De, du, de la, des in French

De, du, de la, des in French

Here is the VIDEO

The difficulties come from the fact that “de” in French can be many different things, your teacher will certainly use words like “partitif” or “indefinite article’ etc…, well it is easier to say that “de, du, de la and des” are the translation of ‘some’ and ‘any’!

1. With uncountable words (what we call partitive)

Like milk , water, rice, patience, love etc… things you can’t divide, you can’t say ‘one water’, you just say ‘water’ or ‘some water’, these words in French needs “de, du, de la”

masculine: de
masculine + le: du or de l’ if the word starts with a vowel
feminine: de la or de l’ if the word starts with a vowel

I want some rice: je veux du riz (riz is masculine)
I want some love: je veux de l’amour (amour is masculine and starts with a vowel)
I want some mustard: je veux de la moutarde (moutarde is feminine)
I want some water: je veux de l’eau (eau is feminine and starts with a vowel)
I need some money: j’ai besoin d’argent (argent is masculine) (here the verb is “avoir besoin de”, because of the preposition “de” included in the verb we don’t use the definite article, if you say “j’ai besoin de l’argent que tu m’as promis” we are speaking about something specific, the money you promised to me) (pay attention to the prepositional verbs in French)

Negative form: any, the definite article disappears in French:

We use de or d’

I don’t want any rice: je ne veux pas de riz
I don’t want any love: je ne veux pas d’amour
I don’t want any mustard: je ne veux pas de moutarde
I don’t want any water: je ne veux pas d’eau
I don’t need any money: je n’ai pas besoin d’argent
I don’t want anymore apples: je ne veux plus de pommes.

Exception: with the verb ‘to be’
It is gold: c’est de l’or
It is not gold: ce n’est pas de l’or (we keep the definite article)

As you can see with uncountable words there is no plural (des), exception for words we rarely use in the singular:
Je veux des lentilles (lentils, as we never say I want one lentil), the same thing with spinach: je veux des épinards.

2. With countable words (indefinite article)

In English the indefinite article are ‘a’ and ‘an’, there is no plural form, you know that in French, they are: un, une and des for the plural form (this “des” is not a partitive, just the plural of un or une), well, again it is easier to say that they are the translation of ‘some’ and ‘any’.

I want an apple: je veux une pomme
I want apples (or I want some apples): je veux des pommes
I need shoes: j’ai besoin de chaussures. (the prepositional verb is avoir besoin de)
I want shoes: je veux des chaussures.

An adjective may change the article:
J’ai acheté des pantalons: I bought some trousers
J’ai acheté de nouveaux pantalons: I bought new trousers (this is the rule but not so important as many people in France say J’ai acheté des nouveaux pantalons)
When the adjective (here nouveaux) is before the noun (pantalons) we use “de” instead of “des”.
Same thing for: I want other shoes: je veux d’autres chaussures.

Pay attention to the singular indefinite article and the pronoun “en”:
Je veux un gâteau  J’en veux un
You need an indefinite article because “j’en veux” means ‘I want some’
Je prends une tasse  J’en prends une

Negative form: any

I don’t want any apple: je ne veux pas de pommes (for the negation, we use “de” and not “des)
It also works with singular word:
I have a car: j’ai une voiture
I have no car: je n’ai pas de voiture.

If you speak about something specific, we need the definite article:
We are taking advantage of new laws: nous profitons de lois nouvelles.
We are taking advantage of the new laws: nous profitons des lois nouvelles. (here “des” is “de les”)

 3. Expressions of Quantity

A lot, few, many…

I have a lot of money: j’ai beaucoup d’argent (no definite article)(argent is masculine and starts with a vowel)
I have little money: j’ai peu d’argent
I have a lot of bananas: j’ai beaucoup de bananes (banane is feminine)
I want more apples: je veux plus de pommes.
We had little sunshine: nous avons eu peu de soleil (soleil is masculine)
Many children came: beaucoup d’enfants sont venus
However if you are speaking about something specifically:
Many of  the children at this school were ill: beaucoup des enfants de cette école ont été malades.

Here an infographics you can share with a link to my website please!

Sometimes it is subtle:
You can say Je veux du pain, here you mean that you want a slice of bread, and je veux un pain, you want a whole bread.
But you can’t say: je veux de la pomme because you never want a piece of apple but the whole one, so, je veux une pomme !


Pay Attention

DES can be an indefinite article or a definite article contraction of de+les

Elle veut des fleurs (not all but some, so DES is the plural of UNE indefinite article)
Le chat des voisins (we are speaking specifically about the neigbours, so DES is the contraction DE+LES, a definite article)
de, de la, du, des


QUIZ de la, du, des

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More about De

1.De: of

La fenêtre de la maison; the window of the house
L’amour de l’argent: Love of money
Le chapeau du roi: the hat of the king

the form like: my sister’s car, requieres DE in French: la voiture de ma soeur

2.De: from

Je reviens de la maison: I am coming back from home
C’est un cadeau de ma tante: it is a present from my aunt

3. De: Time

Le bus de 8 heure 30: the 8.30 bus
Il travaille de nuit (de jour): he works nights (days)

4. De: Cause

Elle est morte de faim: She is dying of hunger
Il pleure de joie: He is crying for joy

5. De: measure

Une maison de 120 m2: a 120 m2 house
Un homme de 50 ans: a 50-year-old man

6. De: Expressions

Rien de neuf: nothing new
Personne d’absent ?: nobody missing?



Pay Attention:

I love candies but I don’t eat sugar
In this sentence there is no articles in English, in French we need two of them:

  1. Candies, we talk about candies in general, all the candies, so the article is LES (definite articles)
  2. Sugar: we mean a few and not all, so we need a partitive.

J’aime les bonbons mais je ne mange pas de sucre !

Dogs are animals
Again, no articles in English.

  1. Dogs in general, all the dogs, so definite article in French
  2. Animals or part of animals, so a partitive: des.

Les chiens sont des animaux

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