"He teaches us words."

Translation:Il nous apprend des mots.

March 5, 2013

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i always can't distinguish the words between " les" and "des". at here, i used les again.. wrong..


Next time, use this tip: put the sentence in singular: he teaches us a word (one word) = il nous enseigne un mot Back to plural, "a" has no plural but the French "un" has a plural form: "des".

So, "he teaches us (some) words" = "il nous enseigne des mots"

Note: I changed the French verb because this one is not right. "apprendre" (learn) is for learners and "enseigner" (teach) for teachers.


"Apprendre" is also correct, to my understanding. I've seen native speakers use it in this way.


Well no, technically speaking, Sitesurf is right, despite the fact that a lot of native speakers (including me) often make this mistake. However, since a lot of people say it, every body understand. That doesn't make it right!


You are right, many French use "apprendre" to mean "enseigner", but it is not perfectly correct.


Interesting! Thank you!


Some English speakers use the phrase that'll learn them. Doesn't make it right.


In French "ça leur apprendra !", when you are pleased that something bad happened to people who would not listen to wise advice...


Hey Sitesurf I was wondering if there is any way you can give me some advice on this subject: knowing when to put the noun before the verb when using the French language. For example this phrase in English "he teaches us words" is translated to Francais "Il nous apprende/enseigne des mots." I however translated it "Il enseigne nous des mots." I knew it didn't sound right but didn't know how to tell if the noun (nous) should come before the verb (enseigner) in this case. Is there a general rule or something that makes it more obvious or is it more of a memorization thing? You always seem to answer and explain things very thoroughly so I thought I would ask you Merci pour votre response aussi il est tres important et m'aide beaucoup!


Hi Adam.

Your question is about the placement of pronouns vs that of nouns, which are indeed different.

  • Marie enseigne les mots (direct object) à Pierre (indirect object).

  • Marie lui enseigne les mots:

--pronoun "lui" is the form of "il/elle" when the verb is constructed with preposition "à", so "lui" = à+il. Its natural placement is in front of the verb.

  • Marie les enseigne à Pierre

--pronoun "les" is the form of "ils/elles" when the verb is directly transitive (no preposition). Its natural placement is in front of the verb.

  • Marie les lui enseigne

--direct object comes first, indirect object comes second, both in front of the verb.


“He teaches us the words” would be translated as « Il nous apprend les mots. »


Why is "il apprend des mots à nous" not correct?


When the verb is constructed with preposition "à", the natural placement of the object pronoun is in front of the verb:

  • il nous enseigne, il nous parle, il nous dit, etc...


Is it true that both 'learn' and 'teach' should be expressed by one same word? Seems strange.


I would and did use the verb enseigner. It is to teach and makes a lot more sense in my mind/ear. It was also accepted as a translation.


Les mots would mean words in general though right, as in his teaching method is to teach us words in general, not some words, so can't we use les here as well?


Les mots = the words, the ones that we know about, the ones in the book we are studying, the ones on the whiteboard, particular words.

Les mots = all words, words in general, the idea of words,

French has two uses contained in le/la/les. The very particular and the very general depending on context.

In English, we drop the article when speaking in the general sense since we don't have a simple article that fits the bill. So he teaches us words could theoretically mean words in general as you propose but the problem is he can't teach us all the words in the world, only some of them.

Had the speaker wanted to indicate that he was being taught words from a known list or that were the subject of previous discussion, he would have said the words to show that he meant the words that we already knew about in some way.

Since he doesn't mean all the words in the world nor words that we already discussed or knew about, he must mean some words. That makes sense because English speakers often drop the article when they mean some. That being the case des is the proper article to use when translating it to French.

Les is either too general or too specific to be used in this sentence.


Thanks Northernguy for this detailed explanation. From my end, I am very simplistic about that. The only problem here is that 'some' is not used often enough for people to understand both the concept of "des" (plural of un/une) and the concept of partitives (with uncountables).

This is just the plural of "un mot" = one word - des mots = words (more than one).

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