"They can buy dresses."
Translation:Ellas pueden comprar vestidos.
These are generic dresses--no one specific type of dress. SO WHY ISN'T THERE an article before vestidos? I totally do not get when to use an article and when not to do so!
nouns used as subjects and nouns used as objects get treated differently when it comes to articles. The 'rule' you are speaking of applies to nouns as subjects. Here, they are plain old dresses. If they were specific dresses (the dresses from the corner store) you'd likely see an article.
Lingot to you. Because I had used "los," I checked this forum looking for an answer why the article is not needed in this sentence. Maybe you can answer my other questions: Is it ever unnecessary to use "a ella" or "a él" after "le?" Also, is "les" plural for "le?" Finally, if "les" is the plural, should it be followed by "a nos" or "a ellos/ellas?"
Well, precisely because they are generic dresses and NOT specific dresses is the reason why you don't need an article.
That's fair, but shouldn't it still be correct if you're translating it as los vestidos?
No. They can buy dresses / They can buy the dresses ---- These sentences have a different meaning, in English as well as in Spanish.
Yes and no. A sloppy native English speaker might say "the dresses" and really mean the generic instead of the specific. On the other hand, good English writers never use "the dress," which has a specific meaning, when they mean "a dress," which has a generic meaning. When good writers want to write about a plural, they also can use "the dresses" for the specific, and use either "dresses" or "any dresses" for the generic. What is interesting to me is the subtlety of "They can buy a dress." The sentence specifies the number (only one dress) but leaves everything else generic.