"Cheese is easy to cut."
Translation:Le fromage est facile à couper.
Generality, universal truth: to be constructed with definite article le/la/les
I can't keep straight whether to say à couper or de couper. Is there a rule to remember when to use each?
The trick here is that a number of adjectives (facile/difficile are the most frequent) may change their postposition (à or de) depending on how the sentence is constructed, ie
• impersonal : "il est facile de" or "c'est facile de" + infinitive
• or not impersonal : "quelqu'un" or "quelque chose est facile à" + infinitive.
• il est difficile de refuser = impersonal construction meaning "we find it hard to refuse"
• elle est difficile à refuser = (l'invitation) est difficile à refuser
• il est difficile à décrire = (le tableau) est difficile à décrire
• il est difficile de décrire ce tableau
There are a few others: "dur", "bon", "commode", "pratique", "utile", "indispensable", maybe others that don't come to my mind.
• il est (c'est) dur de monter la pente / la pente est dure à monter
• il est (c'est) bon de connaître ce mot / ce mot est bon à connaître
• il est (c'est) commode d'utiliser cet outil / cet outil est commode à utiliser
• il est (c'est) pratique de manipuler ce couteau / ce couteau est pratique à manipuler
• il est (c'est) utile/indispensable de savoir les bases / les bases sont utiles/indispensables à savoir
thanks for that! Very good explanation. What about the other other adjectives, the ones that don't change their preposition? Do they all take de?
Wouldn't the French translation offered technically mean "THE cheese is easy to cut"? Shouldn't this English sentence really be translated as "DU fromage" rather than "LE fromage"?
Would you say "some cheese is easy to cut" ? probably not, you would rather say "it is easy to cut cheese" and then the French would be "il est facile de couper du fromage" because "du" would come after "couper" and not after verb être.
With the construction in English: cheese is easy to cut, you claim a general statement, "in general", as a fact that everybody would agree with. In that case the French uses definite article "le/la/les" and not the partitive "du" which would mean "a non definite quantity of cheese is easy to cut".
I don't quite follow why you say that it's OK to use "du" in your example, when it is still referring to the generality of "all" cheese.
What would the sentence: "il est facile de couper le fromage" mean then?
"Il est facile de couper le fromage" = It is easy to cut the cheese.
"Il est facile de couper du fromage = It is easy to cut cheese.
Cheese is easy to cut = Le fromage est facile à couper.
The cheese is easy to cut = Le fromage est facile à couper.
The sentence is not refering to a certain amount of cheese. It is refering to cheese in general. "Cheese is easy to cut" so if some type of cheese is easy to cut i still don't see why you can't say "Du fromage". Yes, in english you wouldn't say "some cheese is easy to cut" but Du fromage" can be translated to just "cheese" so it should be accepted.
For this reason I put "c'est facile à couper du fromage" and still got it wrong
The preposition changes with the nature of the subject:
impersonal subject: il est / c'est facile de couper du fromage real subject: le fromage est facile à couper.
we have learned du / de la, and we know that means "some" or "not a certain...", but sometimes it is not directly translated. so agree with you!
Would it also be correct to say "Le fromage se coupe facilement"?
If I remember correctly, you can say "La baignoire se nettoie facilement."
Thanks. Which version sounds more natural, the reflexive one ("... se coupe facilement") or the more literal translation ("... est facile à couper")?
This is correct as an emphatic formula: "le fromage, (comma) c'est facile à couper"
It is correct and meaningful. But Duo intended to teach you the construction of "facile à + infinitive".
If we replace 'le' with 'de', is it still a sensible sentence? "De fromage est facile à couper."
You cannot replace a definite article by a preposition. Please back translate: "of cheese is easy to cut"
This sentence is a generality: in general, cheese is easy to cut.
In French, generalities use the definite articles le, la or les.
Can you say "Le fromage est facile de couper"? And when do I use à and de after an adjective?
There are tons of adjectives with an -e at the end in masculine, therefore identical in masculine and feminine:
Just a few of them for your information: vide, fade, dupe, rare, âcre, apre, pire, sage, sage, fixe, pauvre, large, calme, arabe, tiède, raide, acide, aride, avide, beige, belge, rouge, riche, moche, sale, ovale, noble, frêle, drôle, ample, digne, terne, jaune, avare, sobre, obèse, dense, lisse, leste, juste, vague, brave...
It would more or less suggest that you use the cheese to cut something else.
I'm still confused as to why we need the preposition at all. The infinitive includes the word "to", so what purpose does "à" serve?
In English "to cut" can be an infinitive or a specific construction with the preposition "to" + verb.
In French, infinitives are single words in their own right.
There are a few verbs that can be followed by an infinitive with no need for a preposition:
- aimer/aimer mieux, aller, compter, croire, daigner, devoir, entendre, espérer, faire, falloir, (s')imaginer, laisser, oser, penser, pouvoir, prétendre, savoir, sembler, sentir, valoir mieux, venir, voir and vouloir.
But after an adjective, you will always need a preposition, "à" or "de" to introduce an infinitive.