L’article (articles)

Introduction

Nouns are generally used together with their articles in French. The article tells us the gender (masculine, feminine) and number (singular, plural).

There are indefinite articles (un, une, des) and definite articles (le, la, les).

Beispiel

Léna est une copine de Lara et la copine de François.

Léna a acheté une glace. Elle aime beaucoup la glace.

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Indefinite Articles

The indefinite articles are un (masculine) and une (feminine). We use indefinite articles:

  • when we’re referring to an unspecified thing
    Example:
    Léna est une copine de Lara. (one of several)Lena is a friend of Lara’s.
  • when we mention something in a text for the first time (introductory)
    Example:
    Léna a acheté une glace.Lena bought an ice-cream.

To Note

French also has an indefinite article for the plural, similar to the English “some”: des.

Beispiel:
Léna et Lara ont acheté des glaces Léna and Lara bought some ice-cream

However, if there is an adjective before the noun we use de instead of des.

Example:
Léna et Lara ont acheté de bonnes glaces.Léna and Lara bought some delicious ice-cream.

Definite Article

The definite articles are le (masculine), la (feminine) – sometimes also l’ (when the following word begins with a vowel or a mute h) – and les (plural). We use the definite article:

  • when we’re talking about something specific
    Example:
    Léna est la copine de François. (the only one – they’re a couple)Lena is the girlfriend of François.
  • when we have already mentioned something or assume it to be generally known
    Example:
    Elle aime beaucoup la glace.She really likes ice-cream.

Articles and Prepositions

Definite articles and prepositions are often combined into one word.

prepositionpreposition + articleexample
à à + le = au la glace au chocolata chocolate ice-cream
à à + les = aux fais attention aux enfantsLook out for the children!
de de + le = du parler du jeutalk about the game
de de + les = des c’est la table des enfantshere is the children’s table

L’article partitif (partitive article)

For unspecified things or indefinite amounts, French uses something called a partitive article: Partitif de plus article. (In English, we don’t use an article in this situation.)

In French, the partitive article is used:

  • for uncountable nouns
Example:
Il faut acheter de l’eau et du café.We need to buy water and coffee.
  • for types of sports (with faire) and instruments
Example:
Il fait du foot.He plays football.
Il joue de la flûte.He plays flute.

No Article

We generally don’t use an article for:

  • city or town names
    Example:
    Ils habitent à Paris.They live in Paris.
  • days of the week (unless referring to something that regularly happens on a certain day)
    Example:
    Nous l’avons vu lundi.We saw him on Monday.
  • names of months
    Example:
    Je suis né en juillet.I was born in July.
  • expressions using en + a means of transport
    Example:
    As-tu voyagé en train ou en voiture?Did you travel by train or in the car?
  • professions, in an unspecified context
    Example:
    Elle est laborantine.She’s a laboratory assistant.
    but for a specified person: Je connais la laborantine.I know the laboratory assistant.
    or a particular characteristic: C’est une bonne laborantine.She’s a good laboratory assistant.
  • beliefs/religious affiliations
    Example:
    Il est catholique.He’s a Catholic.
    but for a specified person: C'est le catholique qui va tous les jours à l’église.This is the Catholic who goes to church every day.
    or a particular characteristic: C’est un bon catholique.He’s a good Catholic.

With the partitive article, we use de without an article:

  • for amounts, except bien, la plupart, une partie, la majorité and la moitié
Example:
J’ai bu beaucoup de café.I drank a lot of coffee.
  • after a negation
Example:
Il n’a plus d’eau dans son verre.He doesn’t have any water left in his glass.

We don’t use an article for specific verbs or expressions with de either.

Example:
J’ai besoin d’argent.I need money.
J’ai envie de fraises.I feel like eating strawberries.