"Ils ne pouvaient pas dormir."
Translation:They were not able to sleep.
There's no difference between "they couldn't sleep" and "they were not able to sleep" that I'm aware of.
Let me use an example:
I was running is continuous in the past whereas
I ran is in the past but it is not continuous.
In this example, pouvaient, must mean were able, not could. Hope that makes sense, bonne chance.
It doesn't, actually, not in English. This is what my old English teacher would have called "a distinction without a difference". There is not a particle of difference, not so much as a shade of connotation, between "they couldn't sleep" and "they were not able to sleep" in English, beyond the very slightest difference in register, the first being a touch less formal.
The imperfect tense is often used to describe an action taking place in the past, but that is only one of its uses. Though using the imperfect tense feels correct, the Passé compose is also possible and is accepted, e.g., "Ils n'ont pas pu dormir". In response to the original question, there is no difference between "they could not sleep" and "they were not able to sleep".
About this unit, I think I understand it but the details of translations are so various ...and the pattern keeps being interrupted also. A change of logic it seems to me occurs in this area as if it were a tense in progress...
Probably because it would need to be 'pouvait' in that case. Of course that still might be marked wrong even though the audio would be identical.
seriously, how will i know the difference in "Il" and "Ils" here everything is pronounced the same >.>
You can only tell if the next word begins with a vowel. French is fun that way.
dont know how that makes it fun, rather it makes it complicated and frustrating to understand. But I am still learning the language because I am passionate about it. :P
It's not really that bad. In virtually all real-life situations, you would have context to tell you which it should be.
What is the difference in pronunciation between "Ils ne pouvaient pas dormir" and "Il ne pouvait pas dormir" ?
There is no difference. Both should be accepted in the absence of context. Report it.
Tricky. I would say the simplest reason why it's wrong is that the French sentence uses the Imperfect, unlike your translation that sees the action as a whole. Your translation also is referring to two points in the past, the time of hypothetical sleeping, then the time used to determine whether they were doing so or not, whereas the French is simply referring to one point in the past.
"They couldn't sleep" is the same as "They were not able to sleep". That is, it describes something that happened (or didn't happen).
"They couldn't have slept" describes a situation - whether "they" even tried to sleep is not known, all we know is, had they tried, they would not have been able to. This is known as the Conditional Perfect tense.
Totally confused. earlier pouvaient was translated as "used to be able" but my answer here "used not be able"(reported) was rejected in favour of "used to be unable". Then I come in here and it gives "were not able" How do I know if it is "used to be" rather than "were"??