? where?


Ok, I understand this generality built with the definite article. But is "des chats" really wrong? If we had to translate from French "J'aime uniquement des chats" and we translated I only like cats would it be wrong?


If you say, "j'aime des chats" you will not be understood as liking all cats in general.

If you want to isolate specific cats, you have to change something: "j'aime certains chats mais pas tous" (I like some cats but not all). In that case, as you can see "des" will not do the job.


When choosing the words in blocks, why does Duo say, "there should be no space around the apostrophe"? There is no way to do it differently!


Apparently, you do not have a suitable keyboard (or phone) to avoid adding apostrophes. That should not prevent you from being marked correct if otherwise your sentence is correct.


How about "Je n'aime que les chats"


I agree. report it as a possibility (sitesurf has said that s/he would say the same


Can aime bien be used here instead of aime?


That's what I thought. I flagged it as should have been correct in my feedback. Thanks again SiteSurf!


"Only" is a nasty word in the English language, being an adjective, adverb, and conjunction. The rule is that "only" modifies the word or phrase that directly follows it.

So "I only like cats" and "I like only cats" have different meanings. The former means "I don't do anything else but like cats" and the second one means "I like cats and I don't like anything else."

So how would these distinct meanings be represented in French? Does "J'aime uniquement les chats" express the former or the latter meaning?


I only like cats = je n'ai d'amour que pour les chats ; les chats sont mon seul amour ; je n'aime rien que les chats

I like only cats = je n'aime que les chats ; j'aime seulement/uniquement/exclusivement les chats ; ce sont les chats que j'aime.

However, the latter can also mean the former and vice-versa if the context were about pets or in a comparison with dogs.


Why is it "j'aime uniquement les chats" but "je mange uniquement des fruits" from a different example? Is it just that aimer goes with a definite article but manger goes with an indefinite article, even though both are generalities?


Generalities in French are not quite the same as in English:

  • verbs expressing likes and dislikes automatically prompt a generality: J'aime les fruits = I like fruit (in general, all fruit, any fruit)
  • je mange uniquement des fruits is not a generality, since you could add "some" in front of fruit without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Therefore, in the absence of an article in English:

  • if you can add "in general" to the sentence with no change to the whole meaning, go for a definite article in French: le, la, l' and plural les as well.
  • if you can add "some" in front of the singular (uncountable) noun, with no change to the whole meaning, go for a partitive article in French: du, de la, de l'
Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.