"Grandfather and grandmother are eating a salad."
Translation:El abuelo y la abuela comen una ensalada.
Spanish uses the definite article more than English does.
The definite article is needed when talking about a person. Additionally, unlike English, in Spanish the definite article is needed for each word when there are multiple nouns.
Here are some additional links with more information about definite articles. There is a fair amount of overlap, but that can help reinforce the info. : )
It should be added that in Spanish whenever a noun is the subject of a sentence the definite article usually must be included, or a determiner like esta, este, ese, nuestro, etc. There are a few exceptions
Elephants are big. = Los elefantes son grandes. Mexicans are nice. = Los mexicanos son amables.
Using Definite Articles With Nouns Joined by Y
In English, it usually isn't necessary to include "the" before each noun in a series. But Spanish often requires the definite article in a way that would seem repetitious in English.
La madre y el padre están felices. (The mother and father are happy.)
Compré la silla y la mesa. (I bought the chair and table.)
Yes. You would be understood, but it would sound very awkward, much like it would sound awkward if you said it in English with the definite articles: 'Are the grandpa and the grandma eating a salad?' Although Spanish sometimes, even often, uses definite articles the same way as in English, there are differences, so literal translations don't always work well.
But in Tim's example, Abuelo and Abuela are formal addresses - the names or titles of the people in question. If I address my grandpa, I might say, "Grandpa, what are you up to today?"
We've been taught to say "El Señor Perez lee el periódico," yes, but I've never seen a sentence like "El Marco y la Maria tienen dos hijos" or "El Juan y el Roberto buscan la gata."
With the exception of papá and mamá, which are treated more like personal names, the definite article is almost always used before nouns of family relationship like abuelo, tío, etc. There may be some regional variations as in most things, but most usage overwhelmingly favors using the definite article.
As for using it before personal names like Marco, that is done in some places like Chile and Catalonia, but it isn't common elsewhere. You can use the definite article with nicknames. For example, Ernesto (Che) Guevara could be referred to as el Che.
By the way, my source for this is A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish.
Then would you construct the following in Spanish? Describing a picture of a 3 generation family, how do you say The grandfather is tall The grandmother is short The father is fat The mother is skinny The son is ugly The daughter is pretty
Would you have to revert to "that" instead of "the", since "El abuelo" is shorthand, based on this sample, for "my/our grandfather"?
Because the meaning of sentence in English is that the speaker is talking about their own grandparents (which would be weird to use the possessive when talking to another relative).
Is there just no way to be that precise in Spanish and the possessive or non-possessive meaning is entirely dependent on the context in which it is said?
Going back to the previous example, imagine that the photo was not of your family, but you were looking at it with your own multi-generation family. Does "El abuelo se tiró un pedo" describe the funny look on the old man's face in the picture, or does the room now smell?
I am guessing that you probably are thinking of the present progressive "estan comiendo", which would be acceptable here, but "son comen" is definitely wrong. You need to use estar and not ser in the present progressive tense and you also need to use the past participle comiendo, not comen. "Comen" by itself would also be fine.
Off topic, but I don't understand why people downvote questions like this. You are learning, and your question is valid.
If the English sentence said "The grandfather and grandmother are eating a salad," it would have made more sense to use "el" and "la," given that it implies that we know they are grandparents, but are not related to us; because it says "Grandfather and grandmother," it leads readers to imply that it's talking about our own grandparents, albeit in a formal sense (very few English-speakers still call their grandparents "grandfather" and "grandmother" by name anymore, or at least that goes for American English), and that's why a lot of people are getting the translation wrong.
The definite articles are not used with mamá and papá, but they are used with abuelo and abuela as well as other nouns of family relationship like tío and tía. As for explaining it, that might require a linguist familiar with the etymology of Spanish words. Just accept it as normal Spanish usage.
Roughly speaking, abuelo = grandfather, abuelito = grandpa, abuela = grandmother, abuelita = grandma.
In this exercise, Duolingo uses grandfather & grandmother and therefore expects us to use abuelo & abuela.
I think you could use abuelo & abuela even for grandpa & grandma, but using abuelito & abuelita for grandfather & grandmother would be going too far.
You can't always translate literally, and this is a perfect example of that. Spanish speakers are going to use the definite article in this kind of instance, and English speakers are not. That's just the way the languages work. You just have to accept it, kind of like how you have to accept that Spanish speakers will say, literally, I have hunger (yo tengo hambre), and English speakers will say I am hungry.
The Spanish simple present doesn't work quite like the English simple present, so comen or están comiendo are both correct here. We tend to use the continuous present, 'are eating', much more than it is used in Spanish. When it is used in Spanish, it is usually done to indicate that the thing is being done right now at this very moment. While it can mean that in English, it can also mean something much more general. For example, we might say, 'I'm studying Spanish now', and the meaning might be either I'm literally studying it right now or that you have been learning Spanish for awhile now and are still learning it. For that latter type of general meaning, Spanish speakers will choose the simple present rather than the continuous present. So that's why 'are eating' can be translated as 'comen' and still be correct.
"The grandfather and the grandmother are eating … :" some unknown unrelated people being observed. But in English, when you address or speak of your grandfather as "grandfather", the meaning is different. "Grandfather and Grandmother are eating …" mean my/our grandparents. I don't think El abuelo carries the same meaning.
"Comen" is third person plural, so it would be "eat," not "eats." But Spanish often uses "comen" where English would use the progressive "is/are eating." In this case, "are eating," even though, Spanish has the progressive form "estan comiendo." Btw, Duolingo accepts "estan comiendo" here.
Duo is not suggesting that you can use tía and tío or abuela/abuelo interchangeably.
This defaulting to the masculine plural form happens if you are referring to multiple people in a group of mixed genders, and it applies to any group of people, not just aunts, uncles, and grandparents. If you have 4 aunts who are standing around the kitchen talking, you would say "Mis tías (not tíos) están hablando en la cocina." But if it was, say, those four aunts and their respective husbands, you would default to the masculine: "Mis tíos están hablando en la cocina."
Similarly, "my female friends" would be expressed as "mis amigas," while "my male friends" or "my group of male/female friends" would be expressed as "mis amigos."
In this sentence, abuela and abuelo are each identified separately, not as a pair, so you have to use both terms. If they were not mentioned separately, you would say "abuelos," meaning "grandparents."
It's another way Spanish differs from English. In Spanish abuelo/abuela and tío/tía require the definite article if there isn't another determiner already being used like mi, nuestro, etc. There are some regional differences, but this is pretty common in most Spanish-speaking areas of the world.
Thanks for your reply. I think the confusion comes from the type of English in this particular case: you usually refer to a more 'common' (or spoken) language, whereas for this sentence, you imply a 'formal' type of English. It seems to me it's more a matter of register, no?
Make sure you read through the previously posted comments; it's very possible someone has already covered your question. Holds true here:
Bob46196 has explained: With the exception of papá and mamá, which are treated more like personal names, the definite article is almost always used before nouns of family relationship like abuelo, tío, etc.
Check out the full discussion in this thread.
I heard it do this once this week in a word bank activity. "Y griega," as you've spelled it, is the way the letter y is pronounced in Spanish, like when you're reciting the alphabet. "Y" the way we hear it in sentences, pronounce like "ee," is the word "and."
Which grammar rule are you referring to? If it's the rule about using the definite article, I've only once seen any kind of Duo topic on that, and all it said was to use the definite article when talking about things in general, and that's not even very accurate.
I'm the kind of language learner who really wants to understand these kinds of things, so I finally bought A New Reference Grammar to Modern Spanish.
Because the word "grandparents" doesn't appear in this sentence. If you had a sentence where the plural subject was "Mi gato y mi perro" and you translated it as "My pets," it would also be marked incorrect.
[Edit: Had a brain fart and suggested that Spanish would be translated into Spanish.] facepalm
If you want to use present progressive then you must use estar and not ser. And present progressive is not required here, although it's fine. Present indicative, the answer Duo gives, is okay too. It's used a bit differently in Spanish than the way we use it in English, so a literal translation isn't required.
I'm going to assume that you came to this sentence through a word bank exercise, but remember that these comment sections are for sentences, not specific activities. Clearly this person was given a "Translate this English phrase into Spanish" activity, attempted to use the present progressive "comiendo," and was marked wrong due to an error they made somewhere but which they attributed to their use of the present progressive.