"Do they sell books?"
Translation:Vendent-elles des livres ?
A lot of these answers are very formal using inversion. Most young french use "Est-ce que". So for this sentence inversion is not necessary. One can say "Est-ce qu'ils vendent des livres".
Les and des always give me trouble as it's not always as simple as 'des' meaning 'some'. I generally think of it as 'des' = some of a group and 'les' = all of a group but I think that's too vague to use in this example.
The best way I can describe it is that 'des' can mean 'any' as well as 'some'. So this sentence is essentially asking if a shop sells 'any' books and not a general assessment of books. So to put books in the definite article would be something like 'Les livres sont bons'
Perhaps this may help explain it a little better: "The plural indefinite article, des, is used when referring to more than a single entity. It is not used, however, when general statements are made about a group - statements that are meant to refer to all the entities that make up that group. This is the role of the definite article as we shall soon see." http://www.languageguide.org/french/grammar/articles/
Being a native English speaker the difference between the use of articles in French and English confuses the hell out of me.
I hope my examples/explanations aren't wrong but at least the link I provided may help.
Because les is an equivalent of 'the' in French. In this sentence 'the books' isn't specified. It's just 'books'. So it can be any book. Thus we use 'des', not 'les'.
That wording usage relative of "the" to chocolate means more the collective held belief relative to an object. It's saying sort of ... I like all of the collective chocolate of the world. That usage would be incorrect here as they wouldn't be selling every book in existence.
"Des" is the plural of "un/une". "Du" in the sense you are thinking of it is a partitive article and may also be translated as "some", though it is often omitted in English.
Because the "they" in "do they sell books" might be a group of women. "Elles" means "they" (i.e. the people selling the books).
Would "vend-on des livres?" work for this? Obviously, it doesn't in certain contexts, but the way "on" is sometimes used made me wonder...
Not really, because "on" in French is meant as including you too, so you would understand this as "we".
That's not correct, "on" can mean some indefinite person or persons: "On m'a dit ça" = They (someone) told me that.
You are right, although the way the question is phrased here makes me think you know who 'they' are. With a bit more uncertainty, it would work fine: 'Do they sell books on the internet?' = "Vend-on des livres sur internet ?"
It would not in this specific context. "Vend-on des livres" is something you might ask to your boss if you are working in a shop, the "on" here includes yourself so it's "are we (as a company) selling books ?"
Because nouns always take articles in French, "they sell books" = "ils vendent des livres". You can't have it without "des".
Because you already have the inversion in "est-ce que", so you don't do it again in the second part of the sentence: Est-ce qu'ils vendent des livres?