What to use when speaking about generalities?

KaliA1Kwiziq community member

What to use when speaking about generalities?

I'm a little confused because I was under the impression that when you talk about something in general (not a specific thing), then you use le / la / les

For example, "Les trains sont grands" = Trains are big.
Not any one particular train, just trains in general. 

In my latest quiz I was asked to translate "Aurélie eats bread." 

To me that is a general statement, we're talking about bread in general, not any particular loaf or piece of bread. In the same way you could say "I don't eat meat". So I put "Aurélie mange le pain", but this is apparently incorrect and instead should be "du pain". 

I would have thought "Aurélie mange du pain" would translate to "Aurélie is eating some bread", no? 

Thanks

Asked 3 months ago
AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

"Aurélie eats bread" does mean in a general sense, I can't imagine a context in which it wouldn't. However you can't always use the definite article when referring to something in general. When you use the definite article in a general sense, it is understood as something like "all the bread in the world". You can say that you like all the bread in the world, but it sounds odd in French to say that you eat it all. So there are so-called "verbs of preference" like aimer, détester, préférer, where you do use the definite article, and "verbs of consumption" like manger, boire, and even acheter or écouter where you have to use the partitive article. Unfortunately this is not yet explained on Kwiziq, but I think a review of the lesson is planned.

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Hi Kali,

it can sometimes be difficult to know whether a particular sentence was meant as a general statement or not. The sentence "Aurélie eats bread" can, depending on context, be either interpreted as a general statement or not. It may not be the best example to use because of this potential ambiguity. But since the lesson is about the partitive article, it's a good bet that you need du pain here and not le pain.

Consider the sentence: Aurélie likes bread. There's no question that this is about bread in general. Hence, in this case you'd say Aurélie aime le pain.

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

@Alan: I can imagine a context in which it is not general:

Aurélie mange du gâteau ou du pain? -- Elle mange du pain.

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I was talking about the English sentence, which is not ambiguous.

"Aurélie eats bread" - general

"Aurélie eats the bread" - specific

"Aurélie is eating (some) bread" - specific.

"Aurélie eats some bread" - probably general (some types of bread, or she doesn't eat much bread), but could be specific. e.g. a stage direction in a play.

ClaudeA1Kwiziq community member

What are confused about 

What to use when speaking about generalities?

I'm a little confused because I was under the impression that when you talk about something in general (not a specific thing), then you use le / la / les

For example, "Les trains sont grands" = Trains are big.
Not any one particular train, just trains in general. 

In my latest quiz I was asked to translate "Aurélie eats bread." 

To me that is a general statement, we're talking about bread in general, not any particular loaf or piece of bread. In the same way you could say "I don't eat meat". So I put "Aurélie mange le pain", but this is apparently incorrect and instead should be "du pain". 

I would have thought "Aurélie mange du pain" would translate to "Aurélie is eating some bread", no? 

Thanks

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