"Elles écrivent des lettres."
Translation:They are writing letters.
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In this case, yes. There are two clues that it is 'elles' and not 'elle'. The first one is the liason. The 's' at the end of 'elles' is pronounced before the é, so ot sounds like "el seh-kreev" The second one is the conjugation of the verb. It sounds with a v sound at the end, whereas if it were singular (écris, if I'm not mistaken), it would sound like "el eh-kree". Dont completely trust this, though...
This is why it is important to be sure to always listen to the normal speed sentence. I usually play it at the end if I need the slow version at all. Turtle speed only gives individual word pronunciation, but its the translation between two words that is so often important when understanding differences in plurality.
Des means "some" as well, though it's not a definition given in this and other examples when you tap the word individually. I'm still beginning, but if my mother language, Portuguese, another Latin language, is any reference, the word "des" is not necessary and you could probably omit it. Someone else should confirm that though.
In order to answer your question I´m pretty much copying pasting Duolingo´s tips. (Very first lesson)
In English, articles may be omitted, but French nouns almost always have an article. French has three types of articles:
Definite articles ("the") are used with specific nouns that are known to the speakers.(le, la , les)
Indefinite articles ("a"/"an"/"one") are used for countable nouns that are unspecified or unknown to the speakers. (un , une , des)
Partitive articles ("some"/"any") indicate a quantity of something uncountable.(du/de l', de la/de l')
When you have verb forms ending in -ent, you don't pronnounce the ending. I think it's because since e's are not usually pronounced unless they have an accent mark, there is no spoken vowel to link the end of the verb's stem (a consonant) to the "-nt" (more consonants). By dropping the pronunciation of -ent, the words sound a lot smoother.
"Des" is the plural indefinite article. English does not have this article, so it may not be obvious to you how to use it. But look at it this way:
Singular: the letter - la lettre. Plural: the letters - les lettres.
Singular: a letter - une lettre. Plural: [no article in English] letters - des lettres.
After a while, you will get a feeling for where this "missing" article is in English sentences and you will automatically insert it in French :-)
Could you be clearer in English? If your question is difficult to understand, few can answer it. But "des" is actually in the sentence unless my eyes and ears deceive me. In English, you can say "writing/write letters" or "writing/write some letters." The point is that letters (plural), meaning "some letters," are being written.
I hope I did (if that was to me). Wish I could've done a better job. If you read the whole thread, you'll see that some explained it much better. I try to remember to read what others have written and often find that the very question I had has been explained in a very clear way.
Well, for "They are writing the letters," you threw "the" in there, which is "les," with the "s" because "letters," "lettres," is plural. "Le" if it were one letter. Now, with "they are writing letters," this is more general, not as specific as saying "the letters," so it would be "Elles ecrivent des lettres." Des is considered more general than specific, I think. If I'm wrong (though I don't think so), I'm open to correction.
I suppose hearing differs among individuals, or it depends on audio equipment and/or its condition. I clearly hear the "s," in "elles ecrivent" as "el zecreve," liaison from the "s" in "elles," joined with "ecrivent." Maybe you should try to improve your listening skills; listening is beyond merely hearing but paying attention to details of what you hear.
Here, "des," "de," is in plural form. It's a partitive article meaning "some." They are not writing "the" letter or "a" letter but "letters," some letters. "The letter "would be "la lettre" because "lettre" is feminine. "De" has several meanings and is also a preposition, notably, "of," and "from."
Nothing is wrong with it, but focus on the specific lesson before you. "The letters" is not in the sentence or meant but "letters," meaning some letters, not specific letters, which "the letters" would be. They are simply writing letters, indicated by "des." It's a partitive article and plural here since "lettres" is plural. It means "some" in this case. Don't insist on what you want it to be rather than what it is in the particular exercise.