I put "Elle mange du pain", (because it was the audio exercise for me)
and Duolingo told me: "You are correct. Translation: They are eating bread."
I know the Duo real sentence was "Elles mangent du pain", and it accepted "Elle mange du pain", since in French, I had no mean to know if it is "elles" or "elle" with no context, and only the audio, but the software should adapt the "correct solution"... Reported.
this is where I get confused with the de, du, des stuff. here, it's "they are eating bread" where "du pain" just means "bread" and not "the bread." but earlier when it said "la fille parle des robes," why does that mean "the girl talks about the dresses" instead of "the girl talks about dresses?" PLEASE HELP!
"they are eating bread" means "they are eating some bread" i.e. a certain quantity of bread, a piece of something that is NOT COUNTABLE. In French, that is a partitive case (a part of).
The partitive notion is expressed in French with preposition "de" (of) and definite article "le/la".
The masculine form is "du" (contraction of de-le) and the feminine form is "de la", both in front of a noun starting with a consonant. Whenever the following word starts with a vowel or a non-aspired H, "du" end "de la" are changed to "de l'"
- they are eating bread : ils/elles mangent du pain
- they are eating soup : ils/elles mangent de la soupe
- they are drinking water: ils/elles boivent de l'eau (eau is feminine)
- they are eating pineapple: ils/elles mangent de l'ananas (ananas is masculine).
For COUNTABLE things, you get:
- he is eating a strawberry : il mange une fraise (= one)
- he is eating strawberries: il mange des fraises ("des" is the plural version of "un/une")
You make the confusion between the partitive article, and the preposition.
- Each time you have an indefinite quantity, it's the partitive article. It's always compounded of the preposition "de" followed with the definite article, when you have the particular case "de"+"le", you have a mandatory contraction in "du" (but the meaning is still "de"+"le"), and when you have "de"+"les", you have the mandatory contraction "des".
When you see "de" alone, or "des", and it doesn't mean an indefinite quantity, it's NOT the partitive article. As in your sentence "The girl talks about dresses". It doesn't mean an indefinite quantity of dresses. It means "about" the proposition. "La fille parle des robes", "des" in not the partitive, but a preposition, meaning "about" in the expression "parler de...",
and if you say "La fille parle de la robe", here, you don't have "de la" as an expression, it's imply "de" as the particle, and "la" as the definite article, not linked.
"elles" is the plural of "elle" (she), so a group of feminine nouns (women, animals, things).
"ils" is the plural of "il" (he/it), so a group of masculine or a mix of masculine and feminine nouns (men, men + women, male animals, male + female animals, masculine things, masculine + feminine things).