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I want to know the difference between the following sentences:

C'est bon, une rose.

C'est bon, les roses.

What's the difference between using the singular and the plural in the sentence?

And do they mean the same?

  • I'd say they mean the same thing ("Roses are good") in most contexts. You might say, « C'est bon, une rose rouge, quand on veut faire preuve de son amour » or in other situations where it makes sense to distinguish between having a single rose and talking about roses in general. – Luke Sawczak May 11 '17 at 3:05
  • I'd say using singular is maybe, maybe a little bit more elevated language, or for speech, or poetry. – Destal May 11 '17 at 13:03
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They mean the same thing: "Roses are good." The singular « une rose » still means roses in general.

The literal difference is more or less parallel to the English:

C'est bon, une rose. A rose is good.
C'est bon, les roses. Roses are good.

Notice how the English sounds a little awkward. A rose is good? It sounds like an unfortunate mix between having a particular rose in mind and talking about roses in general.

In order to save the meaning of the English sentence, you need to qualify the situation:

C'est bon, une rose, quand on veut être romantique.
A rose is good when you want to be romantic.

(Notice how this sentence would also be meaningful if you mean that a single rose would do.)

On the other hand, the plural is okay without any further context (though you certainly can provide some if needed).

I believe the French behaves similarly in this and similar sentences. Here's another one for fun...

Un éléphant se conduit de façon irrationnelle. An elephant acts irrationally. (Which one?)
Un éléphant se conduit de façon irrationnelle en musth. An elephant acts irrationally in musth. (=all)

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    I kind of wish that OP had included a third example using the singular definite article so I could have maybe finally discovered exactly which rose Mr. Bécaud was singing about in “L'important c'est la rose” (although I suspect that simply admitting the need to come here to find that out probably means I’m missing something much more important than just some linguistic or botanical point)! – Papa Poule May 11 '17 at 18:52
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    @PapaPoule :) I hadn't heard the song till now, but I think we need to understand an implicit « que tu la donnes » or something. Would that make sense there, do you think? – Luke Sawczak May 11 '17 at 18:58
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    or maybe "que tu recois/que tu as" (more so than money/material things that one can give/receive/possess). or maybe just the general idea of "the rose" and all that it can mean – Papa Poule May 11 '17 at 19:07
  • Ah, okay. There is definitely a basis for definite articles and general meanings, like l'homme, but I wonder how limited those cases are. (Also, why did I write la donnes instead of lui donnes ? Anyway...) – Luke Sawczak May 12 '17 at 14:33
  • At least you didn't use "que tu elle donnes," which is how I'm often tempted to write such clauses, maybe because I find that "elle" is such a beautiful word that captures the beauty of women (even when they're being used as "mere [indirect] objects") so much more so than the default/unisex "lui"! – Papa Poule May 12 '17 at 15:25

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