Yes. Duo is trying to teach you to distinguish between when the context given is sufficient to make the "correct" choice and when it isn't. Learning to "default" to one or the other will tend to make you hear the sentence incorrectly as a beginner if the context is more remote from the sentence.
I'm not a native speaker, but I can answer this question because I was confused about the same thing and then I eventually figured it out. When you are referring to a masculine noun, you use 'il', but since this is referring to a feminine noun, you use 'elle'. Hope this helps! :)
To answer your question, "she closes" would usually need an object, in English, since the "she" would most likely refer to a human female, and she would generally have to close something, such as the door.
"It closes", on the other hand, makes sense intransitively (i.e. without an object).
However, currently "she closes" is accepted by Duo. It was, just now, for me, and it's justifiable on the following basis:
She is a shop owner, and she closes her shop at a certain hour. She closes her shop (transitive), and her shop closes (intransitive), but insofar as we might, through metonymy, equate her with her shop, she closes. This is in fact a common figure of speech in English (e.g. "we close at eight").
An example might help.
"Elle" could represent "la porte". Of course, since a door is an object, in English we would call it "it", and "it closes" could be the equivalent of "the door closes".
In other words, this is a verb that can take an object or not, depending on the context.
My sense is that "she shuts", intransitive, is of more limited use, though I wouldn't rule it out. I do think the "simple conjugation" argument is valid enough, but so is the counterargument that a sentence here should have a measure of acceptability as a sentence on its own. (That said, I can imagine contexts where "she shuts", intransitive, seems okay to me personally, but they're all to do with situations I would take to be exceedingly uncommon.)
As for "shut" versus "close", they are indeed synonymous and their use is largely overlapping, but I think it's still somewhat context-dependent. For example, personally I wouldn't call up a store and ask "what time do you shut" (metonymic intransitive). Others might, and I'm not saying it's wrong, only that we make contextual choices between these two verbs.*
As for your statistic, I hope you'll forgive me if I'm skeptical without a reference. Indeed, if you enter "shut_VERB_INF,close_VERB_INF" into Google's Ngram Viewer, you'll see a much different picture from what you suggest:
In fact, recognizing that the frequency of "shut_VERB" is equivalent to the combined frequency of "close_VERB" and "closed_VERB" together, you'll see that "shut" really had its heyday before about 1800, at least in the millions of books catalogued by Google.
You'll see an even bigger gap with "shut_ADJ,closed_ADJ" (again in favor of "closed").
* I'm just stating a personal preference about the metonymic intransitive use of "shut" in relation to shops/stores, but here are some observations from my vantage point:
- "what time do you close": 86,800 results
- "what time do you close down": 8 results (which number can be eliminated from the number above as irrelevant)
- "what time do you shut": 40 results (39 at Google.ca)
- "what time do you shut down": 8 results (12 at Google.ca)
- "what time do you close": 86,800 results
- "what time do you close down": 7 results (6 at Google.com.mx)
- "what time do you shut": 10,500 results
- "what time do you shut down": 8,090 results
There seems to be a Google US-and-Canada versus Google rest-of-the-world division in the results Google gives me (with only the minor variations noted). The majority of the world's native English speakers (about 69.6%) are North American, but giving the rest of the world the benefit of the doubt, let's look only at those results. Eliminating the 8,090 "shut down" hits from the 10,500 "shut" hits, we get 2,410, so we can posit a relative frequency, à la Google, of "what time do you shut", metonymic intransitive, of about three percent as compared to "what time do you close" (whose numbers are 86,800 minus 7). This doesn't catch all the variables, as other things can come after "close" or "shut", but it gives some idea of orders of magnitude.
Lest I be misunderstood to have made a blanket statement with respect to shops, let me clarify that my more nuanced and personal observations were in reference to specific collocations and their transitive, intransitive, and potential metonymic contexts. Whether "shut" can go with "shop" in general is not what I was getting at. I only meant to give a personal example of how the two verbs don't necessarily cover exactly the same territory among English speakers, and how personally I don't like the intransitive metonymic "you shut" in relation to shops. (In response to your posts on my profile feed, I've since added some statistics. Take them for what you will.) There are undoubtedly other examples that are clearer, but it's not really necessary to canvass them all to make the point.
In any event, in addition to regional habits, there's also a euphony factor at play with respect to specific collocations, I think. My sense is that, for example, "the shops shut" and "the shops close" will have varying degrees of attractiveness, pronounceability, and acceptability for various speakers, broader regional habits aside (as will "she shuts" versus "she closes", probably). But I don't mean that to be an observation on meaning or possibility. Again in response to your posts on my profile feed, I'm just saying that I personally believe that people pick their words in part based on how they sound. I would suggest that that's not a contentious assertion, and your comment above supports it, though I'm not making a regionalist argument, I'm talking about individual choices.
As for my point about unnuanced generalizations based on made-up statistics, I think it's quite clear how I feel about them.
Interestingly, in one of the Duolingo French stories, "elle ferme" (or perhaps the subject is the person's name instead of "elle", I can't remember) is used on its own without an (explicit) object to mean "she closes the door" (after someone has just entered). If that's a correct usage, it's certainly different from English.
I don't understand the use of elle here when there is nothing else feminine added here. why not il ferme
"fermé, fermée, fermés, fermées", with an accute accent and pronounced "fermeh" are the possible translations of "closed", as the past participle of the verb "fermer" (to close) or an adjective (closed).
"ferme", without an accent and pronounced "ferm" is 1st or 3rd person singular present of verb "fermer": je ferme, il ferme, elle ferme, on ferme.
"une fermeture" is "a closing/lock/closure/fastening"
"une ferme" is "a farm".
If a woman owns a small shop, for example, we would say 'She is closing' when she does so at the end of the day. One comment here (Megzii) indicated that 'She closes' is accepted, so why not my answer 'She is closing'? I understand the other context where 'elle' refers to a feminine noun, but is my answer a possible solution?
Nah. In my experience we get things done more effectively by discussing here. Often a moderator will read our comments and, if our whinges have merit, will make immediate edits to the list of accepted answers. We do not receive such good feedback from the 'report' button. Thanks for your input! Cheers.
Hi Don. "She is closing" has been accepted for at least two years. It must have been something else that caused DL to not accept your sentence.
(P.S. This is one of those rare times when I cleared reports and checked the discussion for curiosity. Reporting still helps, but we can't respond to them.)
Hi Sally. According to Sitesurf's post on this page your answer should be accepted. Five months ago, my answer 'She is closing' was also rejected, but as you will see by other comments, that too should have been accepted. I think there must be a hidden bug somewhere. You probably noticed that the answer given at the top of this page is 'It closes'.
I thought it had been agreed earlier that "she closes" is okay without an object at least in reference to people with shops or similar establishments (as long as this is also possible in French with "elle ferme").
- A: Get this to her before eight.
- B: What happens at eight?
- A: She closes.
I would actually say that there's no implied object, and that "she" becomes a metonymic substitute for her shop, but I may lose some people at "metonymic".
An earlier question was whether "shuts" was similarly versatile as "closes", and should also be recommended in this particular metonymic intransitive context, i.e. with "she". I suggested it wasn't as good, in my opinion, though it's fine when used intransitively with "it" for doors and such, and also when used transitively (and even when the object is "shop" – it was only the metonymic intransitive context that I myself questioned). I admit, though, that these nuances as between "shut" and "close" might not be entirely clear to everyone, nor the distinctions worth maintaining for a simple exercise like the one at hand.
I I thought of a woman closing her shop.Is it open ? No,she is closing . It was accepted 9/07/17 But I still wondered how it was used in french and so came to the discussion ...glad I did .Realised hear Elle meant a place which was closing .Keep forgetting that il/Elle can mean things not just people .
The subject here is of unambiguously feminine gender. Again, see Sitesurf's comment:
Following discussions below, "she closes" has just been marked wrong and "it closes" has been given as the right answer. My assumption is that "fermer" is generally a transitive verb, so if she (or indeed he) is the subject then it requires an object. If "fermer" is being used intransitively, as is the case here, it can only mean "it". Anyone know if this is a reasonable explanation?
It's reasonable, but "she closes" used to be accepted, presumably on the rationale (in my view) that "she" can be a metonymic stand-in for her shop, so, for example, we could say "she closes at eight", which actually means that her shop closes at eight (or that she closes her shop at eight, which amounts to the same thing).
For this to work as a translation, it would also have to be a legitimate interpretation of the French, i.e. that "elle" is "she", the shop owner or worker, and that "she" is understood as a stand-in for "her shop" ("son magasin").