"Il y a de grandes écharpes."
Translation:There are large scarves.
how can you tell if the speaker is saying il y a de grandes écharpes or il y a de grande écharpe
Yes, that is a second clue. The "s" at the end of grandes forms a liaison with écharpes.
It sounds a bit like: il y a de grande-zécharpes.
"Des" becomes "de" when it occurs before adjectives like grandes, ou petites, etc.
"Some" is also correct, but most of the time English speakers omit it in ordinary discourse whereas "de/des" is obligatory in French.
There are little socks, there are large scarves and other similar sentences elsewhere on Duo don't quite hang right. They are sort of fine as a response to a question such as "What is there to wear against the cold?", but English seems to look for a bit of padding (no pun intended) in these statements. "There are some shoes in the box", There are (some) hats (over) there" to follow the dummy subject there is/are. The real subject is socks or scarves, and if you recast the sentence to "Large scarves are" or "Socks are", "Shoes are" you end up asking yourself the questions What are they? or Where are they? and I think that is why we go hunting for more padding in There is/are statements.
Without the 'some' I find a lot of the translations into English sound ungrammatical. I think it is to do with this being aimed at the American market.
Taking a closer look, we realize that the little English word "some" has different meanings. It can mean an undetermined (but not large) amount of something. A completely different meaning is to refer to a subset of a larger group, e.g., "some of the dogs are black". It may also be used as an intensifier (that is some dress). In early Duolingo days, there was a push to allegedly help learners by offering an English word to use to translate "des". The problem is that there is no real counterpart in English for the way this "des" is used in French. For this reason, "some" may sometimes be accepted for "des" but it is not generally offered as a natural translation. Example:
- un chien = a dog
- des chiens = dogs (note that it is not "some dogs" because "des" only represents the plural of "un"). Although "some" is occasionally used here, it is almost always ignored in this meaning. I.e., the plural of "dog" is "dogs", not "some dogs".
Now let's introduce an adjective before the plural French noun.
- de petits chiens = small dogs ("des" is shortened to "de" before the plural adjective)
- de grosses pommes = big apples
Other meanings of "some" (certain & quelque):
- à certains moments = at times
- certains d'entre eux = some of them
ça demande un certain entraînement = it requires some practice ("some" in the sense of an intensifier, in the meaning of "considerable/substantial")
il y a quelque temps = some time ago
- je voudrais ajouter quelques mots = I'd like to add a few words
- quelques instants = a few moments
I am just thunderstruck that the moderators missed the fact that "de" in this sentence can mean "some" - I was marked wrong for same "some large scarves". It's not like this is some difficult sentence with a lot of possible translations: It's either "There are large scarves" or "There are some large scarves".
When I took French in High School decades ago, this point was drilled into us, because it is so significant. So, whoever did the answers to this quesiton must have been in a real hurry to forget such an important aspect of French grammar. If it weren't for the adjective in front of the noun, it would read, il y a des écharpes, and Duo probably wouldn't have any trouble with "There are some scarves."
We have to drop the article because of the frontal adjective, but that doesn't change the meaning.
The only time you'd NOT want to use "some" is in the subjunctive, as in a whaling story:
"Ensign Smythe, see ye whales abeam?"
"Nay, sir, but there be scarves!!!"
I only wish the moderators here and at the Italian course were as on the ball as the moderators at the Spanish course. Things get fixed and added there pretty quickly. I get emails from them all the time about fixes and additions to various exercises.
This is a new tree. It comes with over 1,000 new sentences and a lot of new vocabulary for the forward translations, and then another 1,000 sentences for the reverse exercises. Try as we may, sometimes a few possible translations are overlooked. Considering that the team is very small, it may take time to find and iron out all the wrinkles.
"De" can mean "some" in this particular case, but please note that "de" does not have to be translated as some; it is often omitted in English.
Your patience and understanding are appreciated.
Yes, sometimes "de" means "of" or "from" or something else. Here, however, it so obviously can mean "some", it surprpises me that people who are so intelligent missed that when they wrote the sentence. Haste makes waste. Here, "some" is actually the most obvious translation, since "There are large scarves" is basically an incomplete thought. It's almost meaningless. It's like saying, "There are large dogs."
It just seems to obvious to say, "some large scarves", it's quite beyond me how the moderators could miss this. It's not like there's a huge number of possible translations here - there are only two: "There are large scarves" and "There are some large scarves", both equally valid.
If your point is to teach people the basics of the language, then this sentence is a great example of how you show the different treatment "de" gets in this sort of sentence.
This not the same situation as when a particular phrase or sentence can be subject to a wide variety of translations. Someone really dropped the ball on this one, because it's just so simple and obvious.
You may consider it an oversight (although it is accepted now), the translation of "de grandes écharpes" to some large scarves is not optimal. The word "some" in this situation is almost always omitted in English. In fact, the "des" (which becomes "de" before a plural adjective) has no English equivalent. Somewhere along the line, you may have had it drummed in that it means "some". So now you are learning that you can revise that thinking and just know that "de grandes écharpes" means "large scarves" and drop the "some". https://www.thoughtco.com/du-de-la-des-1368977 There is more information about "some" in my comment elsewhere on this page.
So how are you able to hear the difference between 'il y a de grandes écharpes', and 'il y a de grande écharpe' ?. How can you hear when they mean multiples ?
First there is a liaison between the s in grandeS and the é in écharpes. Il y a de grande-z-écharpes.
Secondly, if it were singular it would be il y a une grande écharpe.
une écharpe = a scarf
des écharpes = scarves
There's a grammar rule I forgot to mention that may not be obvious.
When "des" is in front of an adjective it becomes "de."
des écharpes → de grandes écharpes
des enfants → de petits enfants
des poissons → de gros poissions
This is just another quirk in French.
While on pronounciation, can you tell me the difference please between Il y a deux grandes écharpes and Il y a de grandes écharpes. I had a type what you hear excercise and more guessed than knew once I had listened several times that it was de and not deux, so did get it correct, but I would like to know what the difference in pronounciation would be. Thanks.
The vowel sounds are slightly different.*
The vowels sounds are /ə/ and /ø/ (de and deux respectively). It is a little difficult to describe the difference, but in making the sound, your tongue is more forward for "deux" and your lips more pursed. The best way to learn is to hear it.
Here is a pronunciation video that may help: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teniTqcbFck
*(Although it can also depend on the region, because difference is all but erased for certain French speakers in the south of France.)
Thanks. I do understand your explanation and I made up a few sentences which I spoke aloud and found this exactly what I was doing with my tongue. Unfortunately the video was a bit beyond me. French subtitles would have helped. I hope it helps others who read your reply.
Now I'm confused... Does this mean there isn't a singular version of there are large scarves, for example "there is a large scarf" ??
is there a rule for the ones that are de grandes echarpes rather than des grandes echarpes (also de grandes chiennes)?
Whenever you have the plural indefinite article "des" in front of an adjective, "des" becomes "de."
des + noun → de + adjective + noun
des chiennes → de grandes chiennes
des enfants → de petits enfants
Why was "big" not accepted. Big and large are interchangeable in English.