….or how it all begins
You are already familiar with articles in sentence structures. These are the little words that appear before a noun, announcing their presence, and letting you know beforehand how many there are, and what the gender of the noun is. In English, we don’t need to bother with the gender, but that’s where it gets interesting in French.
As a tip, we suggest that when you start listing nouns for your French vocabulary, you should include the articles in your list. This would make memorizing the gender of the nouns a lot easier.
There are three kinds of articles in French: definite, indefinite, and partitive.
Here’s how they differ.
Definite articles are specific. Indefinite articles are not.
Partitive articles are used for unknown quantities or uncountable things.
In English, the definite article is ‘the’. Indefinite articles are ‘a’ and ‘an’ or ‘some’ for the plural. Partitive articles don’t exist in English, but the closest translation would be ‘some’ or ‘any’.
French articles are more widely used than their English peers.
- Le, la, les (articles définis)
Remember: Le is for masculine singular nouns. La is for feminine singular nouns. Les is for plural nouns, regardless of whether they are male or female.
If the noun being presented starts with a vowel or a mute h, le or la is shortened into l’.
|le chien||(the dog)||les chiens (the dogs)|
|la reine||(the queen)||les reines (the queens)|
|l’ami||(the friend)||les amis (the friends)|
|l’homme||(the man)||les hommes (the men)|
|le hamster*||(the hamster)||les hamsters (the hamsters)|
- Un, une, des (articles indéfinis)
Remember: un is for masculine singular nouns. une is for feminine singular nouns. des is for plural nouns, whether male or female.
|un chien||(a dog)||des chiens (some/any dogs)|
|une reine||(a queen)||des reines (some/any queens)|
|un ami||(a friend)||des amis (some/any friends)|
When an indefinite article is used in a negative sentence (ne… pas), un, une, and des are replaced with de. De changes to d’ when used with nouns that begin with a vowel or the mute h.
- Du, de la, des (articles partitifs)
Remember: du is for masculine singular nouns. de la is for feminine singular nouns. des is for plural and doesn’t matter if the nouns are male or female or what letter they begin with.
If the noun being presented starts with a vowel or a mute h, du or de la becomes de l’ regardless of the gender.
|du gâteau||(some/any cake)||des gâteaux (some/any cakes)|
|de la viande||(some/any meat)||des viandes (some/any meats)|
|de l’argent (masculine)||(some/any money)||/|
|de l’herbe (feminine)||(some/any grass)||des herbes (some/any grasses)|