It is possible to read alone in a group. Alone simply means away from the general collective. A man might say to a woman "now we are alone" after they have walked out of a crowded room and into a room in which they are the only ones present. Likewise 2 people can read alone, if there is another group of people reading nearby of which they are not a part.
Wunel, as usual, makes a valid point to give reference to the phrase but hey folks, we are missing the point, purpose and reason here aren't we? We are NOT being taught how to construct cohesive meaningful sentences here. We are being taught, little by little, easy bit by easy piece, nugget by nugget, how to recognise verbs adjectives nouns and plurals in objective and subjective areas. There are black lions in this course, round (not spherical) oranges, choices for large, tall or fat dresses. It furthers us here to focus on the pertinent task of the specific lesson rather than whether it is "reasonable" that The Cow has a Red Foot or Two Yellow Shoes. However, far be it for little me to make the threads boring. :)
There is no possible interpretation of a singular "elle" here because the verb is audibly plural, nor that there is only one book for several women, because "seules" refers to the subject.
But remember that plural starts with 2, so if you have 2 women in a room, each one with a book, there is no problem saying that they are reading alone.
Could you check it out for me? I would appreciate it immensely. I thought I had a decent ear but perhaps I'm missing something subtle.
https://translate.google.com/#fr/en/elles%20lisent%20seules Sounds like "ell lee-zuh seul-uh"
https://translate.google.com/#fr/en/elle%20lis%20seule Sounds like "ell lee seul-uh"
Duolingo sounds like "ell leez seul-uh" but only now that I'm really paying attention to it; otherwise, it sounds like "ell lee seul-uh"
I guess I kind of answered my own question (I'm just missing something really subtle), but is it pronounced by a fluent speaker more like google translate or Duo?
Thanks a ton for all that you do.
Yes, there is a subtlety here:
When sound Z is directly followed by another "conflicting" consonant, such as sound S, there is a tiny [ə] inserted between them, otherwise Z-S would be indistinct.
So the plural sound for "lisent seules" is [lee-Z-ə-seul]
And the final -e- of "seule" or "seules" has no sound at all: [seul].
I do hear what could be taken for "El liz seul", but even so, how would I know what "lit" or its other forms mean this early into "learning French", especially when it comes to gender or plurality? It seems destined to trip up, which may be why it was chosen as a lesson here -- to point out such subtleties... ?
I too thought it was singular rather than plural. It sounded like the "s" (or "z", if you prefer) was a liaison between "lit" and "seule".
edit: I just now saw Sitesurf's reply about the subtlety of listening for the slight lingering on the s in "lisent seules".
I still think that out of context, this may be a bit too subtle a distinction.
Does this never happen? Would there always be a slight space between "lit" and "seule" for the singular version?
There is very definitely no [ə] there in the female voice. There is perhaps slight gemination, i.e. [lissœl], which distinguishes it from lit seule [lisœl], but if it is there it is very subtle. And when I play it at slow speed, the [z] is not really there---you can perhaps hear, at the very most, the very start of a [z] before the audio cuts.
It would be very helpful to be told somewhere that the difference between this and the singular version of this sentence is that "lit" ends up sounding like "li" and "lisent" ends up sounding like "liz." I'd have no idea without reading the comments and it is a very subtle difference for a beginner to just be expected to pick up on.
Years ago in a martial arts program the sensei told me I was not doing as good a job as I could in blocking his punches. I told him I was doing it as best I could. Whereupon he punched me in the nose with sufficient force to really, really annoy and shock me but not draw blood. Immediately my guard position improved considerably. Every time he came near me after that, when doing our drills, I could feel my reflexes speeding up and stance improve.
Thanks, I understand why it would be feminine plural because of the subject "les femmes." It just seems to me that in the sentence "the women read alone," "alone" refers more to how they are reading rather than the women themselves--as such the question as to adverb vs. adjective.
I guess the question is more along the lines of, would it be okay to translate using an adverb to modify "to read" rather than an adjective to modify "the women"? Would it not have the same general meaning? (assuming that, at this point, we had learned how to form adverbs, which we have not.)
In this sentence, "tout" is an adverb and as such it should remain invariable, but it can agree in gender and number.
The agreement rules for "tout" as an adverb, modifying an adjective, with the meaning of "completely/entirely/very/really", are complex:
In front of an adjective starting with a consonant sound (consonant or aspirate H): agreement in feminine singular and plural
- il est tout seul - ils sont tout seuls
- elle est toute seule - elles sont toutes seules
- il est tout honteux - ils sont tout honteux (ashamed) (no T liaison)
- elle est toute honteuse - elles sont toutes honteuses (no S liaison)
In front of an adjective starting with a vowel sound (vowel or non-aspirate H): invariable
- il est tout étonné - ils sont tout étonnés (with a T liaison)
- elle est tout étonnée - elles sont tout étonnées (with a T liaison)
- il est tout habité - ils sont tout habités (with a T liaison)
- elle est tout habitée - elles sont tout habitées (with a T liaison)
When "tous/toutes" means "all", meaning that the adjective modifies every individual: agreement in gender and number:
- ils sont tous contents (the S is heard) - all of them are happy
- elles sont toutes contentes - all of them are happy
- ils sont tous habitués (he S is heard) - all of them are used to it
- elles sont toutes habituées - all of them are used to it
Please may I stick an oar in here? To complement Sitesurf's amazingly comprehensive post; according to my N.M. Gwynne's (MA Oxon) English Grammar, in this task sentence the adjective "alone" has become an adverb describing both the pronoun "They" and the verb "read". Good English grammar in "my book".
I have a difficult time understanding the woman's voice. I frequently play it many times. Then I listen to the slow version, which sometimes makes it better. But sometimes I thing the audio is distorted or truncated. In this case, I cannot hear "Lisent" at all. After many repetitions, I still hear Elle lit seule. Even the slow version, I have to struggle and use some imagination to hear "lisent" (liz). But, perhaps that is how normal french sounds. I suppose that will probably just have to get used to it.
The woman's voice is good but the TTS is sometimes, let's say, suboptimal. Just like the man (I can hear his voice here, not the woman's), she should have added a schwa at the end of "lisent" so that the consonant sounds Z-S are not merged.
To clearly enunciate, she should say "EL LIZuh SEUL" or even "ELuh LIZuh SEUL".
More about the French schwa: https://frenchcrazy.com/2013/04/the-french-schwa.html/
You're right about what would be written, however we are being asked to translate the spoken and the s in elles and the ending is lisent are silent, so pronunciations of the singular and plural are almost identical, the difference is too subtle, so how can you tell the difference, it requires further information, context.
@ Sitesurf. Well here is a first. I Always can hear the subtleties but not this time. I have played it over and I still hear "Ell Lee Seul". Not to be out done, I went to other pronunciation sites and Still heard "Ell Lee Seul" even in slo-mo. I don't do the audio app but on this one occasion I very much doubt whether I could have detected from audio only whether it was singular or plural.
JackJon, I don't know why there is no reply button on your posts. Some on these discussion boards also said the male announcer at times pronounces words with an extra flourish on the end, not sure if that is what you are referring to. Doubt if that flourish is necessary. I don't exactly understand what you are asking, as it is in French!!! Sorry. I still say so many words are jumbled up together, it just seems part of the way they speak.
I still can't heard the difference in 'Elle' and 'Elles' on this program. It sounds the same. I don't know why they won't accept the singular version as well, when the vocal track sounds completely fine singular. Does anyone know a trick to catching when they use plural verses singular 'Elle' here?
Yet another multiple choice question without the correct answer offered as one of the choices. So far today I have encountered four examples of this and have only managed to complete one section if questions. Duolingo PLEASE CHECK THE MULIPLE CHOICE QUESTIONS for an English speaker learning French. Via an iPad. This is extremely frustrating!
I said those girls are reading alone and it counted me wrong. This is just simply incorrect. The only situation in which you would use Elles is if it is a group of girls and only girls. Therefore, those girls is a direct translation of elles, while they could be refering to ils as well as elles.