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If I want to say

Lions are beautiful

which of the following is correct?

Lions sont beaux


Des lions sont beaux


Les lions sont beaux

How does generic reference, which is what I'm actually interested in, work in French? What articles, if any, are used for generic reference contexts such as the one in my example?

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Pour exprimer à l'oral l'idée de ta phrase "lions are beautiful" un natif utiliserait probablement une phrase construite avec "'C'est": "C'est beau, un lion", "Les lions, c'est beau", "Un lion, c'est beau" etc. – P. Obertelli Jun 3 '14 at 15:06
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Ici, c'est Les lions sont beaux qu'il faut employer.

L'article défini les s'emploie pour parler de tout l'ensemble des choses, des personnes que dénote le substantif (sens II. "Emplois génériques" - B. "Au pluriel").

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