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le & un interchangeable?

"La femme mange le repas". When asking me to "Translate this text to English" (where I choose the correct words to form the sentence) my only option is "The woman eats a meal". Isn't this incorrect? I thought "le" meant "the" and "un" meant "a". I thought maybe it's acceptable in this case, so when asking me to "Translate this text to English" (where I type out the sentence) for "L'enfant mange le repas" I typed "The child eats a meal" and it said I used the wrong word (correct word being "the"). Is this a mistake in the program? So confused. :(

February 18, 2013



There might be mistakes in the program but in any event, "le" and "un" are not interchangeable. In both English and French language, their use is defined by rules which are not always similar.

DEFINITE ARTICLE "the" => le, la, les As their name explicits, they define nouns: the meal = le repas, is a specific meal, not any meal. Often, when you get longer sentences of a full text, you get hints by context. - ex: the woman eats THE meal that the cook prepared = la femme mange LE repas que le chef a préparé.

Note1: in English, when you claim a generality, like "men are stronger than women", the French use the definite article: "LES hommes sont plus forts que LES femmes".

INDEFINITE ARTICLE "a/an" => un, une, des In this case, the object is not defined, it is rather "one" thing out of several. - ex: the woman eats A meal three times a day = la femme mange UN repas trois fois par jour.

Note2: in English, "a/an" has no plural, whereas in French, the plural of UN/UNE is DES. - ex: the woman eats meals several times a day = la femme mange DES repas plusieurs fois par jour.

  • 1822

Thanks guys, I agree with Sitesurf, and I fixed the mistake that ingyb reported: "La femme mange le repas" means "The woman eats the meal".


Merci Remy! Happy the issue was corrected. I love this program! Can't believe it's free! :)


Merci beaucoup, Sitesurf! You've been so helpful! :)

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