2

I found a phrase in a book written in French.

"Des hérons pêchent le poisson."

My question is what the precise meaning of this "le poisson" in the phrase is. In other words, if I say

"Des hérons pêchent des poissons,"

or

"Des hérons pêchent les poissons,"

what is the difference among them? Here are the phrases in the paragraph:

"... J'aime beaucoup le trajet en bus. Je regarde le paysage. Il est magnifique; il y a des collines et des lacs. Des hérons pêchent le poisson."

Does the "le poisson" in the phrase mean "a kind of fish and a specific kind of fish for the fishermen"?

4
  • 5
    This will depend on the context. Can you add more context? It would be a definite, specific fish only if some specific fish was mentioned earlier in the text. There is another way to understand that le, but we need more context.
    – Frank
    Commented May 1 at 2:50
  • 1
    Thank you for answering my question, Frank. There is no mention relating to the word "le poisson". Here are the phrases in the paragraph: "... J'aime beaucoup le trajet en bus. Je regarde le paysage. Il est magnifique; il y a des collines et des lacs. Des hérons pêchent le poisson."
    – satokoma
    Commented May 2 at 11:22
  • please edit your question to add the relevant details, don't put them in the comments :) Commented May 2 at 13:48
  • 1
    In that case, it's not a specific fish, but a generic le.
    – Frank
    Commented May 2 at 13:49

3 Answers 3

0

It is common to use a singular form to denote genericity. For example

On moissonne le blé en juillet

which could become in English Wheat is harvested in July

The best formula (le poisson, du poisson, des poissons) may depend on the context.

3
  • 5
    As much as On moissonne le blé en juillet or On y pêche le poisson are idiomatic, des hérons pêchent le poisson is not. Des implies some definite herons which doesn't work well with a generic poisson.
    – jlliagre
    Commented May 2 at 1:06
  • 1
    @jlliagre Oui, parce que les hérons sont génériques, mais le poisson est spécifique, bien qu'il faudrait que le contexte confirme cela.
    – Frank
    Commented May 2 at 2:09
  • Thank you, all. I understand that the "le" is a generic "le".
    – satokoma
    Commented May 7 at 11:09
2

Des hérons pêchent DES poissons is descriptive and, stylistically, rather dull: herons are being seen with fish in their beak.

Des hérons pêchent LES poissons implies thoroughness: the herons will catch every fish (e. g. of a given pond, as implied by the context).

Des hérons pêchent LE poisson implies selectivity: these herons have opted for fish, as opposed to, e. g., la grenouille, l'orvet etc. (frogs, glass lizards &c.)

0

In this case, I think that's just because the vocabulary and the grammar is sometimes different in book than in conversation IRL. For example, the "passé simple" is never used in conversations but in a french book, it is often used, even more in some older books.

"le poisson" can have the same meaning of "des poissons". That type of things is also sometimes used in french books but it is rarer in conversation.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.