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  5. "They are writing letters."

"They are writing letters."

Translation:Elles écrivent des lettres.

March 23, 2013



why is 'elles ecrivent les lettres' wrong


In english, it is better to say "they are writing some leters", thus some will be translated to des


because «les» implies “the” very specific letters, you've for example been talking about before. Therefore this sentence has to be with «des».


Idk. Because i said elles and they corrected it to ils. Like they can be girls/boys when not specifies


It did the opposite with me... I wrote "Ils écrivent..." and it said it was wrong :/


That's how Duo keeps you on your toes.


Yess the same happened to me


It's a rule -"We must always use 'des' before plural nouns when the exact number of that noun isn't important ". As in these cases 'des'means 'some'.


When not specified it's supposed to be Ils and If there's at least 1 male in the group then it's Ils. If it's only a group of women/ girls then it's elles. But only under that condition.


I also want to know


Its meant to be elles écrivent des lettres


really dumb question, but why isn't it: 'ils sont ecrivent des lettres'.? Many thanks


'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:

ils/elles= they

écrivent = (they) write/are writing

des lettres = letters

I hope this helps ^^.


The above explanation was the best! Elizabeth


Hi adobi. Since the word 'écrivent' is the plural way to say 'are writing', to say "ils sont écrivent des lettres" would be like saying the word 'are' twice. I hope this helps you to understand it better.


Plus : there is no present continuous in French. So there is no je suis + verb or ils sont + verb.


I dont understand when des is supposed to be used and where it is supposed to be placed


hi censoredreality!!

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!


Thanks, that's a very good explanation


THANK YOU, very well explained!


Shouldn't this be interchangable with ils? Unless it is known to be just women?


Yes, it can be "elles" or "ils", no difference. From the English "they" you cannot say which is right. They both are.


Then why did it say I was wrong with ils? Ive triple checked to see any mistakes others than ils but i had none.


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.


Why des and not les?


Read the explanation by kashmiraa.


Why is it des and not de? What is the difference?


"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.


If lettres is feminine, shouldnt it be: de la? Im confused.


Lettres is feminine AND plural. So when we use de + les = des


Hmmm...I don't think so because "lettres" is plural. You might have to double check


Yes, it would be de la for singular feminine. But for plural it has to be de + les = des same for both sexes.


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).


Why is it "Elles écrivent des lettres" and not "Elles écrivent du lettres"?


Lettres is plural, hence 'des' as a contraction of 'de les' rather than 'de le' for a singular noun.


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.


One mistake, it's "du sucre" (sugar is singular, masculine). De, as you said, stands for "some" but changes with gender and plurality. De + le = du; de + la = de la; de + l' = de l' (for all nouns starting with a vowel, where there is an elision); de + les = des.


You are wrong!!!ils also may be!!!!


Why is lours not the same as ils/elles in this context?


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."


Since " Il parle des robes rouges" means "he talks about THE red dresses", why does this sentence means a general number of 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").


Does anybody know how to place the accents and apostrophes on an android telephone? Thanx!


If u want to write say ecrive with the accent on e , long press ‘e‘ in your keypad and u will be provided with the accents . Better u can go to ur settings and also include the french language “ française“


"Des" means "some" for objects that can be counted. It is the plural of un/une. So « Elles écrivent des lettres » = "They are writing (some) letters". In English we usually omit "some" (they are writing letters) but in French it is required.


Why are there 2 identical answers. Apparently I chose the wrong one. What's the difference?


Why can't I write "Ils écrivent les lettres"? Please help, they are driving me crazy!!!


You can write "Ils écrivent les lettres" it is correct, but the meaning will be a little different. Your sentence means "They write the letters".


Why is les lettres wrong?


The sentence says "They are writing (some) letters", not specified which. There is no "the letters", so in French it will be "des lettres" (some, unspecified).


Why is "ils écrivent" wrong ? There is no context in the question to suggest the gender of the writers of the letters, so the default is masculine. Isn't it ?


It should be accepted. Default doesn't have to be masculine, although often is.


Why is ils wrong? Where is the feminine instruction?


It can be either way; most of the time default is masculine, sometimes it can be feminine.


Why my answer is wrong? They means ils or elles


Yes, you are right, both answers should be accepted here. They means "elles" or "ils".


What the different between They ils Or they elles


Whay can't we say "Elles écrivent lettres"?


There has to be an article in French, it cannot be omitted. And since these are some letters not the letters, the article used is indefinite des and not les. In English in this situation you drop the article, in French you use "des".


I wrote "Ils ecrivent les lettres


Why not ils écrivent lettres ? = They are writing letters. Duo didn't request some or the,. I'm confused by this.


why des and not les?? question needs an answer for firewall to be assembled on frontlines of the new episode of community. did you watch. thanks. please do not ban. i am questions. je suis fou!


Why cant we write: elles/ils SONT ecrivent de lettres? isnt sont supposed to mean 'are'?


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.


Because you cannot translate literally from English. There is no present continuous in French, so there is no ils sont + verb. It can only transate into simple tense elles/ils écrivent .


Ils écrivent des courriers that's how I understood it and it says no it has to be lettres instead of courriers... writing courriers makes more sense than lettres


Ils écrivent des lettres is common phrasing in French.


Can i use de la lettres


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!

[deactivated user]

    why doesnt is accept vous?


    Because it is not you but they. Elles or ils = they. Tu or vous = you.


    I am i do not 2nd


    I keep getting mixed up




    Why did i get it wrong for saying elles. All it said was "they". I take that as they should accept it being they (girls) or they (boys). They corrected me as ils when literally the last example was elle ecricent lettres


    You are right, both "ils" and "elles" should be accepted, because they both mean "they".


    Yes yang jcya xessF


    Using "des lettres" instead of "les lettres" Isn't it a petty difference?


    There is a nuance. "des" lettres is general, "les" lettres is aimed to a specific planned goal, for example a letter to resign.


    I assumed "ils" and was marked down as the answer required "elles". WHY?


    Two answers here are identical


    I think both "ils / elles" are fine. The context is not clear to know if there are only males, females or both.


    How do you know when its he or she as in elles or ils when in english is just "they" in general?


    You do not know that, so both elles and ils should be accepted.


    This correct answer is the same as the one i clicked but i got it wrong


    Actually no its not sorry


    Clever clever clever


    How am I supposed to tell if "they"are elles or ils It's confusing


    i got it wrong when i typed, "Ils écrivent des lettres" somebody please explain why?


    No, this is absolutely right.


    When do i know to say écris or écrivent? In this questing it was écrivent why?


    You use écris for 1st and 2nd person, so j'écris, tu écris. For they you need écrivent. I don't know what kind of exercise you did, but for this sentence you can hear clearly that this is plural form écrivent. In most cases it's hard to tell from audio.


    Why is it wrong to use ils écrivent when the English just says They are writing... Can be male or female


    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).


    'They' can be feminine or masculine.

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