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    A Comprehensive Guide to The French Definite Articles – Give Final Touch to your Sentences

    Articles are known as words or adjectives which modify nouns (place, object, person or idea). They don’t describe the noun per se but point it out such that the reader becomes aware that the particular word following will be a noun. In English, we’re aware of this as ‘a’ and ‘an’ (indefinite) and ‘the’ (definite). Let’s dive into the French definite articles which is majorly just ‘the’ from English.

    A Comprehensive Guide to The French Definite Articles – Give Final Touch to your Sentences
    By Michelle
    8 November 2019
    The French Definitive Articles

    French Grammar French Lessons

    A Comprehensive Guide to The French Definite Articles – Give Final Touch to your Sentences

You must have noticed while studying or come across sentences in French that make use of these common words or technically known as articles. 

Indefinite ArticleDefinite Article
Masculine SingularUnLe 
Feminine Singular UneLa
M+F followed by a vowelL

* In the negative aspect, definite articles hold their forms:We will be focusing on the use of definite articles and its contracted forms. The latter are also known as ‘mutant’ forms in the local lingo.

– pas le
– pas la
– pas les
– pas l’

The biggest hint to know a definite article is that it is ‘the’ in the English language. However. There are rules to writing them. Let’s start the guide on how to use these articles.

1. Definite Articles Used in General

At times in English, we say certain generic themes which don’t employ articles. This is different in French.

It could be that the word ‘some’ is missing like ‘I drank juice,’ when it should be ‘I drank some juice.’ However, in this case partitive articles are used which we will discuss later. If the sentence was ‘I don’t like drinking juice’, then definite articles in French would have been used. The trick to identifying when the statement is generic is by adding ‘in general’. If that makes sense, then use the definite article.

La Justice est un élement important de notre société (Justice is an important part of our society)

*Here justice is used in general

2. Definite Articles Used to Show Specificity

As mentioned, the word ‘the’ in English can be an indication for use in French too. This is in cases of specific things too.

Il utilise la voiture (He is using the car)
J’aime les chaussures rouges (I like the red shoes)

3. Definite Articles Used After Some Verbs

There are a few verbs which come before nouns, introducing their presence in a generic sense. Definite articles are then used before such verbs like detester (to hate), adorer (to adore), aimer (to like) etc.

J’admire la tour Eiffel et les Champs Élysées (I admire the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysees)

4. Definite Articles Used to Show Possession

When we talk about something that belongs to someone else then in English an apostrophe with an ‘s’ is used – This is my grandmother’s jewellery. In French there isn’t any such kind of concept. We use definite articles like the way in the example.

Ce sont les bijoux de ma grand-mère (These are my grandmother’s jewellery)

* If we literally translate to English the sentence would be – This is the jewellery of my grandmother.

The Mutant Forms

Definite Article + àDefinite Article + de
Known AsContractive ArticlesPartitive Articles
When Is It Used?When in English the translation of preposition is ‘to’ or ‘at’.When in English the translation of preposition is ‘of’ or ‘from’.
Masculine SingularÀ + le = au

Je vais au magasin
(I walk to the shop)

De + le = du

Je reviens du bureau le soir
(I return from the office in the evening)

Feminine SingularÀ + la = à la (no contraction)

Je ne suis pas allé à la banque
(I didn’t go to the bank)

De + la = de la (no contraction)

Je cours du bureau
(I run from the office)

PluralÀ + les = aux

Je lis un livre aux enfants
(I read book to the children)

De + les = des

Il parle des lumières
(He is talking about the lights)

Masculine + Feminine Before A VowelÀ + l’ = à l’ (No contraction)

Je vais à l’aquarium
(I am going to the aquarium)

De + l’ = de l’ (No contraction)

Je viens de l’appartment
(I am coming from the apartment)

Keep making sentences and solving exercise such that eventually the definite articles and its mutant forms become a reflexive reaction to a sentence. For better insight, you may contact French tutors. See you next lesson!

Quiz: Test your knowledge of French Articles!


French Articles

1 / 6

“Le pain est bon.” means

2 / 6

“Arthur veut un jouet.” means

3 / 6

“Elle adore.”

4 / 6

“La banane est mon fruit préféré” means

5 / 6

What does "Tu bois de la bière." mean?

6 / 6

“Les garçons sont gentils” means

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