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I can't seem to work out the difference between da and de on Duolingo (admittedly I haven't spent long on it). Could someone give an exact distinction?

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    Have a look at esperanto.stackexchange.com/questions/737/… -- that might partly answer your question. – Oliver Mason Sep 21 '16 at 7:33
  • @OliverMason Thanks that answers it. Should I delete my post (I'm new to stack exchange)? – Tom Smale Sep 21 '16 at 8:13
  • No, I'll mark it as duplicate. – Oliver Mason Sep 21 '16 at 8:19
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    @OliverMason I do not think this is duplicate. The other question asks about the use of "da" in a particular sentence. This asks about the general distinction between "da" and "de", which is a difficult thing for many beginners. The answers there may not be extensive enough, so if someone is looking for the difference between "da" and "de", this question here is a better place for more detailes answers with more examples. – Lyubomir Vasilev Sep 21 '16 at 9:05
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The notes in the Duolingo lesson you refer to

https://www.duolingo.com/skill/eo/Da_De

are actually very useful, they start off

Although both da and de can be translated into English as of, they have different meanings:

Use da when you're talking about quantity.

Use de when talking about possession

with

taso da teo - a cup of tea (quantity)

la patrino de la knabo - the mother of the boy /the boy's mother

It goes on to give lots of examples and ends with the subtle case:

When you're talking about a quantity of a specific thing or set of things, >as opposed to a type of thing, you use de la.

Mi bezonas 5 kilogramojn da sukero - I need 5 kilograms of sugar.

Mi bezonas 5 kilogramojn de la sukero - I need 5 kilograms of the sugar.

Beyond the Duolingo notes, here is an easy trick for English speakers: if you can replace of with made of or made up of in the sense of measure/quantity, use da.

One kilogram of feathers - One kilogram made of feathers - kilogramo DA plumoj

One cup of tea - One cup made of tea (cup is a measure unit here) - Taso DA teo*.

Note: for made of in the sense of material, use el.

One cup made of clay - Taso EL argilo.

  • That's useful, perhaps you could edit my answer to include that? – conor Sep 21 '16 at 11:06
  • Ok, that's done. – Vanege Sep 21 '16 at 11:16
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    @Vanege This is an interesting advice, however, people should use it only for quantities and not take it as too general because when something is (physically) made of something, the correct preposition is "el": seĝo el ligno = chair made of wood – Lyubomir Vasilev Sep 21 '16 at 11:21
  • @LyubomirVasilev You are right, that is an important condition. – Vanege Sep 21 '16 at 11:23
  • @Vanege - dankon. – conor Sep 21 '16 at 11:25

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