You're absolutely right. I'm English and I would never say 'The key is on the piece of furniture' as it would sound strange. I would say 'The key is on the furniture' even if it was only one piece but I guess that they are trying to put it in the context of the Italian grammar.
Duo isn't trying to teach you what to say in English. They are trying to demonstrate that mobile doesn't mean furniture, mobili does. Mobile means piece of furniture. I doubt an Italian would say this this this way either. But a mover giving instructions might use the word in the singular. Since Duo isn't a phrase book, they aren't teaching you even this sentence. They are just teaching you about the Italian vocabulary, grammar and syntax that go into it.
English also has words to distinguish between household items that are "moveable" vs. "unmoveable." The English word furnishings is used to describe moveable items such as furniture, curtains, rugs, and pictures -- in other words, items that are not fixtures. The singular noun furnishing, while seldom used, is a legitimate English word. However, it is unlikely that a speaker of English would say The key is on the furnishing, since our linguistic conventions require the use of a more specific word.
I think it might go back to ancient Roman law. Items that were immovable (for example, land) were governed by different rules of ownership than items that could be moved. It is rather nice that knowledge of Roman law might help with modern Italian vocabulary. Of course, I could be wrong.
That's wrong. In German, Möbel refers to furniture or a piece of furniture, while buildings may be called Immobilien (as in, "I have invested money in 'Immobilien'". Normally buildings would be called Gebäude). Norwegian has møbel for one piece of furniture.
Out of interest, I just looked up the Russian word - it's мебель, which reads as "mebel".
Latin has affected many languages well beyond romance languages. And French has directly affected other languages as well, like English, German and Russian. Here is a list of words in various languages who originate from the Latin root word. Obviously some of these words probably are more related to mobile than furniture, but the ideas do seem to relate to each other.
The problem is that it really is impossible to translate this sentence into English without mentioning the particular piece of furniture the key was left on. The logical solution to this problem is for Duolingo to accept whatever piece of furniture the student wishes to nominate, such as cabinet, chair, sofa, etc. Duolingo's own translation does not make sense in English. One would never say this.
The problem is that it really is impossible to translate
this sentence into English without mentioning the particular
piece of furniture the key was left on.
I agree with you. No native speaker would say, "I left it on the piece of furniture" -- (unless for some reason they didn't really know what to call that particular piece of furniture, I suppose, but hardly likely.)
I also agree - I opted to translate it as sideboard and got it wrong, of course. I realise the exercise here is to learn Italian, but in English furniture is a collective noun and we tend to name items of furniture. Duolingo needs to recognise this when providing translations if it is to be truly useful for all learners i.e. in Italian you might say 'mobile' but in English we would not say 'on the piece of furniture' unless there were only one piece in the room and you didn't know what it was called!
Agreed, which is why I knew it would be wrong as I wrote. However, I find it difficult to write something that is clearly not reasonable English so I am willing to be marked wrong from time to time just to see what DL will accept. Of course, keys on the furniture would be quite acceptable .
The difficulty is just the example being a bit odd. They want to teach "furniture" and reinforce "keys", which is great, but maybe they're not ideal for one simple sentence.
Better to have "the hotel/ their house/ my aunt has some lovely furniture..." or "we need to buy some new furniture for our home/ son/ bedroom..."
Meanwhile you could have a whole section in which different people leave their keys, glasses, wallets, etc, on different items of furniture in different rooms...
Helen - the whole point of this exercise is to teach that mobile actually doesn't mean furniture, since the English word furniture is an uncountable noun with a plural meaning. Mobile refers to just one piece. It's admittedly a silly sentence, but Duo's sentences aren't designed to be a phrase book but to demonstrate certain points about Italian that will help you form your own sentences correctly.
I thought whatnot was more like a tchotchke, to use a Yiddish term (I think). Small decorative items, not furniture. But my suspicion is this sentence would never be said. Duo has to come up with an exercise using mobile in the singular because we don't have a single word like this. But I don't think it's probably used much by any about their own piece of furniture, since they all have names or at least functional descriptions. I suspect this word really only is used much in manufacturing or warehouses or other situations where one piece of furniture is the same as all the others, even if ones a desk and ones a chair.
Yes, nobody wold ever say this. I think the best, reasonable, english translation would be 'side' or 'sideboard'. At least in my family, any piece of furniture becomes "the side" (coffee table, kitchen table, sideboard, side table, sofa etc.) when talking about where we have left the keys.
I don't think this sentence is really supposed to be one that is ever said. I think Duo was just trying to find a sentence to illustrate that the English word furniture only has a plural meaning, while the Italian word has both a singular and plural. They struggle equally with the reverse situation in Italian where uva actually means grapes, not grape, so you have to say acino d'uva to indicate just one. I doubt that they use the word mobile in the singular in Italian very much, except for maybe moving companies or furniture warehouses where the type of furniture it is might not be important. But it is important for English speakers to understand this. I have suggested elsewhere that maybe it might have made more sense if they simply defined mobili as pieces of furniture when used in a sentence like Mettilo tra quei due mobili - Put it between those two pieces of furniture.
As for side, I wouldn't have a clue if someone told me to put in on the side. We have an expression put it to the side, but that's much different as it just means it's not part of the current transaction or it should be saved. I might extrapolate the meaning if I thought you means one of the pieces of furniture that actually contains the word side, like side table, but never sofa, kitchen table or especially coffee table which is generally in front. The only noun I generally hear represented simply by the word side, is side dish in a restaurant. (What do you want for your side?).
Ah, maybe it's just a case of local/regional dialect then. "Side" is used pretty often where I live to refer to an arbitrary piece of furniture or fixings (If some told me "put the key on the side" I would put it on top of a piece of furniture - the point is that the key is out, rather than away in a drawer). But I understand that the point of this sentence is to demonstrate that "mobile" can be used in the singular in Italian. When using "mobile", would it be used to refer to an arbitrary bit of furniture? Because I can't see how it could be used to refer to a specific piece of furniture in a room where there are multiple pieces.
I don't think it would be used often by most people. In the examples I gave in above, a mover or a furniture warehouse, whether something is a desk or a chair may not really be an issue, let alone not needing to distinquish between types of tables, etc. It may be simply a question of move this piece over there, and I have heard English speakers refer to one piece of furniture as a piece, which would be the equivalent. If you saw an advertisement for a six piece living room set, you might want to inquire what "pieces" were. That ad in Italian would use probably say sei mobili, although we absolutely couldn't say six furnitures, and the question in Italian would ask quali mobili. So even though this isn't using the singular mobile, it does translate mobili as pieces of furniture, rather than just furniture, which is another look at the same difference between the words in the two languages. So, although I doubt you'd ever hear this sentence in Italian, you will need to build on the idea that mobile means a piece of furniture which means mobile may be translated as pieces of furniture.
The whole purpose of this exercise is to teach the word mobile as a sigular word. You can't do that by teaching it as any other word. That might confuse some English speakers, but it shouldn't confuse a language student. Duo isn't teaching English here, that's a prerequisite. It's teaching the word mobile in Italian, which absolutely does not mean table, although a table can be in the set of possible items. Mobile doesn't mean furniture either, mobili does. The only correct way to translate mobile is piece of furniture. The fact that you never speak of a single piece of furniture except by it's type suggests that you will probably never use this Italian word in the singular. I suspect it's not very common in Italian either. But you have to understand to use the plural to mean furniture, rather than the singular.
But the Italian sentence has the exact same problem - il mobile doesn't indicate what piece of furniture it is. Italian also has specific words for chair/table/couch/etc... So Duolingo shouldn't accept chair or sofa here because that's not a correct translation for il mobile.
I agree it is a bit of a useless sentence but so are many of the other sentences we get (I am never going to use - for example - gli elefanti sono i tuoi, or chi è l'uomo nella vasca? among many others)
It is confusing because in English furniture refers to the entire meublement, every chair,sofa etc in the room( or even house). In italian un mobile is one of the chairs, sofas etc. Luckily (for me) it is the same pattern as in Swedish, but I too was confused(albeit in the other direction) when I was learning this in English, way back when...
BUt this word, mobile, until here wasn´t been taught, was it? That´s why, the discussion over here is about this particular word. I heard Mobile in the audio, but i didn´t know that word yet. Only as all you say, like the mobile, the cellphone, or something that can be moved. but not this concept in italian.
Native Russian and Ukrainian speaker here. In my languages real estate also means literally "The Unmovable" :)
And now I understand where the word for furniture ("mebel'") has come from. ;)
If you know Spanish, you can use this way to remember mobile:
mobile > muebile -- o often splits into ue when stressed in spanish (dormir > duermo). It happens with other words too, sueño = sonno (ñ originates from 2 n's), muerto = morto, cuenta = conto
muebile > mueble -- there's often an extra "i" in "bile" words that isn't there in Spanish. posible = possibile, adorable = adorabile
1) singular nouns with the ending "a" are feminine nouns, and form their plural with the ending "e"
2) singular nouns with the ending "o" are masculine nouns, and form their plural with the ending "i"
3) singular nouns with the ending "e" are feminine/masculine nouns and form their plural with the ending "i"
4) irregular nouns
you can consider the (3) "irregular nouns", but in reality there are a lot of nouns in that category
1) 35% - 2) 35% - 3) 25% - 4) 5%
Yeah, I remember that "mobile" and others (French: meuble, Swedish: möbel, Danish & Norwegian: møbel, German: Möbel(stück), Romanian: mobilă, Portuguese: móvel) precisely because it doesn't move, so the contradiction sticks in my mind. :D
As others have noted: furniture is mobile, whereas cupboards, closets, some counter tops and other fixtures are not. "Fixtures" is an important term in lease and rental documents.
Secondly, the translation to English is awkward since furniture is a plural and could mean the entire house contents. So if you were to answer someone with "the keys are on the furniture" this very vague and obtuse reply might result in your getting an insult in return, since someone looking for their keys would like a specific location, not "furniture" which is scattered throughout the entire house.
Furniture is a non-count noun, but it is also a collective noun: a cover term for a class of individual items. Such nouns imply plurality, but are singular in form.
In order to specify that you are talking about a single piece of furniture,
(without specifying the type) you indeed refer to it as "a piece of furniture".
What probably bothers you, is the fact that this specific sentence is unnatural in English due to the fact that for the sake of clarity, one would prefer to say what type of furniture they are talking about.
e.g., "The key is on the couch / desk / coffee table".
While "furniture" is grammatically singular, as it is a non count noun,
it is also a collective noun in meaning, that is used to refer to the group.
When wanting to specify in English that you are talking about one,
you say "a piece of furniture".
This may not be so common, as in day to day life you'd mostly name the type of furniture, but it is the proper way to describe a single piece of furniture without specifying the kind.
Plural: i mobili = the furniture.
Singular: il mobile = the piece of furniture.
Of course we can just use the word furniture in English- e.g. 'I am buying furniture for my new house'. Your example suggests a number of things spread over a number of pieces of furniture, which can collectively be termed 'the furniture'. Unless the set of keys has been split up and spread around, it would be very unusual not to specify on which piece of furniture they are to be found. The main point here is that furniture is a generic and collective term. In English, if we wanted to find the keys, we would name the specific piece of furniture...that is why the sentence is difficult to translate. I suspect that Italians would also specify the item of furniture, unless there were only one piece of furniture in the room.
I understand the "concept" that what one language has as a group noun, another language may treat differently. But since most places has several different pieces of furniture with different functions. It seems to me that this word mobile would only be useful in more abstract discussions of furnishings. I don't see people saying Mettelo sul mobile instead of Mettalo sul tavolo (or scrivano or sedia, etc). Am I correct, or is this just my English brain?
"piece of furniture" has a general meaning (table, sofa, bed, fridge, ... are pieces of furniture), therefore in this case it is wrong to translate "... è sul mobile" with "... is on the piece of furniture" because if I tell you "La chiave è sul mobile" I mean a definite piece of furniture. So I would translate "mobile" with "cabinet", that is a more appropiate word in this type of sentence.
Every now and then I run a word through Google Translate. "Mobile" translates to English "Mobile." "Furniture" translates to "Mobilia". Piece of furniture translates to "Pezzo di mobili". When I use some other apps they sometimes have typos and things. And since I don't speak Italian, if resources don't agree, it's hard for me to know if I'm learning something incorrectly. :(
I don't think Google Translate is a good resource for lerners: it often gives very odd translations, and it gives no grammar information in its "definitions". My suggestion is to choose a good dictionary, and if you want to investigate further on some expressions, use online resource (e.g. http://dictionary.reverso.net gives a number example sentences that are translated by humans).
Now, regarding your examples: "mobile" translates to "mobile" only when used as an adjective, not as a noun. "Mobilia" is a quite accurate translation of furniture because it is a collective noun (it is singular), while "mobili" is just the plural of "mobile". On the other hand "mobili" is more frequent, both in spoken and written Italian. "Pezzo di mobili" is completely wrong: no italian speaker would use this expression, that almost sounds like an insult.
Google Translate Is Notoriously Bad, Quite Often You Can Translate Something Into A Language And Back And You'll Get A Sentence That Not Only Is Completely Different From What You Originally Entered, But Also Makes No Sense, I Think Once I Put Some Sentence Through All Languages And It Turned My Perfectly Valid Sentence, Not Involving "One" Of Anything, Into The Number One.
In English, Furniture Is A Mass Noun, While The Italian Equivalent Is A Count Noun. A Couch Is A Mobile, So Is A Chair, Or A Table, And You Could Also Say They're Pieces Of Furniture, However Saying "The Couch Is A Furniture" Or "The Table Is Furniture" Don't Make Much Sense In English, If You Have All Three Things Together, In Italian You Have Dei Mobili, Some Furniture, While In English You Have, As Stated Before, Some Furniture, Or Some Pieces Of Furniture.
For the most part I think you are right. I don't think that someone would probably say this. All that Duo is really pointing out is that, while furniture is a group noun in English, it is a standard noun in Italian, with both a singular and a plural form which take the expected singular and plural verb forms. I suspect the singular has relatively little use, but it is probably used more frequently than we would say piece of furniture. This sentence wouldn't tell the person where the key was very well, though, unless there is only one piece of furniture in the room or the piece was something unusual which didn't match the standard categories of furniture we tend to use.
I mostly agree with you. Certainly saying that something is on the piece of furniture is only going to be helpful if there is only one piece of furniture in the room. But there is a reason to translate mobile as piece of furniture, since furniture is a group noun in English, but countable in Spanish. And coming up with a sentence that uses the phrase piece of furniture, yet sounds reasonable in English, is probably quite a challenge. To keep these sentences fairly basic and within our ability to translate, you will find some awkward sentences when there is a difference in how a word or expression "works" in the two languages.
There is always a strange translation when one language uses a collective noun where the other language uses a singular and a plural form. The word furniture is a uncountable group noun. But il mobile refers to a single piece, so I mobili is actually the translation of furniture. Mobile is translated as a piece of furniture. The same thing happens in Italian with the word la uva. La uva actually translates as grapes, so if you want to talk about a single grape in Italian, you have to say acino d'uva.
I don't think it's a shortcoming of English at all. I suspect no one would really say this in Italian either, unless there was either only one piece of furniture in the room, or some piece of furniture that you have no idea what it's supposed to be. It's simply not helpful to say on the piece of furniture when there are different pieces in the room. But I think we have to give Duo a break here. It's just hard to come up with a rather basic sentence out of context that uses furniture as a singular word. I'm sure in context it isn't that uncommon, but out of context, I think any such sentence would sound strange.
You diagnosed it perfectly. There are often several of these words that don't match in terms of number between languages. That also explains this weird sentence. I'm sure you will find examples of mobile used in Italian as a singular word, but not that much in an everyday way.
That wouldn't be unusual I suspect. Since chiave ends in an "e" sound and obviously è has only that sound it would be normal to have the sounds blend so that you hear only one. This is common in romance languages. Luckily Italian is spoken slower than Spanish, because with all the extra vowels, everything would elide together.
I don't think it is of much use colloquially. I think you might hear it a lot if you work for a furniture related business like a factory, store, delivery service, moving company, etc. If only for written policies covering the handling of individual pieces, it would be used quite a bit. But it would never really be used in a sentence such as this, unless the furniture was so strange that no one knew what else to call it.
Hi everyone, I'm Italian and I can tell you that we generally use the word "mobile" to indicate the position of an object in relation to a piece of furniture (above, below, in front, behind or next to it) and we do it to indicate a part of the furniture: dresser, sideboard, cupboard, display cabinet, ...; instead we call some furniture by their name: table, sofa, sink, refrigerator, bed, desk, ... So I say "the keys are on the bed" and not on the "mobile". Now I ask you: could "cabinet" be the word equivalent to "mobile"? Or is there no equivalent word?
Word Reference suggests armadio, mobile or armadietto as translations for cabinet. But that brings up another question. Many things call cupboards or cabinets, especially those in a kitchen, are considered fixtures, not furniture, as they are permanently attached to the wall. Is that a common distinction in Italian?
You are absolutely correct. But you do find mobile used in the singular in Italian. But those sentences are either too complex or require too much context to work here. Just take this like one of the "use the word in a sentence" statements from a spelling bee. Duo just wants you to understand that the singular form is for one piece. We don't have a word like that in English, but it's not a difficult concept.
Mobile works differently from the word furniture in English. Furniture is a collective noun. It is singular in form but plural in meaning. Mobile is singular in both form and meaning. This means that the only correct way to translate furniture is mobili, and mobile has to be "piece of furniture". This sentence sounds strange because mobile really isn't used in the singular very much by the general public, but has its place in some discussions like techniques to refinish a piece of furniture.
This is the direct opposite of what happens with uva in Italian. In Italian uva is a collective noun, so we have to translate it as grapes. To refer to a single grape, we have to say acino d'uva.
I don't think many Duolingo sentences are offered because they think that you will need that particular sentence, and that is certainly true of this one. I doubt an Italian would ever say this Italian sentence either. The sole purpose of this exercise is to teach you that it is mobili not mobile that translates as "furniture". We don't have a single word that means a single piece of furniture that does not name the furniture. Italian does and the plural of that word is equivalent to our singular group noun, furniture. This is the exact opposite of the situation with the Italian word uva. Uva means grapes, not grape. If you want to refer to a single grape in Italian you have to say acino d'uva. But the fact of the matter is that there aren't a lot of circumstances where you would say either acino d'uva or piece of furniture. But you can't be a fluent speaker and not know when and how to use these singular forms. So Duo comes up with perfectly "correct" sentences using them that no one would probably ever say. And it's all to teach you that mobile means piece of furniture not furniture, so sidestepping the issue isn't demonstrating your knowledge.
The point that Duo is trying to make here, admittedly somewhat awkwardly, is that the word furniture is a group noun, a singular word with a plural meaning. But mobile is an actual singular, so its plural form is the actual translation for furniture. The only logical way to translate mobile is with piece or item of furniture. You will see this more clearly if I use the sentence Ho sei mobili nella mia camera da letto. You can't say I have six furnitures in my bedroom. You have to say I have six pieces of furniture in my bedroom.
I doubt that mobile is used in Italian in the singular very often, at least colloquially, either. I'm assuming piece of furniture will appear time to time in furniture related businesses. But the point is that the English word furniture always assumes a plural, while mobile actually does refer to only a single piece. Because you say it with one word instead of three, mobile is probably more common to say in Italian, but I don't know how often you would need to say it anyway. Another way to show this difference would be to define mobili as pieces of furniture. It is the plural form of a singular noun. Even then I don't think the are a lot of times that would make sense in English. But I suspect if someone wanted you to pose for a picture, the sentence Mettiti tra quei due mobili (stand between those two pieces of furniture) would be quite natural in Italian, and rarer, but not really strange in English.
Words like furniture, equipment and merchandise in English are singular in Form but plural in meaning, and uncountable. If you buy furniture, you often may be offered a three piece living room set or bedroom set. You have to call each a piece so you can count it. But the Italian word mobile is a countable noun with the plural form mobili. In almost all cases, it's mobili that's the correct translation for furniture, since you are generally speaking about the aggregate. But when you see mobile, you know they are referring to a single piece of furniture, one desk or table or chair, etc. The problem is that we don't have any common sentences that would use that word, although it might certainly be used in a furniture factory, warehouse or by a moving company. I don't love this sentence, it's never been said by anyone. But it is pointing out that we need to figure out how to refer to a single piece of furniture, maybe one we didn't know what to call.
That's simply the best translation of the Italian word "Mobile", There's an inherent difference in how furniture is referred to in English and Italian, In English "Furniture" is a mass noun, Thus an individual item of it is just that, And item or piece of furniture. Meanwhile in Italian, "Furniture" is a count noun, With a singular item of it being "Un mobile", And multiple being "Dei mobili". While one could argue simply "Furniture" should be accepted here, That would be a very silly thing to say in English, And I'd argue "Furniture" is more similar to the meaning of "Mobili" than "Mobile".
All this is simply to point out that the Italian word for furniture has a singular form, although the English word is uncountable. We add "piece of" to make a countable. But I doubt that many Italians use it to refer to any furniture in their house. I assume that you probably hear it mostly used by movers or people who work in a warehouse. But you still would have an Italian looking around for a specific piece if you used mobile instead of mobili to talk about the furniture.
No. While I agree this is a ridiculous sentence, it's this particular ridiculous expression to make a specific point, which you are ignoring with your answer. The point is that the word mobile is a word that indicates a single piece of furniture, which we don't even have a single word for. They have intentionally not specified whether the "mobile" was a cabinet, desk, bed, chair, table, etc. The thing that makes this sentence ridiculous is that no one would refer to a piece of furniture in their house or office as "the piece of furniture". Most people would only use that term if they weren't quite sure what the function of the piece was, which is not very common. But someone who worked in a furniture warehouse or a moving company might just talk about moving this piece over there without specifying the type of furniture it is because they are just pieces of furniture to them - things to be handled as part of their job. So while this sentence does not really a lot of sense, changing the keyword to make it make sense defeats the whole purpose.
So am I to assume that whenever I see "mobile," "a piece" is a part of the word? I keep thinking of a mobile over a crib, and I picture tiny coffee tables and sofas swirling over a baby's head. I wonder what the Italian is for that type of mobile, even though my babies are now 24 and 19, respectively.
It's a little more nuanced than that. Mobile is also an Italian adjective meaning pretty much the same thing as its English cognate. So that mobile for a child's crib is called una scultura mobile - essentially a mobile sculpture. Mobile as a noun, however, does refer to a single piece of furniture.
You will probably see the adjective mobile more frequently than the noun. Most people don't talk about furniture in terms of pieces very often, except of they are talking about a six piece set, and that would use the plural anyway in Italian. I suspect that the singular is mostly used by furniture movers or warehouse workers simply talking about moving things around (Put that piece of furniture over there). But since furniture is a collective noun, grammatically singular but with a plural meaning, it is important for us to understand that furniture is translated as mobili, and the singular form needs to have the word "piece".
The opposite thing happens with the Italian word uva. Uva means grapes, so if you want to refer to a single grape in Italian, you have to say acino d'uva.
Absolutely not. The whole point of this exercise is that mobile refers to a single piece of furniture, but it could be a bed, a table, a sofa, a desk, etc. We don't have a word that translates to mobile, but people do talk about a furniture piece. This is not a sentence that you are likely to ever hear. The closest thing would La chiave è su quel mobile, if the person didn't know what it was or if they worked in a furniture warehouse where they didn't really care. But you do have to remember there's a singular form.
(American English speaker) We need to learn to think in Italian. I was taught this word "mobile" in another course also, to mean "a piece of furniture," i.e., something that can be moved. BTW when I visited Italy I'm pretty sure I saw a sign that said "Immobili" to mean how we would say "Real Estate," something that cannot be moved.