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Home > French > Grammar > The, a, some, any (articles)

French

The, a, some, any (articles)

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du, de la, de l', des

The partitive articles are du, de la, de l, des which mean "some" or "any".

  • Du is used before nouns which are masculine.
  • De la is used before nouns which are feminine.
  • De l' is used before nouns which start with a vowel or an silent h (such as l'huile d'olive).
  • Des is used before nouns which are plural.

Use

They are used in much the same way as the word "some" in English:

A young woman eating a plate of cheese.
  • Je voudrais du fromage - I'd like some cheese (cheese is masculine).
  • Il mange de la soupe - He's eating some soup (soup is feminine).
  • Elle a acheté de l'eau minerale - She bought some mineral water (water starts with a vowel).
  • Tu vas manger des croissants - You're going to eat some croissants (croissants are plural).

Du/de la/de l'/des must be used in French when "any" or "some" may be missed out in English.

For example:

  • Nous mangeons du poisson et des frites - We eat fish and chips.
  • Au petit déjeuner je prends des céréales - I have cereal for breakfast.

Du, de la, de l' and des usually means "some" when the sentence is a statement.

For example: J'ai acheté du fromage - I bought some cheese, and means "any" when used in questions.

  • e.g. Avez-vous du fromage? - Do you have any cheese?

Du, de la, de l' and des are shortened to de or d' when used in the negative (that is used with ne ... pas), eg.

  • Je n'ai pas de fromage - I don't have any cheese.
  • Il n'a pas de règle - He doesn't have a ruler
  • Vous n'avez pas d'eau minerale - You don't have any mineral water
  • Elle n'a pas de livres - She doesn't have any books
  • It doesn't matter if the noun is masculine, feminine or plural, when you say "not any" ( = pas de) - it is always followed by de or d'.
  • If the noun begins with a vowel or a silent h, d' is used.

Du, de la, de l' and des are also shortened to de or d' when used with expressions of quantity, e.g.

  • un kilo d'oignons - a kilo of onions
  • beaucoup de cadeaux - lots of presents
  • une bouteille de vin blanc - a bottle of white wine.
  • un quart d'heure - a quarter of an hour.
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