FR: the computer / life, wine, etc. - article for generic nouns

Jervoltage

Senior Member
Greetings,

In English, count nouns are made generic thus:

- A + singular noun: A computer is a machine. - Zero + plural noun: Computers are machines.

- the + singular noun: The computer has changed modern life.

Whereas noncount nouns can be used generically in this way:

- Zero + noncount noun: Life wouldn't be the same without computers.




How do we form generic nouns in French?

Many thanks.
 
  • OLN

    Senior Member
    French - France, ♀

    A computer is a machine.
    Un ordinateur est une machine -> Computers are machines. Les ordinateurs (tous les) sont des machines. (simple transformation des singuliers en pluriels)
    En français, pour exprimer ce pluriel anglais, on peut aussi dire L'ordinateur (générique) est une machine.

    The computer has changed modern life.L'ordinateur (générique) a bouleversé notre façon de vivre ou nos vies (pas générique du tout ;))
    Ou : Les ordinateurs (l'ensemble des machines de ce type ; autre forme générique) ont bouleversé...

    Life wouldn't be the same without computers. La vie (générique) ne serait pas la même sans les ordinateurs (l'ensemble des machines de ce type) ou sans l'ordinateur. (générique aussi, comme dans la phrase précédente)
    Ou : Nos vies ne seraient pas les mêmes sans ordinateurs.

    Je ne sais pas si ma réponse est complète.
     
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    penrice

    Banned
    American - USA
    So does this mean that if you wanted to say "He likes wine." or "He hates beer", you would use "Il aime le vin." and "Il déteste la bière."?
    And only context will decide whether you meant "He likes wine (in general)." or "He likes the wine (that I gave him as a birthday present)."?
     

    Maître Capello

    Mod et ratures
    French – Switzerland
    Yes, exactly. :):thumbsup:

    Il aime le vin. = He likes wine (in general) / He likes the wine (I gave him as birthday present).
    Il déteste la bière. = He hates beer (in general) / He hates the beer (I gave him as birthday present).

    Note however that the latter sense is unlikely if you don't specify the wine or beer you are talking about. We would indeed rather say, Il aime ce vin or something similar. In other words, if the full sentence is Il aime le vin, the former sense is the more likely.
     

    dcx97

    Banned
    Hindi - India
    I should add that when it comes to animals, one needs to be very careful, because although one must use the definite article, one must decide whether to use it in the singular or plural. Thus:

    J'aime les chiens. (I love dogs.)
    J'aime le chien. (I love dog meat.)
     

    much_rice

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Let's say you're at a friend's house and the friend has pets. The dog is kind to you, but the cat bites. Could you say, "J'aime le chien, mais je n'aime pas le chat"?
     
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    k@t

    Banned
    Français de France
    Could you say, "J'aime le chien, mais je n'aime pas le chat"?
    Oui, parce que dans ce cas, chien et chat ne sont plus dans des emplois génériques, mais désignent un chien et un chat en particulier, identifiés par la situation.
     

    Nicomon

    Senior Member
    Langue française ♀
    Could you say, "J'aime le chien, mais je n'aime pas le chat"?
    I agree with k@t that you could say that, and it would be understood, but that doesn't sound very natural to my ears.
    Just as I find it a little odd to say in English : I like the dog but I don't like the cat.

    In such situation, I would be more likely to say:
    J'aime ton chien, mais je n'aime pas ton chat = I like your dog, but I don't like your cat.

    Or if I was talking to a third person about this friend's pets:
    J'aime le chien de X, mais je n'aime pas son chat = I like X's dog, but I don't like his cat.
     
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    AH92

    Banned
    Hebrew - Israel
    Today I came across Les hommes naissent libres et égaux en droits.
    I think it's pretty obvious that the author meant Men are born free and equal in rights., not The men are born free and equal in rights.
    My question is: why didn't he simply use the singular (L'homme naît...) since he was talking about men as a class, not as individuals? After all, Le chat est un mammifère. means Cats are mammals.
     

    Nicomon

    Senior Member
    Langue française ♀
    After all, Le chat est un mammifère. means Cats are mammal
    Les chats sont des mammifères would mean the same thing,

    You quoted the first article of Déclaration des droits de l'homme. I have more often heard / read : Tous les hommes...
    In my opinion, It wouldn't really make sense to say/write in the singular : L'homme naît libre et égal en droits.

    Égal à qui / quoi ? That said, grammarians may have a better explanation. ;)
     
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    olivier68

    Senior Member
    French Paris France
    Exactly. I think it is not a question a grammar, but a question of meaning. It could have been written (singular as a collective) "L'homme naît libre". But… if you include "equal", you necessarily/implicitely make a comparison, here between a man with another man. It is really difficult to avoid the plural.
     
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    FloMar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I have a question about the use of articles, and fear that I may be confusing them with the use in English and Portuguese.

    When talking in general terms (e.g. work is good for the health) do with need an article in French ( I know the rule here about the article with abstract nouns – e.g. l’amour est aveugle)? When giving something a title (e.g. in lesson aims – work) do we need to use an article?

    If I've understood what's written above, we do need to use the article. Please clarify
     

    FloMar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The topic of today's lesson is work: aujourd'hui, l'objectif de la leçon est le travail.
     
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    FloMar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Many thanks. It's comforting to know someone has the same issues that I've been having, but in reverse. I know I'm rusty, but was beginning to doubt myself a lot more than I think is necessary.
     
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