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French Definite Article

Article défini

Introduction | Advanced | Test

The French definite article is used much more often than its English counterpart. In the introduction to the French definite article, we learned that it is used to indicate a specific noun (Je vais à la banque) or to talk about a noun in a generic sense (J'aime la glace). The French definite article has a number of other uses, which this lesson will discuss in detail.

Note: When there are two or more nouns listed in a French sentence, the definite article must be listed in front of each one.

The French definite article is used in front of the following kinds of nouns, whereas it is often not used here in English. 

I.  Concrete nouns
  
A. Specific objects
Le livre que je viens de lire est amusant. The book I just read is funny.
Le papier et les stylos sont dans le tiroir. The paper and pens are in the drawer.
  
B. Nouns used in a generic sense
L'essence coûte très chère en France. Gas is very expensive in France.
J'aime la glace, le chocolat et le gâteau. I like ice cream, chocolate, and cake.
  
C.  Groups of people or things
Les ingénieurs sont très intelligents. Engineers are very intelligent.
Salut les filles. Hi girls.
Arrêtez, les enfants ! Stop, children!
J'aime les chats et les chiens. I like cats and dogs.
  
D. Issues, subjects, and languages*
Il veut étudier la biologie ou l'histoire l'année prochaine. He wants to study biology or history next year.
La politique ne m'intéresse pas. Politics doesn't interest me.
On dit que l'espagnol est plus facile que le français. They say that Spanish is easier than French.**
* Except with parler: Je parle français. I speak French.
** Article about this myth
  
E. Parts of the body
Je me suis cassé la jambe. I broke my leg.
Elle a mal à l'estomac. Her stomach hurts.
  
II.  Abstract nouns
C'est la vie ! That's life!
La liberté et l'égalité sont très importantes. Liberty and equality are very important.
  
III. Dates and times
  
A. Specific dates
C'est le 10 septembre. It's September 10th.
Je pars le 25 avril. I'm leaving on April 25th.
  
B.  Days of the week and periods of time for something habitual*
J'étudie le soir. I study at night.
Je visite le musée le samedi. I visit the museum on Saturdays/every Saturday.
* J'ai visité le musée samedi. (not habitual, so no article) I visited the museum on/this Saturday.
  
C.  General time frames
J'y vais la semaine prochaine. I'm going there next week.
Je suis allé en France l'année dernière. I went to France last year.
  
IV. Titles and adjectives
       
  A. Without proper names
Monsieur le président Mr. President
Bonjour Madame la présidente Madam Chairwoman
     
  B. With proper names, but only when not talking to the person*
Le docteur Degueldre sera à la fête. Doctor Degueldre will be at the party.
    La jolie Annette va nous rendre visite aujourd'hui. The lovely Annette is going to visit us today.
  * When talking to the person, there is no article
    Docteur Degueldre, comment allez-vous ? Doctor Degueldre, how are you?
  
V. General reference to countries (also see lesson on prepositions with countries)
Le Canada est un très grand pays. Canada is a very large country.
J'aime bien la France et les Pays-Bas. I really like France and the Netherlands.
  
VI. Price and speed per quantity
Les pommes de terre coûtent 10 francs le kilo. Potatoes cost 10 francs a (or 'per') kilo.
Il roule à 115 kilomètres à l'heure. He's driving 115 km per hour.
  
VII. Superlatives (lesson)
C'est la plus belle ville du monde ! It's the most beautiful city in the world!
J'ai vendu le livre le moins intéressant. I sold the least interesting book.
  
VIII. Possessive pronouns (lesson)
Voici mon livre et voilà le tien. Here's my book and there's yours.
J'ai perdu mes clés ; où sont les vôtres ? I lost my keys; where are yours?
  
IX. In front of the indefinite subject pronoun on (lesson) and the pronoun un (lesson)
Je veux que l'on décide maintenant. I want you to decide now.
    J'ai vu l'un de tes amis. I saw one of your friends.

  

Definite article test

Introductory lesson     Grammar glossary

Grammar Lessons

  

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