Why not "un" enfant in this sentence?
Translation:Mon grand-père était très pauvre quand il était enfant.
This one tripped me up, and I'm not sure why. Does anyone know why "un enfant" is incorrect here? (At least, according to a Duolingo answer)
Because here "enfant" is an adjective :) So the good way to say it is "il + être + adjective" with no article between the verb être and the adjective ! If it was a noun, it'd be more like "Quand c'était un enfant"
Thank you. I'd never thought of it as an adjective, but I did run across another example in a dictionary where it is used in the same phrase exactly. While I won't be losing sleep over it, it is good to learn another accepted use of the word.
It's a very peculiar thing in French, that nouns of professions, religions, nationalities, and the like can be used as adjectives, but only in one very narrow situation: after "Il/elle est", when there are no other adjectives.
He is a lawyer.
C'est un avocat. (noun) or Il est avocat. (adj.)
He is a good lawyer.
C'est un bon avocat. (noun) only
So in other words, it's not worth remembering that "enfant" is sometimes an adjective. Rather, when you come to the c'est vs il est lesson, remember this peculiar usage as a class.
For me this is one of the more difficult early grammar lessons - because it seems "counter-intuitive". It seems like the "Il/Elle" construction should be the specific form ("He is a lawyer"), whereas the "C'est" construction should be the adjectival form ("It's lawyery", as it were). But perhaps by knowing it's the opposite of what my English brain wants it to be, I can remember the rule!
Copy and paste the sentence: "Mon grand-père était très pauvre quand il était enfant", in the Search function and you will see the discussions regarding this sentence. For example the following one by fellow student ikwilvertalen: Quote: "ikwilvertalen If you've come across French professions, you'll recognise what is going on here. When you are saying what someone's profession is, you don't use un/une, e.g. je suis médecin - I am a doctor (literally: I am doctor), il est prof - he is a teacher (literally: he is teacher). The same pattern comes into play when saying [person] is a [specific type of person], as in "He is a child", "She is a mother" - "Il est enfant", "Elle est mère" Unquote
"[person] is a [specific type of person]" Never heard of it, or maybe the [specific type of person] is an adjective, and not a noun ? Tell me if I'm wrong but if it's a noun, only religions, professions and nationalities don't need "être + un(e) + noun".
Those are just the most common words that behave this way. "Enfant" and "mère" and others can be used this way as well.
Most important, though, to remember that even with professions and the like, if there is an adverb or a second adjective involved, it does not work. You never will hear "Elle est bonne mère", for example.
Yes, but unfortunately nobody had been curious about my particular question. Quite honestly, I think my question is fairly low-level. It was just really bugging me! The vagaries of language... LOL! Thanks for trying to point me to something!