Actually, you could say "il finit son repas" and it would have exactly the same meaning as "il termine son repas" (probably more often used, but not "more correct"). The difference is not the same as in English, to terminate vs to finish.
Same for your other example, you can say "le film est fini" or "le film est terminé" (the movie is finished/over).
As far as I know as a native FR, and at this level of learning, you can honestly consider them as synonyms.
If that's the case I feel synonyms should be given a separate category in Duo. When you're learning a new language, synonyms may put a heavy cognitive load on you. Which can cause frustration in learning because some words may not yet be fully established for the student.
For some reason though, "termine" reminds me of "terminate" in English and "finit" reminds me of "finish" in English. Which are similar but not technically synonyms. The former means to end prematurely and the latter means to complete.
I don't quite understand your point about synonyms. Here, it's not that "terminer" is some sort of special synonym for "finir" that would belong to some specific / specialized field or register.
We use "terminer" as regularly as "finir", and it's only natural that it appears here, at this level or before.
Now the issue with English is the "false friend" aspect of "terminer", but that's another question, and I think there have been various "false friends" already, probably from the very start. Plus, it's confusing for English-speakers, not all learners.
A little remark too: "to terminate" does not always mean "to end prematurely": This bus terminates here does not imply it stops before its final destination.
N. Rennard, sorry, maybe I used the wrong expression with "final destination"; I meant "the terminus", as at least they say in the UK, where I often hear "this bus terminates here": everyone must then get off the vehicle, which remains there for a while until it goes back to its point of origin (the other "terminus").
This meaning is found also in the US I think, with stations like Grand Central which is a terminal (i.e. the train won't go any further).
So again, there is no idea of "ending prematurely" there, and the aspect of "deliberately ending something"... well, I find it in "to finish" as much as in "to terminate"... (e.g. "I will finish my homework so that I can go to that party !")
The distinction in English is rather, I think, that "finishing" as you said is about "completing something", whereas "to terminate" is about "preventing sth to go on", "putting an end, a term, to something"...
... a phrase which in French is exactly the same, i.e. mettre un terme à quelque chose = finir ou terminer quelque chose ! :-)
So I confirm, "terminer son repas" does not imply you stop eating with some food left; we often say to kids "Termine ton assiette !", which clearly shows we want the plate to be empty when they stop eating.
As to the issue of synonyms, I now see your point but can't say anything about it as I must admit I don't follow the lexical evolution and don't pay attention to those "details", since French is my mother tongue (I don't check word meanings, read grammar introductions, etc.)
Thank you ElGusso, I appreciate your feedback.
The point I was trying to make about synonyms is that it confuses the learner unless it was pointed out upon learning this new word that it is a synonym for an already learned word. This is true regardless of whether or not both words are commonly used in the language basics.
A learners inclination is that each new word has a new meaning. So if it doesn't have a new meaning, that should be clarified upon learning the new word.
By the way, at least in American English, "this bus terminates here" would imply it stops here and will not resume for some time. Buses, as a machine, don't have a final destination. The people on the bus have the final destination. Buses run indefinitely, as long as they're maintained. For a bus, it is when it can no longer run that it's then finished.
Perhaps "ending prematurely" is a vague description for "terminate." More accurately it would be to deliberately stop something from continuing on.
With that in mind... Il termine son repas... would imply, at least in my mind, that he is going to stop eating with food left on his plate. As for... Il finit son repas... implying that he is eating the final bites of food on his plate.
You're right, and it has nothing to do with "repas" - which is indeed masculine, hence the obligation of using "son" indepentenly of whose meal it is.
As a consequence, and without any given context, this can totally be about a boy who finishes a girl's meal. "Maxime termine le repas de Julie" or "Il finit son repas" if we just use pronouns ("il")/determiners ("son").
The fascination for such "theoretical" sentences is probably something the French speaker would not imagine. Perhaps it is like a device with a lot of buttons and we feel we have to push them all. Hmmm, I wonder what this does. No disrespect for the inquiring mind, but it is quite natural to assume that the food belongs to the person consuming it, i.e., the subject of the sentence. Of course, there are other alternatives because it doesn't necessarily refer to eating it, maybe he is preparing it and now he's finished. It is food for his ailing mother and now "he finishes her meal". I get it. But we can carry these theoretical things a bit too far sometimes.
Unless there is a compelling reason to do so, the interpretation of "son/sa" will refer to the subject of the sentence. If there is a need to say, no, he is finishing HER meal, then say "Il termine son repas à elle".
[Another example: "Elle est tombé de son cheval" would be understood as "she fell from her horse." If you wanted to press the point that the horse was not hers", but "his"", you would say "Elle est tombée de son cheval à lui."]
I think if the sentence is grammatically correct, it should be accepted (He finishes her meal) - numerous times I will put in an odd answer quite deliberately for the purpose of seeing if it is correct; that is, if it can be translated that way. Because I am learning a new language. I don't think anyone has a particular fascination for theoretical sentences. (Though Duo certainly has a fascination for a few nonsensical ones!)
Accepting an answer based only on it being grammatically correct is likely to mislead the learner because it may be misunderstood by a native speaker. That is why this is pointed out and learners are provided with a more accurate way of saying it. If you deliberately choose an odd answer just to test the limits of Duolingo, you should not be surprised if DL does not accept it just because it's grammatically correct when it will not be understood that way by a native speaker. A key to this approach is the test of back-translation. For example, if you say "il termine son repas", it will be understood as "his meal". If you specifically want to say "he finishes her meal", then you should say "Il termine son repas à elle". If you leave off "à elle", it will be understood as "his meal" unless you have additional context. One of the shortcomings of the DL approach to exercises is that context is often limited or non-existent. In the real world, you will have the benefit of context which will permit the hearer to understand what you actually mean. However, if you want to be clear, you will need to add some context or a clarifying word or two. By not addressing this difference, learners would be left thinking that "son" and "sa" are always interpreted grammatically without reference to context and that is definitely not the case. Thus, if you try "the other answer" to see if it is correct, you will receive some feedback and be given the opportunity to understand it more clearly. This seems to me to be the most instructive course of action to understand why context plays such an important role in relation to grammar.
La guerre est finie. (The war is over.) La gerre a pris fin. (The war ended.) La réunion est terminée. (The meeting is over) La réunion, c’est terminé. (The meeting is over.) La reunion s’est terminée vers 21 h. (The meeting ended at 9 pm.) Ça y est, c’est terminé la réunion. (That’s it. The meeting is over.)
They're synonyms. I'm a native French, and in all the examples above you could use one for the other:
La guerre est terminée.
La réunion est finie. La réunion finit à 21h.
ça y est, c'est fini ! (la réunion, la journée de travail, les vacances, virtually whatever!)
C'est fini, la réunion?!
don't worry about this. Of course, sometimes one sounds more natural than the other ; indeed, in the past tense, "la réunion s'est terminée vers 21h" sounds better than "la réunion s'est finie vers 21h", although "ça s'est fini tard" sounds alright. But as you can guess, they're nuances, and certainly not mistakes.
Hey hey, not a typo. Do not mix up:
"C'est" = "it is" - and which comes from "ce est" (dropping one 'e' for liaison), or the longer / more formal "ceci (this) / cela (that) est (is)
"s'est" which comes from "se est", literally 'is itself/oneself', used with pronominal verbs such as the basic "s'appeler" (Je m'appelle John = my name is John, "I call myself John" literally).
So, "la réunion s'est terminée à 21h" = the meeting finished [itself] at 9pm
Whereas "la réunion? C'est terminé!" = the meeting? It's over!
Talking about an animal, and you don't call it "he" or "she", then yes, that should be right.
The cat is finishing its meal = "le chat termine son repas", or "il termine son repas".
In French, you wouldn't use the neutral"ça" (for "it") even if you speak about an animal that is not your pet. Most of the time you'll use the pronoun "il" or "elle" according to its gender (often "il" when you're not sure).
"Termine ton assiette!" is typically a sentence told by tired parents to their kids. :-)
That's imperative tense: "Finish your meal!" or "your plate", literally - we indeed rather use "assiette" than "repas" to express that idea of finishing what is on your plate.
If you want to say "you need to...", that would be "Tu dois terminer ton assiette" or "Il faut que tu termines ton assiette".