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"Ils sont des garçons" is not correct French.
Good examples on use to use "c'est" vs "il est" (singular) / "ce sont" vs "ils sont" (plural) can be found here:
Thanks for that - so I understand it's because it's a "modified" noun (because of the "des" - is that right? Like the example "C'est un avocat." (He is a lawyer) compared with "Il est avocat". I don't think one ever says "Ils sont garcons" (or maybe that's "They are waiters"?).
Please note: "Correctness rests upon usage."
French usage is to use "c'est" (singular) or "ce sont" (plural) for the following English expressions:
- he is + noun - he is a boy = c'est un garçon
- she is + noun - she is a girl = c'est une fille
- they are + noun - they are children = ce sont des enfants.
@jordan_unicorn Translating one language into another doesn't work like that. In the real-world translation exercises you can hover the mouse over each word and there are lots of meanings of each. You can't choose any of those meanings, string them together and argue that it is "not grammatically incorrect". Similarly, in choosing the French translations, you can't choose any French word that's in the dictionary alongside the English words. Unfortunately, it's harder in that direction, because we don't know what sounds right, so we have to learn from experience and others who do know (not that I do in this case, I'm just learning too). You know it's not right to say "My wife has just had a bouncing baby waiter", and realise it should be "boy". You know there's something wrong with "The train has come off the path of iron". So, sometimes it's right to say "Ce sont" and not "Ils sont".
You are not dense to confused by this issue. The rules concerning their use are not simple.
Follow this link (http://french.about.com/library/weekly/aa032500.htm) to see what they are. You might note that there are several pages of rules involved.
I made the mistake of translating this as " they are the boys' " (as in "those things belong to that group of boys"). I understand that this is wrong, but I am not entirely sure why.
How DO you say "they are the boys' "?
As in, "Don't take those toys, they are the boys' and the boys are very possessive!"
I would like to see it so I can compare what I did with what I was supposed to do ("they are boys").
This will help native English speakers on grammatical versus correct.
It is grammatically correct to substitute sire for father because sire means father in English. But you very seldom use sire in English conversation because it has acquired additional meanings related to ancestry, royalty and recognized importance of the person referred to.
If you were in a position to correct a French speaker's use of English and you heard him using sire every time when he was actually referring to father you would advise him that he was using the word sire inappropriately. Think about what you would say if he said "but it's grammatically correct so I want to keep using it".
Your response to that situation is what Duo is trying to say to you.
It is not correct to use ce sont and ils sont interchangeably even if they have the same literal meaning any more than it would be to say "my sire is going to be late for dinner". Unless you are a Prince of the Realm or something.