translation of definite article + noun into English
When you have a definite article + noun, could it be translated equally as definite article + noun and just general noun into English? For example, could "Elle mange le chocolat." mean both "She eats the chocolate." and "She eats chocolate."? In other words, is it incorrect in French to leave out the article, thus: "Elle mange chocolat."?
No, "du" or "le" are only related to the noun that comes after, not to the action.
So if you see "Elle mange le chocolat" it means either that it's a special chocolate (ex: the one that she had in her hands) or that we needed to precise which aliment she was eating (because there also was milk, cheese and butter).
So for general statements, like the one you wrote : "Elle est tellement maigre ! Qu'est-ce qu'elle mange ??" "Elle mange du chocolat." (Actually verbally we would only answer "Du chocolat", but whatever).
Please tell me if I wasn't clear enough.
"Les hommes meurent." is a sentence that, without any context, can be translated with both.
It could be "Comme toute créature vivante, les hommes meurent" --> "As all living creatures, men die"
Or it could be "Lorsque des gens entrent dans cette pièce, les hommes meurent, mais pas les femmes, pourquoi ?." --> "When people enter this room, the men die, but not the women, why ?"
And for your last sentence, we would use "Les hommes vivent, les hommes meurent, ainsi va la vie."
Yes this would be incorrect French. Nouns must always have an article of some sort (with a few exceptions).
So yes, "Elle mange le chocolat" could be understood as "She eats/is eating chocolate (as a general rule)", and "She eats/is eating the chocolate (understood that the chocolate is specifically referred to, THE specific chocolate that I gave her, for example)." In French, you would be able to tell by context, but without context, both English translations should be acceptable.
Hm, I'm not sure I understood you well @ricainrico.
"Elle mange le chocolat" is said " She eats/is eating the chocolate", no matter what. If you want to say "She eats (some) chocolate" you have to translate it with "Elle mange du chocolat.".
I apologize if it was you meant, but I didn't understand it like this.
Hmm, see this is where I get confused. "Elle mange du chocolat." does sound like the chocolate is unspecified, but still makes me think that a specific point in time is being referred to. "What is she doing [right now]?" "She's eating [some] chocolate." Or "What does she do on Sunday afternoons?" "She eats [some] chocolate." On the other hand, in some contexts, "Elle mange le chocolat." sounds to me like it could be just a general statement. "She's so skinny! What does she eat??" "She eats chocolate." Or would one still need to use "Elle mange du chocolat." in this case?