THE DEFINITE ARTICLE
The English definite article the translates into three separate words in French:
(1) le, the definite article for singular masculine nouns;
(2) la, the definite article for singular feminine nouns;
and (3) les, the definite article for plural nouns of either gender.
Before a vowel
When either le _or _la _comes before a noun that starts with a vowel sound, the _e _or _a _of the article is elided, creating _l’—for example, _l’eau _(the water), _l’accent _(the accent), _l’heure _(the hour).
- What is the English equivalent of the definite article?
- Translate: I do not know the time
- je ne sais pas l'heure
THE INDEFINITE ARTICLE
An indefinite article is used when referring to a general noun rather than a particular noun. While definite articles are used with specific nouns that are understood by both speaker and listener (‘the’ being the only English definite article), indefinite articles are used to call upon unspecified people or things.
In English, the main indefinite articles are ‘a’ and ‘an’, while a few other words such as ‘some’ and ‘any’ can also fill the role. In French, the indefinite articles are un, une, and des.
Un and une
Un is used before singular masculine nouns, and une is used before singular feminine nouns
As an indefinite article, des is the equivalent of the English ‘some’ or ‘any’. It’s used before plural nouns of either gender.
- What is the English equivalent of the indefinite article?
- a or an
- What is the indefinite article in the following sentence: j'ai vu une souris
THE PARTITIVE ARTICLE
When referring to a noun whose quantity or amount is not specified, French speakers use the partitive article de, which conveys essentially the same meaning as some or any in English.
For example, rather than saying the equivalent of ‘I bought cheese’, French speakers always say: ‘I bought some cheese’. Rather than saying: ‘Do you have pets?’ they always say: ‘Do you have some pets?’ This rule cannot be ignored. If you ask for the cheese or just cheese without the partitive article, French speakers may think you’re talking about a specific amount of cheese or all the cheese in the world—both of which would cause confusion.
Forming the French partitive article
The partitive article is created by combining the preposition de with the definite article:
For masculine nouns: de + le = du—e.g. du lait (some milk).
For feminine nouns: de + la = de la—e.g._ de la viande_ (some meat).
For nouns that begin with a vowel or a silent h: de + l’ = de l’—e.g. _de l’eau _(some water).
For plural nouns of either gender:__ de + les = des__—e.g. des animaux (some animals or any animals).