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Omission of articles for standalone nouns

Derek B.C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Omission of articles for standalone nouns

Hi all,

A discrepancy has arisen with one of my other language learning tools: when requesting answers in translating freestanding nouns, the app sometimes requires that an article be present, ie, "la banque" but other times that the article be omitted, "suite" (for "sequel"). My understanding is that in French the article may be omitted when talking about the general idea of a noun (and a few other exceptions, such as with professions and in certain constructions using "de" but also that its omission would never be required in that context.

In other words, my instinct is that, when prompted to provide the word for "sequel" one could say "suite" (freestanding only, of course) but saying "la suite" would also be correct. The corrections of the learning app seems to suggest that some nouns require omission of the article, which I felt I should report as inaccurate correction.

Is my understanding correct? Just to avoid any confusion, I am aware that nouns used in a complete sentence need the article; I am only concerned with the inclusion/omission for standalone nouns.

Thanks in advance!

Asked 4 years ago
Chris W.C1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Every noun has a gender, and I find it easiest to learn the gender with the noun by always associating the article with it. I don't know of any noun that somehow naturally goes without article.

Derek B.C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the reply! However, that isn't addressing the essence of the question, so I will attempt to contextualize it further. Every noun (yes, all gendered), when described outside of a complete sentence, in reference to the idea of the noun rather than the presence of a physical, or arbitrary but specific, instance of the noun in the real world, the article may be, and often is, omitted. Ex. "Comment les français disent-ils 'cat?'" to this, I have heard invariably "chat" not "le chat". Le chat se prend la douche, oui, mais je n'écoute jamais, "le chat" comme réponse de traduction en seul mot.

A language app I am using has shown a pattern of error, and I am helping them correct content. I believe their article use for representation of vocabulary words is incorrect, by, as mentioned above, inconsistency in whether an article is or is not required for one to one word translations. I cannot stress enough that this is only in regards to one to one translation. I understand that the article is going to be required 99.999999% of the time in complete sentences.

Ex. they want "la banque d'investissment" for "investment bank," (gender association approach) but "oiseaux marins" for "marine birds" (spoken language rules approach). I believe that for the sake of new learners, the article should always be there, to develop the association you mentioned, but it must be consistent. So that I can best advise them, I am seeking native speaker insight on this nuanced exception to article use. Here's the question rephrased: are there some words for which the article can never be omitted even when making one to one translation? Is this all totally ill founded? I can attest that French natives have produced one word replies with no article for one to one translation. Internet searches have been fruitless and maddening. Humbly requesting native speaker feedback here!

Omission of articles for standalone nouns

Hi all,

A discrepancy has arisen with one of my other language learning tools: when requesting answers in translating freestanding nouns, the app sometimes requires that an article be present, ie, "la banque" but other times that the article be omitted, "suite" (for "sequel"). My understanding is that in French the article may be omitted when talking about the general idea of a noun (and a few other exceptions, such as with professions and in certain constructions using "de" but also that its omission would never be required in that context.

In other words, my instinct is that, when prompted to provide the word for "sequel" one could say "suite" (freestanding only, of course) but saying "la suite" would also be correct. The corrections of the learning app seems to suggest that some nouns require omission of the article, which I felt I should report as inaccurate correction.

Is my understanding correct? Just to avoid any confusion, I am aware that nouns used in a complete sentence need the article; I am only concerned with the inclusion/omission for standalone nouns.

Thanks in advance!

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