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Here "seules" means "only".
You could also have "seulement les femmes boivent du thé" (less elegant than "seules les femmes" but correct) meaning that in this room only women drink tea, while men drink something else (bourbon?).
if you say "(the) women only drink tea", the French would be "les femmes boivent seulement du thé" or "les femmes ne boivent que du thé" (= they drink tea and no other drink).
3rd possibility: "les femmes seules boivent du thé" = (the) lonely (or single) women drink tea.
4th possibility : "les femmes boivent du thé seules" = (the) women drink tea by themselves (alone).
5th possibility (further fetched!): "les femmes boivent du thé seul" = (the) women drink plain tea (no milk, no sugar).
Understood miller........ Then we have to appreciate the common order of things and the order of differences. Like, men prefer to think that women are dificient in "Spacial Awareness" (They find it very difficult to park the car").. This is considered not "Non-PC" because it is in the "Order" of things. However the bloody men cannot for the life of them find the friggin MUSTARD in the small cupboard!!! This is OUT OF ORDER. I propose that the Word Order remained in order here? Is my post in order? :)
And now for something completely different.......... So many connotations: "Alone the women drink tea" can mean They drink tea when they are alone together away from the men.... When the women are on their own singularly , they drink tea. The women ONLY drink tea when they are either alone together or completely on their own. Given a certain sentence structure it could be skewed to mean that the women only drink tea. Far fetched but plausible. To try to solve this conundrum I went to the tea rooms and asked a lady of a certain age "Is it alone that you drink tea?" She said "NO! You're here now ducky aren't you?" Ho Hum.
Seul is pronounced the way the seules is pronounced, and read and red, knot and not are also pronounced the same way. The sentence always provides context in English and French. So we generally know whether we're talking about one person or more than one. Sometimes, in both languages, the context doesn't make it clear, and then we ask for clarification. Part of becoming fluent is being able to anticipate the whole sentence from its start; we sort of grasp it all at once. Non-fluent speakers have to piece together the sentence word by word. So German speakers don't really have to "wait" for the end of the sentence to know what the verb is (in most cases).
Put it another way: Language isn't like computer code. There's always room for ambiguities, double entendres, puns, and metaphors. This is what allows for great literature and humor. So you're not going to get the absolute assurance of "one clear meaning" in every case that you seem to be seeking.
@ta.mi. No. Des is plural so Thé would need to be plural also (Thés) Yes, I think, Des Thés; I think this may translate to "Only the women drink teas" which is strange, implying that each are drinking many different kinds of tea and no others do such a thing. The sentence is fine as it is. Cordial, JJ.
Of course you are right about "des" and the points you made are clear but just to add a little to your point for the benefit of others - as you know but others might not, the crucial issue in this particular case is that "thé" is an uncountable noun.
The English sentence means that the women are drinking "some tea" which is "de+le thé" which is contracted as "du thé".
With an uncountable noun "some" is translated as either "du" or "de la" depending on the gender of the noun.
With a countable noun "some" is translated as "des".
I'm with you, DuFarge. Had 3 years of French in high school and 1 year in college. Went to France a couple of years ago, and was amazed how much I remembered and how well I was understood. Now I am hooked. I am writing a children's book in French for my one year old grandson. May I confer with you or Sitesurf re questions I have?
Yes, because it is not alone but only that is the correct translation of seules in this case.
Think of a large group of men, women and children at a café. When the waiter appears at the table with all different orders and start to deliver them one by one, an impatient member of the group says: Only the women (of this group) drink tea. This person knows what everybody has ordered and simplifes the delivering process by this remark since the waiter do not have to ask all members for the recipient of each cup of tea. And as you can see, the tea drinking women are not alone as there are men and children in their group.
Why does one not translate the word 'les'. So many times we use the article, or partitive, and then don't have to translate the word. I translate this as 'only THE women drink tea' and it is marked incorrect. And, actually, to my mind it should be translated 'only the women drink some tea'. Do we just ignore the articles and partitives when translating?
man its a beautiful puzzle i must say. this concept is in my 'indian' language Katchi.
Eg. Khali Maru Piyeta - Only Men Drink Maru Piyeta Khali - Men are Drinking Empty (Maybe empty of wealth or otherwise) Maru Khali Piyeta - Men are Only Drinking
Not that this is related but just to let you know that this concept is applied in other languages
I'm a bit confused. The translation given for "Seules les femmes boivent du thé." is "The women are the only ones drinking tea." (More directly translated, "only the women are drinking tea"). What if you wanted to say "Only women drink tea"? Wouldn't this be said the same way ("Seules les femmes boivent du thé.")? Is it something to do with seule and seulement?
Thanks, although to be honest, I am still a bit confused and it appears I have much to learn. I thought my translation was very close to the 4th possibility in your 1st post at the top. I am happy that I am getting the meaning of the sentence correct, if not the exact syntax.