1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: French
  4. >
  5. How to translate "We see some…


How to translate "We see some birds" to French?

How is "We see some birds" translated to French?

My reason for asking is that it is a disallowed translation for "Nous voyons des oiseaux".

From the sentence user questions, I am not the only person who has encountered this issue. https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/581264

NB: I'm not trying to be factious. There must be a reason the moderators are explicitly disallowing the translation.

Thank you!

April 21, 2018



The original sentence is "Nous voyons des oiseaux", which has the plural of "un oiseau".

It just means that you can see more than one bird.

You therefore, do not need "some" which would back translate to "quelques / un certain nombre de" or the like, depending on context.

Some of my American colleagues consider that "some" before a plural noun, when it is not at the beginning of a sentence, is so unnatural that they forget to add it as a grammatically possible translation.

I enabled it again.


Ah, that explains the lack of "some and "any" on Duolingo, which I have wondered about before. As a Brit, "I see birds" seems just as unnatural, suggesting even that I see birds and nothing else, rather than "I see some birds, some trees, some fields..." Presumably then, an American only uses "some birds" to mean "certain birds", as in "Some birds can't fly".


Grin! You expressed my confusion in a wonderful way.

I'll be laughing at the thought of seeing "just and only birds" all day. It encapsulates things so well.


Here's another interesting, slightly related sentence: "Des cadeaux pour les enfants", is translated to "Gifts for children".

I just received it Fr-to-Eng. I was using the tiles.

  • After this thread, I wasn't surprised that there wasn't a "Some" tile
  • And, since there wasn't a "the" tile, it was obvious that the target translation was "Gifts for children"

I clicked thru to the user comments. To my surprise, it appears that "Gifts for the children is disallowed. (Obviously, I've not been able to test if this is still true or not.)

From my POV (American, West coast):

  • "Gifts for children" is an appropriate banner in a store. 1+ gifts, 1+ non-specific children
  • Standing in my living room on Christmas day, I would use "gifts for the children".

But apparently, the latter is disallowed. (I've put a post-it note on my monitor to play with this sentence next time I encounter it.)

Articles are interesting beasts. Sitesurf et al have a challenging job.


Edit: Should you be wondering why I'm using tiles.... I purposefully avoided them before crowns. About a month ago, I got crowns, so I played with tiles for a week. What I discovered is that tiles force me out of translation ruts. Often, the tiles I am given to work with don't allow me to construct the 1st sentence which comes to mind. So now, they are just another tool in the toolbox.


As far as I know, "Des cadeaux pour les enfants !" can translate to 8 variants:

  • with and without "some" before "presents" or "gifts"
  • with and without "the" before "children".

The preferred translation is the simplest: "Presents for children!".

Personally, at first sight, my understanding would be the one you described for a Christmas day, with the children.

But all other variants are still valid.

However, for a reverse translation of "Presents for children" as a banner in a store, the French would be "Cadeaux pour enfants".


Again, thank you. This stuff is mind candy for me!


Interesting. In my notes from one of the Imperative lessons (level 2 I think),

"Mets du sel sur ta viande" was translated to "Put some salt on your meat".

Why is "some" used there?

Thank you!


"Some" before a mass noun is different. It usually translates to/from a French partitive article. I assume that if you said "put salt on your meat", the meaning would not be very different, but we usually make sure that "some" is an option before an uncountable noun in translation.


Thank you. Helpful and interesting!


I'm only a student of French (by no means a master!) but your translation seems correct to me.


Your translation is perfectly fine. If the problem pops up again, just report the faulty/missing answer choice.


If you click thru to the user comments... It has been reported N>1 times. Going back ~ 1 year.

I'm now going under the assumption that there is a specific reason for the disallow. So far, no Moderator comments, so I'm trying to identify the reason.


I would translate "We see some birds" as "Nous voyons quelques oiseaux".

In general, I think that "des" is not translated because this form of article does not exist in English (or German). "Nous voyons des oiseaux" would therefore be "We see birds".

According to WordReference https://www.wordreference.com/enfr/some, "some" can be translated with "des", but it seems only if there is a comparison, as in this sentence given on that site:

J'ai mangé des chocolats, mais pas beaucoup. (I ate some chocolates, but not many.)

Please note that I'm a native speaker of German; let's wait for opinions of native speakers of English and French.


Hard to say. I've had some sentences, "des chaussettes" for example, which translated to "some socks".

All very interesting. I work from the POV that there is solid logic for what the Moderators are doing, I just don't see it yet.


I would also have translated it as "nous voyons des oiseaux"

I think you should just use the Report button on that one. Seems like a valid translation to me. Somebody has to program all possible answers and for whatever reason didn't think of "nous voyons des oiseaux". (Maybe they were thinking "on voit des oiseaux")


Take a sec to read Sitesurf's reply. It's interesting... and the issue has already been fixed.


Ah, thanks. I see that it was originally in French so the English-to-French exercise must have come later in the set. I disagree that it seems unnatural to write "some" before plural nouns. My native language is English and I say things like "I see some birds", "let's eat some apples", "Show us some of your sick moves, dawg", etc.


I agree. Hence my confusion, the post, and my appreciation for Sitesurf's swift reply.

And trying to laugh about things: one could say that "I was seeing stars" after attempting to translate the sentence.


I didn't think the moderators had anything to do with what answers are considered correct, I thought that was the course developers' job. (Some of the developers may also be moderators, I suppose.)

At a guess, the (mostly if not all-volunteer) course developers for the French module have spent most of their time lately on the French 3.0 tree, which you probably aren't on yet. (Neither am I.)

One of the things I have noticed about the French 2.0 tree is that there doesn't appear to be a lot of consistency with when using 'some' for 'des' is accepted and when it is not. Since at least on the web version there's no significant penalty for getting a wrong answer, I just stopped worrying about it.

Sometimes I file a report, but most of the time I just change my answer when that question is repeated after a 'wrong' answer. Maybe after I get upgraded to the 3.0 French tree I'll file more reports.


Developers are paid staff at Duolingo. They are IT people, not linguists.

The course content, consisting of original sentences in French and translations, forward and backward have been written by the course Contributors (some of them are Mods as well, others not). The current team has volunteers from the USA (3), the UK (1) and France (myself).

The Crown system was developed independently from the Tree versioning initiative. All users on all courses will soon use the Crowns, but not all French learners are working on the French Tree3 (still on A/B test).


how do you know which tree you are working on? comment savez-vous sur quel arbre vous travaillez?


Looking at your details here, I believe you are on v2 of the French tree. It shows that you have 78 skills in your tree.

v3 has 96 skills (or at least that is the # I have). If you peek at my progress page, you can see the new structure.

(Mild warning: this ".eu progress page" needs some updating to work correctly with the new tree and crowns. For your question, it does provide the correct info (which and how many skills are in your tree). It is outside of the official DL software, so the independent developer will have to decide if (s)he will update.)


I didn't know their correct title is "course developer". Thanks for the clarification!

And I am on the new French tree with the new crowns system (have been so for ~1 month). It's an interesting new universe.

Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.