Some people who think they know English, actually have serious problems with the language. That solution is "bad," but there are people who mistakenly write that and they mean: "He has some small elephants." However, this abbreviation of has/have can only be used when forming present perfect verb tense. Example: They've eaten all the food. He's taken all the money.
I continually see supposedly "correct" English on Duo that looks suspiciously like ESL students decided on what was "correct" English. I would know, since I have been teaching ESL students for almost 30 years.
The notes for 'Adjectives 1' introduce the BANGS rule: Adjectives precede the noun if they describe Beauty, Age, Number, Good or bad, and Size. So it would be "petits éléphants".
The notes for 'Plurals 2' state that if "des" is followed by an adjective, then it is shortened to "de". Thus it becomes "de petits éléphants".
In writing it is simple: look for the plural sign (an s in most cases).
Orally it is a little more difficult, because "éléphant" and "éléphants" sound exactly the same. But in most cases the articles tell you what is meant: one elephant woiuld be "un éléphant", several elephants are "des éléphants".
Here "des" becomes "de" because of the adjective in between.
I get that this is an example sentence, but let's be real: this is absurd as my old Koine Greek grammar giving us sentences such as "On account of the teaching of the apostles the disciples entered the temple." Seriously, who has small elephants? I don't mean to be a pest here, but this example sentence is logically absurd unless you're a zookeeper or a collector of stuffed animals.
this lesson isn't explained very well throughout duolingo. I've done many lessons on de vs des and did not at all understand the rule behind it until I looked up this forum. For me it was all guessing. they need to work on making this more obvious. Also I noticed duolingo on computer form explains the rules whereas the cell phone app lacks that feature entirely. it would be helpful if that was on the app.
You are right in saying the browser version contains the "tips and notes". That's why I always use this one. You can use it on a mobile as well, just don't use the app but a web browser.
"des" is the plural indefinite article. It becomes "de" when there are adjectives between the article and the noun (as is the case here).
"Just to make the underlying pattern clearer: Generally, it's de + article. If you can count it, the article is plural, and de + les is is put together to get des. If it's not countable, it can be de + la for female things, or de + le for male things. Now, if the following word starts with a vowel, the article gets shortened to l', so you get de l'. And as an additional annoyance, de + le gets shortened to du."