Because of the word "couple". Duolingo often has unrelated sentences that use the words in the Skill in different ways. I think it helps to connect the language together.
Maybe the couple is really good at languages and they have a memory like an elephant.
This is not a sentence, this is a noun phrase made of article + noun + "de" + noun.
Or "noun phrase" or "syntagme nominal", if we're getting linguisticky ;)
In any case, a noun phrase can stand on its own as a sentence, if its an independent clause, like "un couple d'elephants".
It's still not a sentence. A true sentence needs a verb. It can stand by itself as a meaningful utterance or phrase, perhaps a response to "what did you see at the zoo?" "A couple of elephants."
Does it mean a couple of elephants in the sense of a pair, or in the sense of a small group? Or both?
Is it only in the male+female sense, or can it be any two, such as male+male or female+female?
Or perhaps I misread you, and you mean that it is a pair as in a 'pair-bond'/ 'romantic/ sexual relationship pair' ?
I don't know if this expresses it well. I mean a couple as in a pair who would attend a dance together, say, as a date?
for humans, it can be any couple linked by romantic/sexual relationship (any gender)
for animals, it will be male+female.
if 2 male animals or 2 female animals, we would say: deux éléphants.
note that "a couple of days" = un ou deux jours.
If it is strictly the romantic sense, shouldn't "an elephant couple" be the only proper translation? "a couple of elephants" has no romantic connotations at all--"couple" seems like a pretty clear-cut faux ami, so "a couple of elephants" should be discouraged.
The French "couple" means "pair" when used in the context of animals. It is understood that this pair consists of a male and a female. It would not be translated as EN "couple". Source: Oxford French Dictionary.
Could the English phrase "A pair of elephants" be accurately translated as either "Un couple d'éléphants" or "Une paire d'éléphants"?
If so, would "Un couple d'éléphants" mean a male+female pair
and "Une paire d'éléphants" mean any two elephants?
(There is some discussion on this at a related comment thread.)
Actually, I don't think I have ever heard "une paire d'éléphants". Either they are "un couple" (male+female) or they are "deux éléphants".
However, if you said "une paire d'éléphant(e)s", you would be understood.
"Une paire" is more often used for 2 identical or symmetrical things, like shoes, glasses, horns... or pejoratively, like "une paire d'escrocs" (crooks).
According to the dictionary paire can have either of these meanings. Is this then not representative for how it's used nowadays?
No, because this formula is a "noun of noun", where the article is dropped.
In a "noun of noun" nominal group, the second noun adds information on the first one.
a sheet of paper = une feuille de papier (material)
a bottle of milk = une bouteille de lait (content)
a pair of elephants = un couple d'éléphants - "de" is elided to "d' " because éléphants starts with a vowel.
Note: "des" is never elided, because elision is supposed to solve a vowel conflict. Since "des" ends with a consonant, there is no ground for any elision, which is replaced by a liaison: "des [Z] éléphants".
In the case of compound nouns with the structure:
noun + preposition + noun
the second noun, connected to the first noun by a preposition, is usually not preceded by an article (le, la, les).
une tasse de café - a cup of coffee
une guide d'ordinateur - a computer guide
une histoire d’amour - a love story
une sale de bains - a bathroom
un verre de vin - a glass of wine
@Sitesurf: Can we translate "un couple d'éléphants" to become "a couple of elephants" in English too? Merci beaucoup de votre response.
Not every combination produces natural English. "A pair of elephants" is the most natural.
to your first question: yes.
to your second question: you can hear people use it with inanimate objects, but this is technical jargon (un couple de colonnes, de phares, de rouleaux...).
Is this masculine "un couple..." because "éléphant" is masculine? E.g., would it be "Une couple des souris"? Or is it always "un couple" regardless of the gender of the noun that is being coupled?
"un couple" is always masculine (in France), sometimes feminine in Quebec (une couple de...)
Having read all the comments here, I believe "a pair of elephants" is the best translation. In English, "a couple of elephants" to me just means two of them, no relationship implied. That is, a "couple" is two of anything, just as a "few" is three to six of them.
Do you have a reference that asserts that a few is 'three to six' of something? I've never seen a prescribed value for a few. If you are talking about something like the stars and describing a very small fraction of them, you could still be talking thousands of individual things, and a few would apply quite nicely as it's a small quantity compared to the whole.
Could "couple" be used, like in English, when you say something like "I have a couple pencils"
I typed the exact answer, and it gave me "Oops, it doesn't seem to be in French! Try again!" Would not let me continue until I threw random extra accented letters in, and, of course, it was wrong. Odd glitch.
What's wrong with "A couple elephants", without the "of"? Is that not acceptable English? i'm a native speaker fwiw.
the dropped 'of' is seen in some dialects (I am from northern England and dropped it too, as most people there would in my experience) but it is not correct in standard English. I wouldn't say it's unacceptable per se though, but I can see why duo wouldn't accept it as in most dialects of English it wouldn't be correct
True enough: the major style and usage manuals in the United States (the Associated Press and Garner's Modern English Usage, for example) maintain that the of is inherently part of the phrase and that to drop it is nonstandard. But jakejanus is right about dialects that drop it, especially in oral conversation—people from my native Texas almost always do.
just curious: if you saw two elephants, how would you say " there are a couple elephants" or in a recipe "add a couple cups of sugar"
When it comes to recipes, "a couple cups" may not be accurate enough, but let's say that it means 2 = "ajouter deux tasses/verres de sucre".
"Un couple" is only a pair of humans or animals, married or the like.
So either "un couple d'éléphants" = 2 elephants.
Or "A couple elephants" = quelques/plusieurs/ deux ou trois... éléphants.
"Une paire" is used for things: une paire de ciseaux, une paire de gants, une paire de chaussettes... and it means exactly 2.
In English, although it is not TECHNICALLY correct, it is far more common to simply say "a couple elephants" rather than "a couple of elephants". This should be accepted.
This is a sweeping generalisation. It might be common where you live, but I have NEVER heard it.
An elephant couple should also be accepted, as would a French couple, a tall couple, the elephants could be a couple
One difference I immediately see: "French" is an adjective, "tall" is an adjective. "Elephant" however is a noun.
I think that saying "A couple elephants" has the same meaning as "a pair of elephants," but it is counted as a mistake in the lesson!
The expression is not one of possession. In this case, the natural expression in English is "a pair of elephants".