"the last year" would back translate to "la dernière année":
last year, we bought a dog = l'an dernier, l'an passé, l'année dernière, l'année passée, nous avons acheté un chien
the last year of my career was wonderful= la dernière année de ma carrière était merveilleuse
Three questions please:
1- To use the article, you have put the sentence in feminine, right? Why?
2- The adjective "Last - dernière" doesn't fall under the "BANGS" rule, right? Then why did it have to precede the noun in your example?
3- If I'd write the sentence without a definite article like the original Duolingo's sentence, why there has to be an l' in it? And if it can't go without it then how come we don't consider it with a definite article in the English translation?
1- No, both "l'an dernier" and "l'année" dernière" are correct to translate "last year".
2- "Dernier" is fickle: N in numbers and also placed after the noun in set phrases:
- l'année dernière; le mois dernier; la semaine dernière (date/adverbial phrase) = last year; last month: last week.
- la dernière année (a specific period of time/modified noun) = the last year, the past year, the latest year, the previous year
3- The original sentence was written in French with "l'an dernier", of which meaning can only be "last year" when as an adverbial phrase. And again "the last year" does not mean what "l'an dernier" means (see above)
I appreciate your answer, but I'm afraid if I understood you clearly you have only answered the point number 2 of my doubts, please allow me to reattempt explaining the other points or maybe I'm missing something:
1- I was referring to when I have/want to translate the definite article in English "the" into the French sentence, I have to use the feminine version of the sentence, as in "La dernière année", right? because according to what you said it's the only way to make it definite rather than indefinite, right? My question is why.
2- Although already answered I'd just like to make sure, if my sentence would be indefinite (without a definite article), that would be an adverbial phrase (set phrase) therefore the adjective would follow the verb; but if I were to write it as a definite sentence (with a definite article "la"), that would be just a standard sentence and since the adjective here "Dernière" belongs to the BANGS category as a "number", so the adjective would naturally stay before the verb, correct?
3- My third point is a bit similar to the first, and was actually first asked by @ShalakaDesai but I didn't really get the answer: If we don't translate to English with the definite article "the", then what's the purpose of the French article l' ? And if we must use an article in French, why don't we do the same when translating to English, and instead, to do that we have to flip the sentence over and get the adjective before the noun and therefore use la instead of l' ?
I really hope I could explain myself because I think understanding a lot of things later would be based on understanding this point for me.
1 + 3- French nouns need articles. To differentiate the meaning of "la dernière année" and "l'année dernière", the adjective changes places.
In English, you don't need to do that, because the presence of a definite article makes the phrase specific (a specific date) and the absence of the definite article automatically gives the phrase an adverbial (indefinite) meaning: "the last year" and "last year", respectively.
We are talking about two different concepts here. One is "last year", i.e. one year ago, the previous year, the one before the current one. They other is "the last year", meaning the final year among several ones (e.g the last year of a war or a career).
In French these can be distinguished by the placement of dernier relative an. In English it's whether or not you use "the". Here not using le/l' in French is an error. (See other posts for an vs année.)
There's a section that covers dernier/dernière. It's a different meaning.
Because in English it is not "THE" last year, it is only "Last year". In french it is necessary the article "Le", but it doesn't mean it is like that in English because the context is different. You can see the difference in French by the position of the subject in the sentence.
"L'an dernier" = Last year. "The last year" doesn't mean the same as "Last year".
Last year I went to Disneyland. The last year of college is very difficult.
Did I explain clearly or am I wrong? If anyone has something to add, it will be appreciated.
The "Tips & Notes" for each module are only on the web version (mainly for PCs and Macs); they are very useful. There have been many requests to add them to the mobile apps, but no action.
I just checked, however, and at least on an iPhone, you can use the web browser to go to duolingo.com, log in (and it won't try to send you to the app), select a module available to you, and you can see its Tips & Notes. Note that not all modules have them, but most do, especially those that focus on grammar.
There is no pronoun here; it is Article ("L'") + Noun ("an") + Adjective ("dernier"). Before a noun, "dernier" means "final" or "(the) last"; after a noun, it means "last" as in "previous".
See discussion for "dernier" and other such adjectives in the previously mentioned article at: http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/adjectives_fickle.htm