"I like vegetables, yet I eat meat."
Translation:J'aime bien les légumes, cependant je mange de la viande.
"J'aime les légumes" is a generality: I like vegetables in general, all of them, whichever they are. In that case, the French use definite article le/la/les.
"Je mange de la viande" is a partitive case: I eat some meat, a piece of meat. In that case, the French use DE + definite article, with "de la" for feminine nouns and "du" for masculine nouns (contraction of de-le).
The kind of verb used makes the difference:
- with an action verb (eat, take, drink, cut, etc) I eat meat: I eat some meat, a piece of meat, a slice of meat, a mouthful of meat... ie "an undefined quantity of meat". Meat is a mass word, something you cannot count (unlike strawberries), like water, air, time...
so, you use the partitive du (=de+le) or de la, always singular: je bois de l'eau, je respire de l'air...
- with an appreciation verb (aimer, détester, préférer, apprécier...): I like meat, any kind of meat, meat in general (vs fish or vegetables, for example)... appreciation verbs naturally introduce generalities.
so, you use the definite article, singular or plural le, la, les: j'aime les robes, mais je préfère les jupes et je déteste les pantalons.
"j'aime des légumes" does not work because of the verb: appreciation verbs use definite articles le, la, les.
- j'aime les légumes (en général) = I like vegetables (in general)
If you want to express that you like some vegetables but not all, you will have to say:
- j'aimecertains légumes (les carrottes, pas les pois) = I like some vegetables (carrots, not peas)
A few clarifications:
1) j'aime des vêtements does not work to mean "chothing in general" but "j'aime les vêtements" (because of verb "aimer")
2) partitive articles are only singular, because they are used with mass nouns that are always singular: du pain, de la viande, de l'eau.
3) uncountables nouns, like pain, viande ou eau can indeed exist in plural:
dans cette boulangerie, il y a des pains de toutes sortes (in this bakery, there are breads of all kinds)
j'ai acheté des eaux différentes : plates, gazeuses, aromatisées... (I bought various waters: still, sparkling, flavored...)
Edited re Sitesurf's comments above: "vegetables" i.e. the group as a whole, not some individual types. "More than one countable thing in an indefinite sense" says About.com.
So "j'ai des vêtements" refers to clothes in general (indefinite), not just shirts or trousers, whereas "les" denotes the plural - all of the clothes* which are known to the speaker and not indefinite.
*Clothes in general, as in no particular type of clothing is specified. So a suitcase full of clothes or a basket full of apples would use "les". Also, edited original response re Sitesurf's point about using "appreciation verbs".
I agree with Sitesurf but we're talking about two different things. "Les" - http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/articles.htm
Definite article - quantity of what is being referred to is known.
"Des" is the indefinite article - quantity is uncountable.
So because you can't count all "vegetables" in the world you're only referring to some of them.
[Edited: Sitesurf suggested a construction for referring to only some vegetables within a group]
But what about "Des" as a partitive article (with uncountable nouns, like water - my question about "des eau" is answered by Sitesurf below)? This link says it can be used - http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/articles_4.htm.
A bit confused on this one. When would "des" ever be used as the partitive article?
@Sitesurf - Thanks, I was updating my posts when you replied. Only 1 question remains - the About.com link suggests "des" is one of the 4 forms of partitive article. This doesn't seem to coincide with your analysis that the partitive article can only be singular as its used with mass nouns. Great help once again :-)
I think that the use of the definite article can be justified (if need be?) by the idea that "les" refers to a defined community and means "all the" (if countable), or "the whole category" (if uncountable).
- les hommes sont plus grands que les femmes = all of them
- le pain est un aliment sain = as a whole, in general
But you can argue that the logic of it could have been reversed... unfortunately, I was not there when the French language was invented ;-)
Yes, I know. That is why I feel the need to explain the French perspective on these notions, which obviously are either things you have to understand then accept or just admit because some rules are kind of arbitrary. French being mainly based on Latin, it has built with robust, logical roots which have not disappeared with time and cultural evolution. French is probably more detailed and precise than other languages and the vagueness of de-articled nouns does not always match our nuances.
The correct use of French articles needs English speakers to change their mindsets.
Definite vs indefinite vs partitive articles:
1) Definite articles have 2 main uses:
- specify a noun, like in English: "l'homme là-bas" = "the man there"
- mark a generality: "les chats voient dans le noir" = "cats see in the dark" (no article in English); "le travail est bon pour la santé" = "work(ing) is good for health" (no article in English); "j'aime les légumes" = "I like vegetables" (case valid for all expressions of likes and dislikes with verbs: aimer, adorer, détester, haïr, préférer, apprécier)- tip: if you can add "in general" to the English sentence without changing the meaning of the sentence, you are faced with a French generality and you have to use definite articles le, la, l', or les.
2) Indefinite articles:
- un or une in singular, des in plural
- "je peux voir un chat et des chiens" = "I can see a/one cat and dogs" (no plural indefinite article in English).
3) Partitive articles:
- constructed with preposition "de" + definite articles: du (contracted from de+le), de la, de l'
- to be used with singular nouns, collective or uncountable
- work all verbs' direct objects, except "likes dislikes" (see above)
- mean "an undefined quantity of a mass thing", which can be material or conceptual: je mange de la viande, je respire de l'air, je prends de l'argent, je veux du travail - tip: if you can add "some" in front of the noun in the English sentence, without changing the meaning of the sentence, you are faced with a French partitive case and you have to use partitive articles du, de la, de l'.
What you point to is a "noun of noun", ie like in English "a sheet of paper" or "a glass of water", the second noun is introduced by preposition de (=of) - and no article - to give further information on material, content, etc.
This case is further extended in French in phrases like "un mur de pierre" which would use "stone" as an adjective in English (a stone wall).