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Articles, Part Four: The Partitives

In this series, we are studying articles. You know, these little words that come before nouns. In Part One, we studied le, la, les, l’. In Part Two, un, une, des. Part Three was about “pas de“. This post will cover:

du /dü/                   

de la  /dlah/                            ——->  (some) /  ~ 

de l’ /dl/

des  /day/

Whazizat? You say. Let’s look at some examples:

Let’s say you want soup.

I want soup


In English, you would say:

I want soup


In French, though, you can’t just go:

I want soup

You have to put something before that noun. Even if in English you wouldn’t. And that something is either du, de la, de l’ or des. Here, “soupe” is feminine, and starts with a consonant,  so it will be:

je veux de la soupe

… which either means: I want soup! or I want some soup! (depending on the context).


But should you want something masculine, such as “café”, then it will go like this:

je veux du café

I want coffee… or I want some coffee.


Or, alternatively, you want something, masculine or feminine, but that starts with a vowel, you will go:

je veux de l'or

I want gold, or I want some gold.


je commence à aimer ça


des /day/ is used when what you want is divisible in units:

je veux des fruits


Consider this:

If you just say the word café, it doesn’t mean much yet. Or, rather, if could mean many things. Such as café, as in couleur café. The meaning will change depending on which article you choose to put before it:

le café

le café

Le café: the idea of coffee in general, its concept.

du café

du café

du café

du café

du café: an indeterminate amount of coffee.

un café

un café

un café: a unit of… or one cup of coffee.

un café

un café

un café: a coffee shop.


To Sum It Up

If you would use no article in English, or “some”, then in French use:

du /dü/ for masculine nouns

du café, du pain, du temps, du travail, du talent
coffee, bread, time, work, talent

de la /dlah/ for feminine nouns

de la crème, de la tarte, de la patience, de la joie, de la diplomatie
cream, pie, patience, happiness, diplomacy

de l’ /dl/ for nouns starting with a vowel

de l’eau, de l’espoir, de l’argent, de l’amour, de l’imagination
water, hope, money, love, imagination

des /day/ for when there is more than one.

des gâteaux, des stylos, des amis, des dates, des intentions
cakes, pens, friends, dates, intentions


Over To You!

Fill in the blanks with the appropriate partitive (Via Deanne Cobb / Beginner French exercises / University of Regina – Canada)

Partitive or not? (Via Ressources FLE / UPS Université Paul Sabatier – Toulouse III – France)

Which article? Click and drag (Via Dynamots / Centre linguistique de l’université de Padoue – Italy)

Test yourself: write out the correct article (Via http://people.wku.edu/nathan.love/101-102/interact101-102/r-p_u03_articles.htm)

Test yourself again (Via Alison J. Murray Levine / Department of French / University of Virginia – USA)


© Ouicestca 2013, tous droits réservés.

One thought on “Articles, Part Four: The Partitives

  1. Pingback: French Christmas 2013 | Oui, c'est ça!

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