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Hi Ellery. If I may add to our Sitesurf's answer from another angle. I'm assuming that your query isn't accurate. I think that you know the difference between the singular "Il and Elle" "He and She", but what troubles you is the plural "Ils and Elles" for "They" and that you want to know how to tell whether "They" are masculine in the sentence or feminine? The only time you can tell is when "Elles" is used as this means that the group is comprised ONLY of females. Even if there were a thousand females in the crowd and only the one male, the article defaults to masculine and then, outside of any context, there just is no way of knowing whether the group is all male or a mixture of male and female. Forgive me Ellery (and Duo anti-clutter) if this was not pertinent to your query.
Farjanan, it is because French verbs are conjugated. Avoir=To Have. J'ai (Je+Ai) = I have, Il/Elle A=He/She has, Tu As=You Have (Intimate/Friendly and singular only), Vous Avez=You Have (As Singular this is polite/formal and plural for both forms), Nous Avons=We Have, and finally to answer your query Ils/Elles Ont=They Have.
this is the full conjugation of the verb "avoir" in indicative present:
j'ai, tu as, il/elle/on a, nous avons, vous avez, ils/elles ont
in other words, "as" is the exclusive conjugation form for "tu" (informal "you"); and "ont" is the exclusive conjugation for ils or elles (they).
You should really try the web version which gives you access to Tips and Notes in every lesson and to full discussion threads.
In short, French verbs are extensively conjugated and you have to learn these conjugations.
Verb "avoir" (to have) in present: j'ai (I have), tu as (familiar "you" have), il/elle a (he/she has), nous avons (we have), vous avez (formal or plural "you" have), ils/elles ont (they have).
French conjugations are extensive and the verbs' endings do change depending on the grammatical person.
Therefore, you have to memorize the various conjugations for the given verb:
"avoir" in indicative present: j'ai, tu as, il/elle/on a, nous avons, vous avez, ils/elles ont.