Apprendre la Langue Française (Part 46): les articles français (premiere partie)


Source: french.about.com

As general rule, if there is a noun, there is virtually always an article in front of it, unless some type of determiner such as a possessive adjective (mon, ton, etc.) or a demonstrative adjective is used (ce, cette, etc.).

French has three different kinds of articles:

Noun is… Definite Indefinite Partitive
Mascculine singular 

feminine singular

ending in vowel or h

plural

le 

la

l’

les

un 

une

un/une

des

du 

de la

de l’

des

The French definite article corresponds to “the” in English. There are four forms of the French definite article:

le masculine singular
la feminine singular
l’ masc. or fem. in front of a vowel or h muet
les masc. or fem. plural

Which definite article to use depends on three things: the noun’s gender, number, and first letter.

  • If the noun is plural, use les.
  • If it’s a singular noun starting with a vowel or h muet, use l’.
  • If it’s singular and starts with a consonant or h aspiré, use le for a masculine noun and la for a feminine noun.

The definite article indicates a specific noun.

Je vais à la banque. I’m going to the bank.
Voici le livre que j’ai lu. Here is the book I read.

The definite article is also used in French to indicate the general sense of a noun.

J’aime la glace. I like ice cream.
C’est la vie! That’s life!

The definite article changes when preceded by the preposition à or de – the preposition and article contract into a single word.

The singular indefinite articles in French correspond to “a,” “an,” or “one” in English, while the plural corresponds to “some.” There are three forms of the French indefinite article:

un masculine singular
une feminine singular
de masc. or fem. plural

Note that the plural indefinite article is the same for all nouns, whereas the singular has different forms for masculine and feminine.

The indefinite article usually refers to an unspecified person or thing.

J’ai trouvé un livre. I found a book.
Il veut une pomme. He wants an apple.

The indefinite article can also refer to just one of something, for example:

Il y a un étudiant dans la salle. There is one student in the room.
J’ai une soeur. I have one sister.

The plural indefinite article means “some”:

J’ai acheté des pommes. I bought some apples.
Veux-tu acheter des livres? Do you want to buy some books?

When referring to a person’s profession or religion, the indefinite is not used in French, although it is used in English.

Je suis professeur. I am a teacher.
Il va être médicin. He’s going to be a doctor.

In a negative construction, the indefinite article changes to de, meaning “(not) any,” for example:

J’ai une pomme. > Je n’ai pas de pommes.
I have an apple. > I don’t have any apples.

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