Discuss and learn French: French vocabulary, French grammar, French culture etc.
Re your first question, it depends a bit on what you mean by "alike". To a native French speaker, they're completely distinguishable because in the first, but not the second, the final "t" is always pronounced (this also has the knock-on effect that the final vowel of "cinquante" is typically slightly longer than in "cinq ans", which is another clue). So as I say, in principle there's really no confusion.
Re your second question, if you say "Il y a quelque chose?" it will generally be understood to mean "Is there anything wrong?". You could also say "Il y a quelque chose qui ne va pas?" if you want to make it more explicit. Obviously you can also say things like "Il y a un problème?".
Your version isn't grammatical as it stands, although if you change it slightly to "Qu'est-ce qui ne va pas?", it would be one way of saying "What is wrong?".
Merci encore Neil, I think I need to ask a french tourist to pronounce these two words and see the difference, a french family on vacation here will be meeting me sometime next week. I really find it difficult to distinguish the pronounciation. For someone non-french I think they do sound very similar.
Of course if you say 50 years, "cinquante ans" that is easy to distinguish, because the liasion so the "ton" sound at the end. But if you just say "cinquante" that's 50 and it does sound like "cinq ans" 5 years. I will soon find out next week.
I got the french tourists to pronounce these two words and if you pay attention you hear the 'té at the end. Well not really a problem it depends on the context of the sentence so you are unlikely to confuse the words I guess. Thanks Neil.
hello charles D i don't get what you were trying to say.
"The beauty of a language is in its simplicity"
First of all all the other posts about the pronunciation of "cinquante" and "cinq ans" are right on. They are different because the "e" in "cinquante" cuases you to pronounce the "t".
What I am trying to say is that you will never confuse the pronunciation of "cinquante" and "cinq ans" in coversation because you will never use "cinquante" alone; unless you answer a question where someone asks you how many cats are there and all you answer is "cinquante". Normailly you would say "cinquante chats" or "cinquante euros" or "cinquante photos" or "Je fume plus de cinquante cigarettes par jour". You would never say "Je fume plus de cinq ans cigarettes par jour", would you?
If someone asked you "how many cats do you have?", would you answer "five years?" No. Therefore, in context, "cinquante" and "cinq ans" would never be mixed up.
Because so many words sound alike, a lot of French conversation has to do with words in their contexts. How do you mark the difference between "mon" (my) and "mont" (mount) or "mes" (plural of 'my') and the month Mai? By the context of the word in the sentence or phrase. And what about the age-old conundrum of "l'amour" and "la mort"?
No you can't but you can use : qu'est qu'il ne vas pas?
Cinquante ans & cinq ans