"They are writing letters."
Translation:Elles écrivent des lettres.
'sont' means '(they) are' and comes from 'être' ('to be'), so if you said 'ils sont gentils' it would mean that 'they are nice', 'elles sont laides' means 'they are ugly' etc.
'écrivent' means '(they) write/are writing' and comes from 'écrire' ('to write') so it already contains who is doing what. That is why it's 'elles écrivent des lettres', because:
écrivent = (they) write/are writing
des lettres = letters
I hope this helps ^^.
lets say, "Elle a des crayons."
means "She has pencils." or "She has some pencils." It's not specified exactly which pencils she has. In this case, des is used as the "article indéfini". It's basically the plural form of "un":
"Elle a un crayon." — "She has a pencil." "Elle a le crayon." — "She has the pencil."
"Elle a les crayons."
means "She has the pencils." it refers to a specific set of pencils, or it may be referring to a set of pencils previously mentioned in the conversation.
So there may be exceptions to the rule, but use "les" when you are mentioning a specific group of objects, or objects that were already brought up in the conversation. Use "des" when the specific group hasn't been brought up before, or when the group itself isn't important, but the objects are.
I hope this helps!
Since I cannot see your answer I cannot tell you what went wrong. It is also possible that your answer was correct but did not get accepted because of a bug, it happens sometimes. This is why it is important to cite your answer, if it is not accepted. Or report it, if you are sure it should have been accepted.
"les" is for things that can be counted. "de" is for things that cannot be counted. you would say "de l'eau/some water" because you can't count water. however you can say "des rivieres/some rivers" because rivers can be counted. pay attention to the english as well: "some water" singular (regardless of the amount); "some rivers" plural.
"Lettres" is plural so "des" is used. De + les = des
This article should help: http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/preposition_de.htm
Sorry I cannot explain more, I am just starting out myself :)
I might be wrong (I probably am) but the way I see it is that des would be like des jupes or des fruits- it would mean some skirts or some fruits. De on the other hand means of something. For example beaucoup de sel or in peu de lait. Please please correct me if I am wrong in this way of explaining the difference, but I have seen this pattern and I hope it helps to explain it to you.
I believe its "des" because "lettres" is feminine. I've noticed a pattern where "de" is only used for plural masculine terms such as "de petits chiens" and "des" is only used for plural feminine terms such as "des petites chiennes". I might be wrong though. Just going by observation.
It has nothing to do with letters being feminine. Masculine plural will also be de + les = des. This goes for both sexes, remember the plural of le and la is always les and then comes de + les = des. Plural makes it des, in singular you'll have de + le = du or de la (no contraction).
I have often found this confusion between des and les here... Would like to share what i studied in high school
Un - a masculine singular
Une- a feminine singular
Des - masculine/feminine plural.
Note:- des also stands for some.... Like des sucre (some sugar)... Here les is not used infront of sucre because it is not some specific type of sugar...
Similarly, Le(the) - masculine singular
La - feminine singular
L' - for masculine/feminine singular starting with a vowel
Les - masculine/feminine plural
If you found something wrong, do correct... Bcoz I am picking up french after 4 years, so might not remember perfectly.
You are probably talking about "leurs" which means "Their". "Their writing letters" doesn't make sense. "Their" is not the same as "They're" even though they sound the same. "Their" is a possessive article. When you say "Their letters" you are talking about someone's letters. If you say "They're letters" you are saying "Those things over there are letters."
I think there are two types of "des".
One is "des = de+les" ("Il parle des robes rouges" - "He is talking about the red dresses").
The other is simply "des", the indefinite article used for plural nouns ("Elles écrivent des lettres" - "They are writing (some) letters").
I'm relatively new, so please correct me if I'm wrong, but in answer to your question, Michel Thomas describes it well when he says that "there is no "am" ing, no "is" ing or no "are" ing when you translate to french". In other words, you never use "am, is or are" before an 'ing' word. For example, english says "I AM running", "you ARE fighting", "he IS kicking". The french translation MEANS the same as these, but you simply use "I run" to mean "i am running", or "you fight", to mean "you are fighting" etc.
Therefore, "elles SONT ecrivent" in your example would be incorrect as it breaks the no "are-ing" rule. Instead, "Elles écrivent" already means 'they are writing'. You never put "am, is, or are" before 'ing' words.
No. You cannot. The preposition "de" like the article "le" has multiple forms depending on the gender and number of the words it sits next to. It's changed accordingly de + la = de la de + le = du de + les = des In this context, the word "lettres" is plural, and hence if we were to break the sentence apart into components, would like like this "de les lettres" As demonstrated above, we need to combine the preposition de with the article les to get the word des. Hence it would have to be "des lettres." However if the sentence were different referencing only one letter, then you would be correct. I hope that helps!
It is not wrong, you are right that they means both "elles" and "ils". The thing is that there can only be ONE right answer, so if in this case the system chose "elles" you have to do the same if you want to get it right. In another instance the system can use "ils" for "they" and you will have to do the same (like it or not).