It has to be "THE red dresses"?! I assume there's a good reason for it that I'm missing here...
In this sentence, "des" is not an indefinite article. It's the mandatory contraction of "de + les". That's why we use "the" in English.
To make it less obscure, "parler de quelque chose" = "to talk about something".
It's the same for other verbs like "se moquer de quelque chose/quelqu'un" = "to make fun of something/someone".
So, if I wanted to say, "He speaks about red dresses," (without the "the") I couldn't say, "Il parle des robes rouges?" This is certainly how I would have said that, which would force it to be a correct English translation in this exercise. Granted, I haven't lived in France in 9 years so I'm a little rusty, but to me, "Il parle de robes rouges" just sounds wrong.
"Il parle des robes rouges" means that he talks about specific red dresses we talked about earlier in the discussion. So in English it would be "He talks about the red dresses".
"Il parle de robes rouges" is perfectly correct French, and means that he talks about red dresses in general. In English : "He talks about red dresses".
How do you discern the difference between des and de when listening? Sorry if this is a stupid question... I am so new at this.....
des is pronounced DAY but de is pronounced DUH. Same as for Les and le.
How is "il parle DE robes rouges" perfectly correct? De is singular isnt it? And if the noun is plural how does that work??
As I said in one of my posts above :
"to talk about something" = "parler de quelque chose."
This basic form can change if articles are used after "de", like in this exercise : "des" is in fact "de + les" and not the indefinite article "des".
The resulting forms are :
des, de la, du, de l', d'un, d'une, and de (which is unchanged when combined with the indefinite article "des").
Also, keep in mind that the fact that "Il parle de robes rouges" is perfectly correct French doesn't mean that it's a correct answer for this exercise.
"de" is used for MANY things, and I can't cover all of them here. Usually, it doesn't have any gender or number, except when it's used as a noun (and that's very rare).
You can learn more about "de" here :
However, they don't cover everything, so I strongly suggest that you do some research if you want to know more.
Technically, wouldn't "It talks of the red dresses" be correct? If "it" were some non-human object (some anthropomorphized item or animal), I wouldn't see why it should be wrong.
Arthur - Many thanks for your quick reply - it is appreciated: All I have to do is digest your info: "de certaines robes rouges" is fairly self explanatory, though "Il parle de quelques unes des robes rouges" is rather less intuitive. It seems a certain inherent knowledge of the mechanics of French is almost a prerequisite!!
Well both sentences work on the same principle, they consider "some" designating only a part of all the red dresses, using [which his wife used to wear] as a criteria to filter which ones we'll talk about.
In "Il parle de certaines robes rouges.", "certaines" is an adjective to "robes", which by itself already means that we won't talk about all red dresses.
In "Il parle de quelques unes des robes rouges.", "quelques unes" is a pronoun, which tells us that we'll use a part of "something", but if we wouldn't link it with "robes rouges", we wouldn't know what would be that "something". That's why we use "de + les = des" to specify that "quelques unes" actually is a pronoun designating "some of the red dresses" ([which his wife used to wear]).
If it can help you with the second sentence, if we had another structure, for example this one: "Il a des robes rouges, j'en prends quelques unes." then you can see that we don't need to specify what "quelques unes" refers to, since "robes rouges" was introduced already as the main object of the sentence.
I realize arjofocolovi has already explained a lot, but I'm still a little confused even after reading it. what would the difference be between he talks about some red dresses he talks about the red dresses
some is also translated as des, no?
Yes, they would both use "des." Technically, one would be the indefinite article and the other would be a contraction of "de les," and you would have to get the meaning from the context. But if you think about it, the same is also true of the sentences in English.
So how would one say " he is talking about some red dresses" [which his wife used to wear] - ( but not about ALL of the red dresses she owned.)
As long as [which his wife used to wear] is known to the speaker, it would be "Il parle de certaines robes rouges." or "Il parle de quelques unes des robes rouges.". Otherwise, we would usually specify in the same sentence the criteria used to filter the objects (in this case [which his wife used to wear]).
Really, indefinite article though??? "Il parle des robes rouges" How is that not, 'He speaks of red dresses?' But is considered correct as, "He speaks of THE red dresses?!!!!" Tell me why the indefinite article is essential in this sentence, the meaning is not lost due to the omission of "the". I am completely annoyed.
"Parler de" = "to talk about". As an English speaker, this makes sense to me. I prefer "He talks about the red dresses". Why not omit the "the" in English? Because it represents [parler] De + les (definite article combined with de to make des). So I imagine the sentence is about red dresses in general or particular dresses known to the speaker.
I think it's asking for a direct translation (so the "des" means "of the"). I could be wrong.
I see yours as the most rightful explanation. It's all not about de and des. It's about THE PREPOSITION DE the verb takes. Thanks a lot. You made mind clear again)
Could it also translate to "He talks about the red dress", since des translates to 'about the' and not 'some'?
No, because "des" = "de" + "les" and "les" is always plural. In English, "the" and "about the" can refer to either single or plural nouns, but in French, you must be specific, "le" if it is singular, "les" if it is plural. "De" + "le" = "du" and "de" + "les" = "des."
Is there a rule regarding "de, des" and when they change from "the" to "some" or when they just seem to be ignored and no translated at all?
I thought I could understand it intuitively but reading the comments made me more confused than ever. I'll wait here for a reply. -_-"
No, "il parle les robes rouges" would be "he speaks the red dresses." You need "of" (which translates to "de") in there. "De" + "les" = "des." Therefore, "il parle des robes rouges."