French articles are sometimes confusing for non-native speakers. Unlike in other languages, articles in French must agree in both gender and number with the nouns that they modify. In addition, French articles don’t always correspond to articles in other languages, including English. As a general rule, you should assume that a French noun must be preceded by an article or another type of determiner, such as a demonstrative or possessive adjective.
|French Articles Overview|
|in front of a vowel||l’||un/une||de l’|
The French definite articles are equivalent to the English article “the.” They can also be used to indicate the general sense of a noun. Which definite article you should use depends on a noun’s gender, number, and first letter. If a noun is masculine, singular, and begins with a consonant, use le. If a noun is feminine, singular, and begins with a consonant, use la. Le/la is also used before singular nouns that begin with h aspiré (“h” treated as a consonant.) This phenomenon occurs primarily with words that have been borrowed from other languages. If a definite article precedes a singular noun starting with a vowel or h muet (a mute or silent “h”), use l’. If the noun is plural, simply use les. Finally, when preceded by the preposition à or de, the preposition and definite article combine to form a contraction.
French singular indefinite articles are equivalent to “a,” “an,” and “one” in English. The plural indefinite article des is equivalent to “some.” French indefinite articles are usually used when you want to refer to an unspecified person or thing. Unlike definite and partitive articles, there is no special form of the singular indefinite article that you must employ before a noun beginning with a vowel or h muet.
Indefinite articles do have a couple of exceptions worth noting. For one thing, you cannot use a French indefinite article in front of a person’s profession or religion, although doing so in English would be considered completely acceptable. Second, an indefinite article changes to de (“[not] any”) when used in a negative construction.
These articles are equivalent to “some” or “any” in English. They refer to an unknown quantity of something, such as food or drink. Partitive articles are often omitted in English. For example, you probably wouldn’t say, “I’m going to have some Chinese food for dinner.” You would just say, “I’m going to have Chinese food for dinner.” In French, however, partitive articles must be included wherever applicable.
The basics of partitive article agreement are similar to those of definite articles. Du is masculine singular, de la is feminine singular, and des is plural. De l’ is used before a noun beginning with a vowel or h muet, and du/de la should be used before a singular noun beginning with h aspiré.
Partitive articles have a couple of exceptions of their own when it comes to usage. First, you should de instead of the partitive article after an adverb of quantity. Second, as with indefinite articles, a partitive article changes to de in a negative construction.