they are homophones but you would not use "c'est" with a plural noun and without an article. (c'est un enfant, ce sont des enfants)
"ses" and "ces" are homophones and both adjectives, so the sentence: "ces enfants lisent le journal" would be translated in "these/those children read the newspaper"
I'm not quite getting this - they are homophones, yes, because they both sound the same, but have different meanings; however, they are not both adjectives, because "ces" is a pronoun, and "ses" is a possessive pronoun from what I understand. Therefore, they are not interchangeable, right? I put "ces" because that is what I heard, but when the translation came back as "his children read the newspaper" I was confused because there is a big difference between "ces enfants" and "ses enfants" - they mean two different things. Shouldn't it have told me I was wrong for putting "ces" when it should have been "ses" based on the translation?
Let's take it the other way around:
in English, there are two possessive pronouns, "her" and "him" for one woman or one man owning something (+ "its" for animals, things...)
in French, whoever the owner (man, woman, animal, thing), there are 3 possessive adjective, "sa", "son" and "ses" for feminine singular, masculine singular and plural objects owned, respectively
his/her pen = son stylo
his/her lamp = sa lampe
his/her pens/lamps = ses stylos/lampes
When listening and reading, how will one know whether the pronoun refers to her, him or it? Can it only be known through context?
Ah yes I was careless there. Of course you are right the example I gave would most often be called possessive adjective rather than possessive pronoun. Although the point I was making would apply to both forms of the third person possessive in English.
I accept your point however the situation is not quite so straightforward. The term "possessive adjective" is not universally accepted by all academic english grammarians. Some do in fact use the term "possessive pronoun" because it doesn't share other characteristics with adjectives.
Some call it a "dependent possessive pronoun" (because it is tied to a noun) to distinguish it from the standard possessive pronoun.
Further a number of acedemics argue that is is neither adjective nor pronoun and so insist on calling it a "possessive determiner"
The lesson I take from that if academic grammarians can not agree on what to call it then we should be careful not to be too prescriptive on what we call it ;)
Agreed on principle. However, since you are learning French, you have to understand the difference between adjectives and pronouns in general, because they work quite differently.
Pronoun means "in replacement of a noun", which excludes the presence of another noun afterwards: "mine, yours, his/hers, ours, yours, theirs" (le mien, le tien, le sien, le nôtre, le vôtre, le leur + feminine and plural variants) are used instead of nouns, with all possible functions a noun can have.
Adjectives (all of them, not only possessive or demonstrative), have one precise function: they qualify nouns. That means a lot in French as you know, in terms of agreement and placement.
However, I have no objection at all to the use of "possessive determiner", as an alternative classification, beside articles.
Please consider that I am not a professional grammarian, just trying to explain French grammar with differentiating and consistent vocabulary to invite learners to become familiar with our mindset.
Yes I agree with you - I do think I am learning the French distinction between adjectives and pronouns reasonably but my French is still very much a work in progress.
As I said previously I was careless in the example I used I'll be more careful. Despite you not being a professional grammarian you are still one of the best assets that a learner has.
My reply to you was just teasing you a little bit but that does not mean that I don't really appreciate your contribution. (Just a little teasing between friends ;) )
Thank you! I am with you as far as gender determining the possessive pronoun goes. I am just wondering how native French speakers cope with this in practice. I imagine it can cause quite a lot of confusion at times.
Yes I suppose there could be confusion you are right.
I suspect that in practice in any case where there would be confusion French speakers will add information to make it clear.
In English there is also scope for considerable confusion, often we are forced to choose a pronoun without knowing the gender of the person.
"The doctor visits (...) patients". Should that be his or her? Yet we are required to arbitrarily choose one.
At least in French it is clear which adjective should be used.
I think keyvinyar is asking about singular "their" as a polite genderless alternative to "its" when referring to a person, rather than the plural "their" (leur) which refers to a group.
Last I checked singular "their" in English was still somewhat controversial, so I understand that presenting it as a viable translation in this context might only cause confusion.
It'd still be nice if Duo wouldn't mark me down for it though :P
It's only controversial when you bring it up because it's an an internalised rule that is learnt as opposed to a specific rule that is taught (that "their" can be singular sometimes). However it's not controversial in usage, it's standard in usage and used by the majority of people when referring to someone whose gender is not known.
"Ses enfants" = her/his children (plural) (both masculine and feminine).
"Son enfant" = her/his child (singular masculine)
"Sa" is used when the noun is feminine singular.
In the case of "enfant" the noun is grammatically masculine therefore "son" is used.
If we know for certain that the child is a girl then we can treat enfant as feminine. The noun then is "une enfant"
However because "enfant" begins with a vowel we would still use "son enfant" even if the child is a girl.
Their should be correct. Its is used as singular in english all the time. If he/she are both correct then there is no gender information conveyed in the scentence about the owner of the children. She / He are therefore categoricly wrong translations in english. Only its / their are correct. Else the translation is adding additional information that was not present in the french scentence, or information is lost depending on the direction.
Sa = its/their Son = its/their Leur = its/their Ses = its/their $plural_word Leurs = its/their $plural_word
Its not logical at all for these words to mean his or her, it always means "its/their" and the missing information is obtained by simply knowing who you are talking to/about in the context surrounding the scentence, and is never spoken.
Correct me if im wrong please.. because i just cannot see another way for this to work.
"their children" = leurs enfants (2+ owners of a plural object).
"its children" would be understood as one owner, non human (chicken reading a newspaper?)
When "you" is used in a short English sentence, the translation to French is alternative: tu or vous. Then, context would tell.
When "son, sa, ses" are used in a short French sentence, the translation to English is alternative: his or her or its. Then, context would tell.
That's the point exactly. Homophones being impossible to identify in dictation, learners complain that they could not tell and should be marked as correct. So, we report alternative versions to Duo and they apply a special filter that marks the homophone as correct.
But when you get the same sentence in a translation exercise, of course it is shown in its original form.
Theoretically, the dictation exercise consists of writing down what you hear, not translating it.
Translations from French to English are always in writing and the original French sentence cannot change, so you should never be requested to translate "ces enfants..." to English.
Or have I been mistaken?
Why can't there be two sentences (in a future version of Duolingo) « Ses ... » and « Ces ... » with the same audio? So instead of "translating" what you hear it simply tries to match what you wrote with one of its linked sentences.
Audio for sentences:
- « Ces ... » = /se.../
- « Ses ... » = /se.../
Sentences for audio:
- /se.../ = « Ces ... » | « Ses ... »