"Mais plus les années passent, moins ils sont nombreux."
You are not supposed to pre-know things. They teach you by examples that you digest and memorize (hopefully) one after another.
I agree that there's a poor methodology in teaching in this context - the phrase sounds familiar in English, but the direct translation seems no where near what it should be. If they were trying to introduce (exact) common phrases as part of the process, it should not in the lessons random translations.
This question comes in two forms and each has a realm of comments following them. If it is causing so many problems and it is a phrase I suspect is used very rarely Why is it here? Lost yet another heart on it as I just cannot remember it either French to English or English to French. Nor do I want too!
The most literal translation, "But the more years pass, the less they number."
I agree, this is terrible pedagogy. For one, "the more...the...." sentence structures have not been taught yet. For two, having to get it wrong in order to figure out what's being said is poor planning, especially in a gamified graded system. Might I suggest making sure that first contact with this phrase is made readable, with mouse-over explanation for it rather than as a listening exercise. Especially because the recorded samples leave much to be desired; they should not be introducing new sentence structures or grammatical patterns.
New things actually need to be introduced at one point or another and by failing and redoing, we are learning also; I think it is in Duo's DNA to teach by examples.
However, the very structure "the more... the" might have been introduced little by little with easier sentences to start with, like :
(pls correct my English if I am wrong)
- plus je mange, plus je prends du poids (the more I eat, the more I gain weight)
plus je mange, moins je sens la fatigue (the more I eat, the less I feel tired)
maybe an idiom:
- plus on est de fous, plus on rit (the more, the merrier).
I was reminded of a song about world war one veterans - ' But year after year, those old men disappear..' If the second part of the sentence had been referring to ' les annees ' ( sorry I can't do the acute accent on this keyboard ), then ' nombreux' should have agreed in gender - ' nombreuses '.
You are right, that is a good example: "Plus les années passent, moins les anciens combattants sont nombreux" (as the years pass, the fewer veterans there are)
why do you have to say "sont nombreux"? I mean, you're already saying "the fewer" by using "moins" are you not?
"nombreux" means "numerous" "moins" means "less"
"fewer" is already a comparative formed with few+er (lit. more few), which is a form that does not exist in French.
the noun "années" is feminine, so why is "ils" used as the subject later on (with the masculine adjective)?
You are right, "années" is feminine. But in this sentence, "ils" is not meant to relate to "années" but to someone or something we know nothing about.
To be clear, you could have: "Plus les années passent et moins (les arbres = ils) sont nombreux (dans ce parc)".
I got this right with "But the more years pass, the less they are numbered." This is such a clunky sentence. I think it could be great to have something like a mini-unit before trying the sentences out, seeing as sometimes a single word will change its meaning when it is part of a phrase.