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  5. "Il parle des sandwichs."

"Il parle des sandwichs."

Translation:He talks about the sandwiches.

December 24, 2012



Why would it be "... about the sandwiches" and not "... about sandwiches"?


de+les=des...tricky french...


how would you say "he is talking about some sandwiches" then? (opposed to "he is taking about the sandwiches")


Il parle de sandwiches.


But "sandwiches" is plural...Shouldn't it be "des"?


@Corinnn. What Hannes has posted will do because French has to find a way to distinguish between "Some" ="DE" and "Of The(About the)=De+Les. Hannes seems to be a natural but maybe to be certain "Certaines" would be inserted.: "Il parle de certaines sandwiches".


usually des, but the original de in parler de 'erases' it, so it's just de


You've gotta be freaking kidding me...


same question - "des" != "the"


DUDE the exercises before marks you wrong for placing "the" in places of "de"des"du"d'"..... why now?


There are some excellent explanations for this below, but the main reason is that the phrase is "parler de", so "de" is already present in the sentence.


Why do I need "the" if is says "Des"? For it to be "the sandwiches" shouldn't it say "les sandwiches"?


In French, 'de les' is contracted into 'des', so 'des sandwichs' = 'of the sandwiches'. Having said that, though, I think this sentence can mean both 'he is talking about the sandwiches' (certain sandwiches at issue) and 'he is talking about sandwiches' (in general). Confirmation anyone? :)


I completely agree with you. There aren't any context clues to indicate whether he is speaking about sandwiches in general or about specific sandwiches.


Therefore, both should be accepted, no?


But des is also a plural for 'some'. So how to differentiate between that usage and this 'de les' usage?


You differentiate by the preceding verb, which is "parler de", to talk ABOUT". Because of that "de", "les" is absorbed and becomes "des", a contracted mix of both words. If it was about "some" sandwiches, the sentence in French would be "Il parle de sandwiches", i.e. "parler de" without article. The difficult aspect here is the postposition "de" in the phrasal verb (you talk ABOUT something, tu parles DE quelque chose), which changes the basic rules in French.

Determined objects:

de + les = des

de + le = du

Undetermined objects:

de + des / du / de la = de

Only "de + la" remains "de la"...


This part of what you said was most helpful to me: "parler de [is] to talk about," and the les is assumed because of this structure. Thanks.


merci ! this is very helpful !


Very helpful answer, although I think the plural of "sandwich" in French is "sandwichs".


the thing is the explanation it gives you on this pages states that des is 'some dresses' or simply just 'dresses' then marks you wrong for putting it. i just think this is another bit of bad teaching from duo lingo...however koolkaren thank you for explaining it properly


Either way, it makes a weird English sentence and I think this i one of the problems with Duolingo; sentences translated between the languages tend to be ridiculously non-idiomatic at times… You need to disregard the English language structure entirely and stick to what the French sentence says, word for word.


That is not a weird sentence in English.


The sentece itself isn't weird, but both should be accepted.


wrong, sandwiches in general would just be 'de'


I thought 'He speaks of sandwiches' would be correct.


Althout I confirm, as a Native FR speaker, that what you say is correct (provided you talk about sandwiches in general, and not "some" sandwiches), I think however that it's important to force learners to choose and remember that translation, otherwise they would tend to think that "des" is always "some/no article + noun".

it is a very complex thing to learn in French, and yet very basic and used every day. Some days "I need apples [which ones? how many?]" (j'ai besoin DE pommes), other days "I need the apples [that I bought earlier] (j'ai besoin DES pommes), some day I might do a lecture about fruits and "talk about apples [in general]" (je parle DES pommes).

Be aware that this applies because of phrasal verbs built with "de" in French (sometimes it's clear, just like "to talk ABOUT" is "parler DE", sometimes it is less, like "to need" is "avoir besoin DE").


If we are being introduced to a new concept: phrasal verbs, that should be plain in the lesson.


Oh Gawd! I want my mum! Its true, isnt it, isnt it....y'know that the French have the best memories in the world. How else do they ever manage their language every day?


I agree with you(and others) and am reporting this as a problem. I feel both "of sandwiches" and "of the sandwiches" should be accepted without having any context to go on. It is splitting hairs I agree, but Duo needs feedback in these instances


I would have thought so too. :)


i got really confused, i guess it would help if there is some kind of a hint, the first couple of times some phrasal verb with "de" is part of any excercise. it should be highlighted not just if you peek, but in general, so you have a chance to learn it right instead of learning it by mistake and needing to laboriously correct what you thought you already learned.


we can't really distinguish "il parle ..." or "ils parlent..." they sound the same !


I agree. I hope it accepts both.


Why does the mouse-over translate "parle des" as "you talk about"? Doesn't the conjugation mean it should be "I talk about" or "He/she talks about"?


I think "the" is not right in this sentence. It should be he speaks of sandwiches or he talks about sandwiches, literally speaking


"the" is (also) correct, and is important to learn and remember that it is correct. See my posts above. :-)


I read all the comments and I still don't understand !!! If it wanted to be 'the sandwiches' it could've been 'les sandwiches' as des means some or an article for the undefined plurals or means 'of the' The ability of putting 'des' before any thing and every think just doesn't make sense


Oh, and without me wanting to confuse you even more, that is very important because you encounter that form every day, in very simple sentences.

I wrote that happens because of the "de", which is a post- ("after") or pre("before")-position: indeed with "to talk about / parler de", it's more a post-position, as "de" comes after the verb "parler", which calls for it (not always, as in "je parle français", no "de" needed because it means "to talk/speak French" and not "about French").

But what is even more common and frequent, it's the preposition "de", general translation of "of" in English. The same happens with that preposition:

  • "the neighbours' daughter" or "the daughter of the neighbours" = "la fille DES voisins". Here, clearly, it is unquestionable: "the neighbours" are VERY determined, I'm talking about specific neighbours, the one with that daughter I'm referring to. Well, in French, that "des" cannot be undetermined, and it's again a contraction of "de + les", literally "of the": incorrect French would be "la fille de les voisins" (hurts my ears!!!), correct form is "la fille des voisins".

If you thought that girl is "some neighbours' daughter" (but you're not sure who precisely), you'd say in French: "la/une fille de voisins" - unlikely to be used, but grammatically correct; a more realistic example could be "a neighbours' meeting": "une réunion DE voisins".

Hope that helps. :-)


Thanks a lot! Your explanations really help me out. Native speakers like you make Duolingo a great place to learn new languages, hopefully there will be Chinese courses in the future so that I can make some contribution to this community as a native Chinese speaker :p


There is (a course for Mandarin), please do :)


Oh! WOW! I'll need a couple of weeks with this ElGusso. It is good. It is so good. How I wish I had your understanding and grounding sir! Lingots!


I wish this was a mini lesson on the main page! Thanks!


Are you sure you've read all comments? :-)

I know, it's really not that obvious to understand. For us, natives, we've never had to think and understand that, but actually the explanation is "simple", i.e. you need to remember that rule (OK, boring, but that's for almost any language you learn, e.g. irregular verbs, etc.); here's a copy/paste of my post above:

"je parle de [= de+des] sandwichs" = "I am talking about (some / the idea of) sandwiches" -- UNDETERMINED

"je parle des [=de + les] sandwichs"= "I am talking about the sandwiches (that we ate earlier / that are sold next door / etc.)" or "I am talking about sandwiches (all the sandwiches of the world) -- DETERMINED (literally, or universally).

Singular would be:

"je parle d'un [=de+un] sandwich" = "I am talking about a sandwich" - undetermined

"je parle du [=de+le] sandwich"= "I am talking about the sandwich - determined

So, NO GUYS!!! "des" is not always a translation of "some" or absence of article in English. It depends on what is before in the sentence, in this case the verb "to talk ABOUT", i.e. "parler DE" in French. And that "de" (= "about", "on", "of"... depending on the verb used) creates that bizarre thing with a "des" which in fact is a "les" preceded by the pre-/postposition "de".


I agree that this is a very confusing usage. Might both sandwiches and the sandwiches be accepted?


Why it is not accepted?, I think that this sentence can also talk about sandwiches " in general"


Then how would you say he is talking about some sandwiches?


It's true that French is particularly a language of exceptions.

However, with "du" there is no doubt: it never goes with a plural noun. So if you talk about some sandwiches (and want to translate every word, i.e. insisting on "some" as in "certain, not all of them"), this would be indeed "il parle de certains sandwichs".

Structure is as follows:

  • he talks about = il parle de.

Note that de here, in "parler de", is part of a phrasal verb (to talk about) and has nothing to do with the articles "des" or "de", as in "il a de beaux enfants" (he's got beautiful children) or "il mange des sandwichs chaque jour" (he eats sandwiches every day).

  • some sandwiches = certains sandwichs.

Relsut is:

  • "Il parle de" + "certains sandwichs" = "il parle de certains sandwichs". No contraction with "de" (preposition) and "certains".


  • "il parle de " + "les sandwichs" (if that person is talking about the sandwiches or sandwiches in general) = "il parle des sandwichs".

Jackjon, you'd use "du" if that person is talking about the sandwich (and not about the soda, the weather or anything else):

  • "Il parle de " + " le sandwich" = "il parle du sandwich".

There's no logic to be found in those contraction rules, you gotta learn them and/or it will come naturally with practice.


ElGusso, thanks for your very extensive and clear explanations. However, in "il a de beaux enfants" mentioned above, why do you use "de" instead of "des"? If it is indefinite article in plural, it would be "des"; if it would be definitive article in plural, we would use "les" instead, right? I just don't see how "de" can be used here (only if verb is perhaps "avoir de", with which I'm not familiar) - I do not see here any contraction which would result in using "de" (except if verb is "avoir de", and then "a de des" = "a de"). Could you explain this, or you've just made mistake by accident? (Or is it just that maybe I have misunderstood some of your commentaries made on this topic?)


Well, I see now that I have completely overlooked that "When the plural indefinite or partitive article is used with an adjective that precedes a noun, des changes to de." (about.com). Never mind for my previous comment, I was obviously completely wrong.


Yeah.... What I'd love to know is how on Earth do fluent speakers of French take All That into account whilst speaking so very fast??!!


My guess would be that they don't even think about it, it is natural to them; they just "feel" it, if you know what I mean


Yes, Kristian. How I wish, wish, wish, call centres would use diction rather than feeling.


Hey, hey, indeed that wasn't a mistake, and you've found the reason why yourself.

Now, I didn't explain why 1) to avoid adding another explanation on the side, but mostly 2) because it is not a mistake to use "des" with an adjective before the noun, e.g. "Il a des beaux enfants"".

Using the "des + adj + plural noun" in that case is more oral French, while using "de + adj + plural noun" sounds nicer, cleaner.

Jackjon, there's no way you'll know and understand how we use that naturally. Plus, we feel the same about other languages, notably Spanish (e.g. with their common use of all subjunctive tenses) and even English, which is simpler at first and for basic rules, but the more you dig and want to be accurate and precise and use idiomatic expressions, the more complicated it gets (e.g. all phrasal verbs, and how one single word like "get" or "set" with an extra easy word like "up", "on", "off", "onto", "into", "unto", etc., will have different meanings, often unguessable). And in both those languages, like many other, we feel natives speak very fast (sometimes I have to rewind scenes in TV series or films, while using subtitles and having a quite good level of English - let alone certain phone conversations with customer services and the likes...).

All relative. But again, don't worry too much about those nuances at this level...


I agree completely with you regarding English (I'm not native English speaker, obviously). In French, this "de" stuff was very confusing to me until I've read some useful explanations on about.com. Anyways, thanks again for your very clear explanations on this and other topics.


I just had a feeling in me waters that you'd get on this ElGusso. Thank you so much. I have understood this but my short-term memory works less than well. Also, I think that you'd agree that this is a tricky subject in French grammar. Tricky, that is until it becomes clear and then it probably is glaringly obvious. Bless your patience. If I had had the courage, I would have left it at "DE" of which I was almost sure. But in a response to a student's query "almost" just wont do. It brought your excellent explanation here which you and your colleagues have done over and again elsewhere but now it is here which I suggest is no bad thing. I fear this may not be the last time I return to this tricky subject. Thanks.


'He talks about sandwiches' is a correct English translation. 'He talks about the sandwiches' in English implies particular sandwiches!!!?? I contest the need for the article here.


Still it is correct English and a possible translation of 'Il parle des sandwichs'.

You're arriving late at a meeting about organizing a party. Someone's talking, you ask quietly 'What's he talking about? The drinks?' - 'No, he's talking about the sandwiches', ie the very sandwiches for that particular party. Saying 'he's talking about sandwiches' would imply something else.


Please correct me if I'm mistaken; is it not "He talks about THE sandwiches=Il parle DES (De+Les) sandwiches" and "He talks about sandwiches "(no article in English) = Il parle DE sandwiches"?


Sorry, i realised afterwards that what I had written might be confusing. You're right, especially in this case as it's unlikely that somebody would talk about sandwiches in general. But imagine a guy's job is to talk about new trends, i.e. virtually all of them, in general, but not specific ones, then you'd say in French 'Il parles des nouvelles tendances'. Whereas 'il parle de nouvelles tendances' would be for instance about a guy who today is talking about (some) new trends...

See the nuance? Slight, still there.


I wrote "He speaks sandwich" haha.


He is talking about sandwiches = wrong

He is talking about the sanwiches = right?

Sure... eye roll


Your proposal in French is written the same way one would write "He is talking about (some) sandwiches", namely, "il parle de sandwichs".

de + des (which is your proposal) = de

de + les (which happens to be the case here) = des


How would you be able to tell if hearing this out of context, that it was plural?


Because it is des not de. Des sounds like day.


"de" wouldn't be singular in this case.

"je parle de [= de+des] sandwichs" = "I am talking about (some / the idea of) sandwiches" --> UNDETERMINED

"je parle des [=de + les] sandwichs"= "I am talking about the sandwiches (that we ate earlier / that are sold next door / etc.)" or "I am talking about sandwiches (all the sandwiches of the world) --> DETERMINED (literally, or universally).

Singular would be:

"je parle d'un [=de+un] sandwich" = "I am talking about a sandwich" - undetermined

"je parle du [=de+le] sandwich"= "I am talking about the sandwich - determined

Bloody French, I'm so glad it's my mother tongue, that's the kind of thing we don't need to learn! :-)


i think the phrase in french is not correct !!!! the correct is "il parle autour des sandwichs" this phrase "Il parle des sandwichs." n'a aucune sens


Yeah right.

  1. Read other comments before posting such misleading statements, even if they're just 'opinions' (but then, ask a question instead please).

  2. This sentence is absolutely correct, at least grammatically - not much chance to hear that in the real life (who talks about sandwiches?! LOL), although totally possible, especially if you talk about 'the' sandwiches ("what's he saying?" - "nevermind, he's talking about the sandwiches").

  3. Now, 'about' can sometimes be translated as 'autour': une discussion autour de sujets économiques; une conférence autour des questions d'environnement; ils débattent autour des problèmes de voisinage (although 'à propos de' or 'au sujet de' is more likely to be used).

  4. Yet in NO way can you say a sentence like 'il parle autour des sandwichs' - i can't even think of a natural example with 'parler autour'.

  5. Donc cette phrase a du sens: yes, 'DU sens' not 'de la sens', 'sens' is a masculine noun. So your claim would be 'ça n'a AUCUN sens'. :-)

(I am a native, by the way)


:) merci pour tes corrections franchement j'ai appris beaucoup choses avec des arguments et des preuves bien numéroté , et s'il vous plaît j'ai juste une petite dernière question , est ce qu'il peut dire 'He is tanlking the sandwiches?' et merci


In english you don't need to use the article, right? That's why it's hard to remember the articles when learning french.


My problem is that if I was asked to translate "he talks about sandwiches" to French, i would have included the "des" but for English it is not necessary. I DO know English.


I put "he talks about sandwiches" which was of course marked incorrect and I think I've just twigged why it's wrong and should be "the sandwiches" instead. "Il parle" on its own is "he talks" and given that we know that language consists of words rather than sandwiches, we can assume he is talking about sandwiches rather than talking sandwiches, hence "il parle de....les sandwichs" which boils down to "des". Is that right?


I just dont seem to understand this... doesnt "parle" mean speak? I mean, i could easily remember to fix that, but then it has "des". Does de possibly mean "about?" Im quite sorry that that im so clue less, but i guess its easier than it seems! d:


Hi Julien. Not clueless at all. In fact you are very nearly there. Il parle=He speaks or talks. Des= de+les= Of The= About the, so altogether we get He speaks of the sandwiches= He talks about the sandwiches. "Des" can confuse because it has multiple uses. It can also mean Some, and at times can be dropped altogether in a translation to English. So, chin-up, you will get it in time and with usage in its many contexts. JJ.


I'm still confused. I thought it's "He talks some sandwichs"


I read the comments. Just gonna ask if "des (about)" also works on other verb like manger des (to eat about) and boire des (to drink about)? I haven't taken the other verb lessons yet. So yeah, just saying.


@april. Welcome to our dear confusion around "DES". It is really tricky. It leans heavily on context. It translates SOMETIMES to "Some", to "Of The", to an article which is dropped altogether in English, and "screwed" from "Of The" into "About The" as is done with this sentence-task. The English "About" is also tricky as it too can be construed in multiple ways making this particular lesson almost a nightmare. "About" can mean "Somewhere Non-Specific", "Approximately", "Around", "Almost", "Nearly", "Non-Specific Movement", "On A Particular Subject" (As is done here with this sentence-task). So, in given specific contexts, yes your examples could be used in English but no, not in French. Other grammatical solutions would be necessary.


Cheers, Danny. You are right about "about." In addition "talk about" is well on its way to becoming one of those phrasal (or compound) verbs in English that ElGusso talks about some way up this page. This use of "about" is specific to "talk"; it doesn't work quite the same way even with "speak about X," where the word seems to remain a preposition; "speak of" is closer to "talk about."

So, English is in some ways much like French (and it ought to be--France is where a lot of our language came from). We don't use anything quite like "de," but it shouldn't be too difficult for English speakers to grasp. We can even confuse ourselves with our own usages.


Translation "he speaks of sandwiches" is also perfectly good English!


Yes David, but that is not what the task sentence is saying so the "Good English" is not a Good translation. Des=De+Les=Of THE or here About THE.


What is the difference between he talks sandwiches ad he talks about sandwiches ?


Hi 2Cut. "He talks sandwiches" doesn't make sense in English. It is confusing and I feel for you because we have "He talks nonsense" (a noun also) and that is acceptable, meaning What He Says Does Not Make Sense. We have "He talks about nonsense" and this means something different. It means that he is speaking About nonsense; not that what he is saying is nonsense. So, there are many nouns that require "Of" or "About" to precede them We can't have "He talks cars", "He talks women". and to be even more correct, we would have to say "He Speaks nonsense" rather than "He talks nonsense." Thing is; in this Duo task, "Des" is interpreted as "Of" or "About".and "Of Some" or "About Some." In another context it is interpreted as "Some" or "Some of" or may be dropped altogether which is another reason for the confusion. Does this help? If it is still not clear feel free to ask again, JJ.


Happy holidays JJ! «waves»

2Cut another way to look at Jackjon's example is "nonsense" is a noun describing the statements a person is uttering. While "sandwiches" is not a noun that is used in reference to words, sentences, etc.

You can say:

"I saw what you wrote and I'm afraid I find it to be complete nonsense."

But you cannot say:

"I saw what you wrote and I'm afraid I find it to be complete sandwich."


Oh! Sea Of Cats, you complete Darling. I love what you have posted here. I am not certain whether my botty has been spanked or my cheek has been stroked? Hehehehe. Sandwiches always fall on the Jam Side! Very happy holidays to you and yours, too, JJ. Pomeganates!


She is actually the Mother of Cats.


The sandwiches or some sandwiches...whatever!


why "des" sandwiches an not "les"


Please read the discussions before posting so you don't echo questions that have already been answered.


Am I the only one that second guesses myself regularly because I find myself thinking, 'why on earth is someone talking about sandwiches?!'


So it's not just me. Whenever the conversation starts flagging I always bring up the topic of sandwiches.


I wrote "He talks sandwiches." and like 'oh yeah, I speak food languages.' LOL.


i wrote " he speaks of sandwiches " and it was marked wrong


That is because that would be il parle de sandwichs. Why? Because the word "sandwiches" without an article would be des sandwichs. If you precede that with il parle de, then you would have il parle de sandwichs because

de + des = de (of)

Since this exercise had il parle des sandwichs and not ...de sandwichs, we know the definite article must be used in our translation because

de + les = des (of the)


This translation is incorrect there is no definite article


Please get into the habit of reading the discussion before posting so you don't post wrong information as you have done. The article is included and how has been explained. Please read.


it looks like it says "he speaks sandwiches"


des = de + les = of the


Apart from the "tricky french", why is the definite article needed here?

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