They are versions of the verb être (to be) and they both mean "are". Sont is used with plural third person ils/elles and sommes is used with plural first person nous. Just like in English "to be" changes with subject: "she is" but "you are", so the same thing happens with French verbs.
If you would access Duolingo on a PC before starting the exercises, when you click on a section on the tree, you would see a lightbulb to the right of the START button. If you clicked on it, you would open the TIPS AND NOTES page where you would get an intro to the topic covered in the exercises. That is where you would have discovered how and when to use sont and sommes.
Because you probably did not know this, this link is to the info you seem to have missed: https://www.duolingo.com/skill/fr/Basics-3/tips-and-notes
In that case, if you were using the definite article, you would know 'les lettres' is plural, because although you wouldn't hear the final consonant in 'lettre' (unless the next word started with a vowel, and even then it is incredibly slight) you would hear that instead of the singular 'la' the article was plural -'les.'
And if you were using the indefinite article, you would use 'une' for a single letter - 'une.'
So, 'Je lis la lettre.' 'Je lis une lettre.' 'Je lis les lettres.' Even though you can't hear the 's' you can work out from the use of the definite and indefinite articles whether or not the noun is plural.
Hope this helps.
All French nouns have a gender: masculine or feminine. This was inherited from Latin.
The difference is audible through all words modifying nouns, articles and adjectives, which all agree in gender and number with the noun.
As a learner, you have to learn each noun with its gender, like "un livre" or "une lettre", as if it were one word, so that you memorize them better.
I've read the comments but I still don't get it. I put 'Les livres' and got it wrong. I know that 'Le' and 'Les' sound the same, and I know that regardless of if livre was singular or plural, 'sont' would still be used as theres more than 1 object (letter and book). SO how was I meant to know it was 'les livres' instead of 'le livre' if both make sense the way the sentence was spoken?
It helps to read the discussion before posting a question. If you had done that, you would have realized that your question has already been answered. Namely, that adjectives have to agree with the gender and quantity of the noun they modify. In the case of this sentence, there are TWO things that are red: a book and a letter. So because "red" refers to both, then you need an "s" at the end of rouge.
le livre est rouge = the book is red
la lettre est rouge = the letter is red
le livre et la lettre sont rouge*s = the book and the letter *are red.
Well, if you mean how do you know from hearing it, one way is to pay attention to the article before the word :
lalettre - singular
leslettres - plural
In this particular exercises, it is not the fact that either book or letter are plural that makes rouges need an S at the end, it is the fact that you have two things that are both red that makes rouges require an S.
The letter is red = La lettre est rouge
The book is red = Le livre est rouge
The book and the letter are red = le livre et la lettre sont rougeS
An S is needed to make the adjective reflect plurality because this time it is more than one thing that is red.
Keep your tongue tip pressed against the inside of your bottom teeth any time you speak French and the French R will be a breeze to pronounce. In fact, read this English post as naturally as you would only with your tongue pressed against the inside of your bottom teeth and hear how French you sound. No need to hack or risk bringing up phlegm just trying to pronounce the R anymore. See?
Give it time... That difference will become less confusing eventually, and then you'll learn new differences to keep you confused in other ways. ;-) But further down the tree you'll start seeing a lot of similarities to English as well. :-) For the native English speaker there are many oddities about French grammar. You'll find though that sometimes (if not frequently) the oddity is actually in the English.
The French R is made at the back of your throat and unlike the English R which requires the tip of your tongue to be raised, with the French R, you need to keep the tip of the tongue against the inside of your bottom teeth. In fact, if you keep it there as you speak even English, you will appear to have a French accent.
Try reading "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" without moving your tongue tip from the back of your bottom teeth. If you do it right it will sound like /zuh kwik b(kh)aun fox jahmps ovah zuh layzee dog/
Now the ending of the word rouge is pronounced not as /sh/, but /zh/. It is the sound of the S in "measure" or "treasure".
The vowel part "ou" in the middle is /oo/ as in "kangaroo"
So with that in mind and keeping the tongue against bottom teeth, you should be able to pronounce rouge correctly: /(kh)oozh/.
Sometimes it may sound as if people are saying /hoozh/. Reason for that is simply that they do not stress on the R, while others might. It is kind of like in English how some people roll R so strongly like in the Spanish word for dog perro
- I RRReally like you
while others say it so softly it may even sound like a /wuh/ sound
- I weally like you
The final sound is ZH, as in *measure" not SH. And the first letter is the French R.
One way to hear the way things are said is to go to Google Translate and type out the phrase you want to hear then click on the speaker to hear it.
You might hear an [uh] at the end of the word but it's really just like how a kid might yell "No-uh!" with the "uh" just there for emphasis but really the word is "no".
I believe you are referring to pronunciation, right?
In French, it is normal not to pronounce the last letter of a word unless it is followed by a vowel or is R or in the case of N it is nasalized.
So les is pronounced /ley/, un is pronounce /ah(ŋ')/ where (ŋ) represents the nasalization.
However, there is such a thing as liaison whereby a final consonant is pronounced and linked to the next word if the next word starts with a vowel sound. The word homme is pronounced /ohm/ so the beginning is a vowel sound. So the les which is usually just /ley/ before a word starting with a consonant as inles femmes /ley fahm/, les pommes /ley pohm/, changes to /leyZ-/ e.g. /leyzohm/ in les hommes, /leyzaw(ŋ)faw(ŋ)/ in les enfants.
In the case of un, we say /ah(ŋ) leevR/ for un livre but in the case of un enfant where the noun starts with a vowel, we say /ahNaw(ŋ)faw(ŋ)/.
Some liaisons are required, some optional, and some forbidden. More about that here.
You are right about the genders. However, there is no logical explanation. The only sure way to know the genders is to learn them the first time you encounter a word. Instead of learning "book" is livre, get into the habit of learning each word with its relevant article. In other word learn un livre or le livre means book. That way, you will never forget its gender. You can pick either article (definite or indefinite).
This is because English has no grammatical genders, but French has two, so while « le » and « la » both mean "the" in English, they are not interchangeable in French. Every single noun has either masculine or feminine gender -- « livre » is masculine; « lettre » is feminine. This is just an inherent aspect of the language that you must get comfortable with, so it's always best to learn the gender of a word along with the word itself (memorize them as « le/un livre » and « la/une lettre », for example).
I would begin by saying "uh-wrooge-uh", then omit the percussive "ch" sound at the beginning of the soft "g" so that it sounds as smooth as possible. Then try softening the "r" sound until it almost blends with the "w" that precedes it (the "r" ought to be barely perceptible). Finally, push some extra air through the "wr" part, shaping your mouth as if you were pronouncing a long "o" or imitating the wind. This will make the "wr" sound a bit like an "h".
Yes. All this is explained at the beginning of this section. If you access Duolingo on a PC before starting a section of the tree and you scroll down past the lessons, and read the Tips and you would get a good introduction to the grammar rules addressed in the exercises of that section. Here is what you missed for this section| https://www.duolingo.com/skill/fr/Plurals
Before starting a section on the French tree, it is a good idea to access Duolingo on a PC so you can scroll down below the exercises and read the Tips and Notes at the start of that section. Your question would have been answered at the getgo if you had done this. This is what you would have seen: https://www.duolingo.com/skill/fr/Verbs%3A-Être-_-Avoir
There is no silent consonant in the word lettre and the next word does not start with a vowel.
Liaisons come into play when you have a word that ends with a silent consonant like vous and then the next word happens to start with a vowel, so that silent "s" becomes a Z sound that links vous to the next word starting with a vowel:
vous lisez = /VOO LEEZay/ <--no liaison
vous avez = /VOOZAVay/ <--liasion
Depends on what the question is asking you to do. We do not all get the same exact question. The above exercise could be presented in French asking you to translate into (i.e. write in) English. Or you might getting it in English asking you to translate to French. You might just be asked to read it out. You might get it in multiple choice.
That is why when you read the discussion, you may see posts where the learners' issues are different from yours.
No you don't. Everything seems hard the first time around. Perhaps you don't know this but if you logged onto Duolingo on a PC before starting a section on a tree and scrolled past the lessons, you would come across the Tips and Notes which provide a nice introduction to the grammar that will be covered in that section. For this section, you would find them here: https://www.duolingo.com/skill/fr/Basics-1
Also these discussions are very enlightening. Don't just visit them when you have a question. Visit them any time you find a lesson tricky or unclear. I have learned so much just from reading the discussions and following links provided therein.
I take it you don't know about noun genders? It is good practice to access Duolingo on a PC before starting a section so you can read the Tips and Notes that introduce the exercises. Genders, which you must learn with every noun, were introduced at the very beginning of the French tree in Basics 1: https://www.duolingo.com/skill/fr/Basics-1
Please read the discussion first every time you have a question. The difference in pronunciation was posted over 3 years ago.
Alternatively, when it comes to pronunciations, you can always use Google Translate.
I find making an effort to learn on your own by doing some research instead of waiting for someone to give you answers all the time makes learning more fun and usually opens doors to answers to questions you had not thought of yet.
Try reading discussions for every exercise, especially when you have a question, and you will see what I mean. You may never have to post another question because you will discover that most questions you will have were once someone else's.
I'm having a bit of trouble with this. How can I tell the difference between "le livre" and "les livres"? The conjugation of etre doesn't help because in this sentence we have a book and a letter, which makes etre plural. I can tell la lettre is singular because of the pronoun, but livre here isn't clear.
If you are talking about the last S in the sentence, it is not supposed to be pronounced. You know it's plural from the fact that it is more than one thing that is red. So adjectives agree with the gender and quantity of what they modify. You would know this if instead of simply rushing to the exercises, you took a moment to click on the light bulb and read the Tips and Notes.
You may find this video useful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_rdXa_VERw