French Articles. There are three kinds of articles in French:

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French Articles

There are three kinds of articles in French:

the definite article (le, la, l', les) the indefinite article (un, une, des)

the partitive article (du, de la, de l', des) French uses articles more than English. Compare:

Les carottes sont des légumes.

Carrots are vegetables.

Les enfants aiment les animaux.

Children like animals.

Le travail éloigne de nous trois grands maux: l'ennui, le vice et le besoin. (Voltaire)

Work removes three great evils from us: boredom, vice and need. (And note that in French, a definite article needs to appear before each noun in a series except in “fixed

expressions” — like “les frères et soeurs.”) Il y a du cacao et du sucre dans le chocolat.

There is cocoa and sugar in chocolate.

Generally, à + le = au; à + les = aux; de + le = du; de + les = des.

But these contractions are not used in front of family names:

Je m'interesse à Le Clézio.

Les jardins de Le Nôtre L'église de Le Corbusier

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The uses of the definite article

In French, the definite article is used (often contrary to English):

1. before a specific person or thing Voilà l'argent que je vous dois.

Here is the money I owe you.

Passe-moi le pain, s'il te plait.

Pass me the bread please.

Connais-tu le propriétaire de la maison?

Do you know the owner of the house?

C'est la calculatrice du professeur.

It's the teacher's calculator.

2. before nouns used in a general sense Le vin est bon pour la santé.

Wine is good for your health.

Les temps changent, les hommes restent.

Times change, people remain.

Les femmes aiment les bijoux.

Women like jewelry.

3. before any noun (singular or plural) after verbs of liking and disliking (aimer, adorer, détester, préférer)

Aimez-vous les escargots?

Do you like snails?

Je déteste les chats.

I hate cats.

Elle n'aime pas le beurre de cacahuètes.

She doesn't like peanut butter.

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Il préfère le vin à la bière.

He prefers wine to beer.

4. before abstract nouns L'amour est aveugle.

Love is blind.

La foi peut déplacer des montagnes.

Faith can move mountains.

La vie est belle.

Life is beautiful.

5. before names of seasons L'été prochain (dernier)

next (last) summer

Le printemps est ma saison préférée.

Spring is my favorite season.

Au debut de l’automne.

At the beginning of fall.

J'aime l'hiver.

I like winter.

But no article is used if the season is preceded by en.

en hiver — in winter en été — in summer en automne — in fall

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6. before days of the week

a. when they are used in a plural sense, i. e., when recurrence of the day is expressed

En France, beaucoup de magasins sont fermés le lundi.

In France, many stores are closed on Mondays.

But: If only one specific day is referred to, no article is used. Note that the English word on is not translated before a weekday.

Il arrive mardi.

He arrives on Tuesday.

Nous n'avons pas cours vendredi.

We don't have class on Friday.

b. when the day is accompanied by a date or is more closely defined le jeudi cinq mars

(on) Thursday March 5th le mardi de la semaine prochaine

Tuesday of next week le samedi avant son depart

the Saturday before his departure le Mercredi des Cendres

Ash Wednesday le lundi de Pâques

Easter Monday le Vendredi Saint

Good Friday

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7. before dates and before some holidays

Nous sommes le premier mai. It's the first of May.

Il partira le 15 janvier. He will leave on January 15th.

du 27 juin au trois juillet from June 27th to July 3rd la Saint-Valentin Valentine's Day

la Toussaint All Saint's Day

la Saint-Sylvestre New Year's Eve la Fête des Rois Epiphany

la Fête des Mères Mother's Day la Fête des Peres Father's Day la Fête nationale Bastille Day la Pâque juive Passover

But no article is used before:

Noël Christmas Pâques Easter

8. before time expressions

la semaine prochaine (passée / dernière) next (last) week

le mois dernier (prochain) last (next) month

l'année dernière (prochaine) last (next) year

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le week-end

on the weekend La nuit on dort.

One sleeps during the night.

J'ai fait un mauvais rêve la nuit dernière.

I had a bad dream last night.

à deux heures du matin at two a.m.

à une heure de l’après-midi at one p.m.

la prochaine (dernière) fois next (last) time

tous les deux jours every other day toutes les deux semaines

every other week toute la journée

all day long tous les ans

every year tous les dimanches

every Sunday

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Note: with parts of the day, the definite article has the meaning in the

Le matin je travaille.

In the morning I work.

L'après-midi je fais la sieste.

In the afternoon I take a nap.

Le soir nous sortons.

In the evening (= at night) we go out

9. before names of languages

(In French, all languages are masculine and not capitalized.) Le français est une langue utile.

French is a useful language.

J'étudie l'anglais et l’espagnol.

I study English and Spanish.

Nous apprenons le chinois.

We learn Chinese.

Il connait le portugais et il comprend l'arabe.

He knows Portuguese and he understands Arabic.

But if the name of the language immediately follows a form of the verb parler, or the prepositions de or en, no article is used.

Je suis un cours de _ japonais.

I’m taking a Japanese course.

Il traduit ce texte en _ italien.

He translates this text into Italian.

Elle parle _ français et _ anglais.

She speaks French and English.

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However if the name of the language does not immediately follow the verb parler, the definite article is generally used.

Mon père parle couramment le russe.

My father speaks Russian fluently.

Elle parle très bien le japonais.

She speaks Japanese very well.

10. before academic subjects

J'étudie l'histoire, les mathématiques et la chimie.

I study history, math and chemistry.

But no article is used in:

un cours d’ _ histoire, un cours de _ mathématiques a history course, a math course

11. before colors used in an abstract sense J'aime le violet. I like purple.

Le rouge vous va bien. Red looks good on you.

12. before parts of the body (instead of a possessive adjective) when they are the object in the sentence and when there is no ambiguity as far as the possessor is concerned, or used adverbially expressing

English with

Elle s'est rasé les jambes.

She shaved her legs.

Je me suis cassé le bras.

I broke my arm.

Il a les yeux verts.

His eyes are green.

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Il est rentré les mains vides.

He came home with empty hands (empty-handed).

Ne parlez pas la bouche pleine.

Don't speak with a full mouth.

Note: The definite article sometimes replaces a possessive adjective in adverbial phrases with items of clothing. (English generally uses with to express having or wearing.)

Il est parti, le chapeau sur la tête.

He left with (= wearing) his hat on his head.

But: If the item of clothing receives an action, the possessive adjective is used with items of clothing.

Elle a mis son tailleur jaune.

She put on her yellow suit.

Il a laissé ses gants sur la table.

He left his gloves on the table.

Except:

Ils se sont serré la ceinture.

They tightened their belts.

Note that unlike English, French uses the singular form of items of clothing, as well as the words life, mind, etc., when there is more than one possessor, and when each of the possessors has or uses only one of them.

- The definite article also replaces the possessive adjective before the words mémoire, vie, mort, esprit, vue, voix, santé, tête (used in a figurative sense) in a series of fixed expressions.

Elle a retrouvé la mémoire.

She got her memory back.

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Il nous a sauvé la vie.

He saved our lives.

Ils ont trouvé la mort dans un accident.

They lost their lives in an accident.

Ça ne me serait pas venu à l’esprit.

That would not have come to my mind.

Il a perdu la vue à l’âge de quatre-vingts ans.

He lost his eyesight at the age of eighty.

Il a recouvré la santé.

He recovered. (lit.: He got his health back.) Ils ont perdu la tête.

They lost their minds

13. before names of streets, avenues, boulevards, public squares Je cherche la rue de Vaugirard.

I am looking for Vaugirard Street.

L'avenue des Champs-Élysées est large de 70 mètres.

Champs-Élysées Avenue is 70 meters wide.

Le boulevard Saint-Michel traverse le Quartier Latin.

Saint-Michel Boulevard crosses the Latin Quarter.

La place de la Concorde est à Paris.

Concord Square is in Paris.

But: when English uses in or on before a street name, i.e., when an address is given, French omits the article.

Le restaurant Maxim's se trouve _ rue Royale.

Maxim's Restaurant is on Royal Street.

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Il habite _rue Carnbronne (or: dans la rue Carnbronne).

He lives on Cambronne Street.

14. before units of weight, measurement and quantity when a price is quoted (English uses per or a)

Les truffes valent entre 500 et 600 euros le kilo.

Truffles are between 500 and 600 euros a kilogram.

L'essence coûte 1,50 € (un euro cinquante) le litre.

Gasoline costs 1.50 € (one euro fifty) a liter.

La pizza coûte 1,70 € (un euro soixante-dix) la part.

The pizza costs 1.70 € (one euro seventy) a piece.

Les asperges sont à deux euros les cent grammes.

Asparagus is two euros per 100 grams.

Il gagne 3 000 euros par mois.

He earns 3,000 euros per month.

deux fois par jour (par semaine, par an, par heure) twice a day (a week, a year, an hour)

Note: — With speed per hour, one uses à l'heure.

En France, la vitesse est limitée à 130 km à l'heure.

In France, the speed limit is 130 km per hour.

— With pay or cost per hour, one uses de l'heure.

Il gagne dix dollars de l’heure.

He makes ten dollars per hour.

Je donne des leçons particulières à 20 euros de l'heure.

I give private lessons for 20 euros an hour.

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15. to form the superlative

Le Pont-Neuf est le plus vieux pont de Paris.

The Pont-Neuf is the oldest bridge in Paris.

Quelle est la plus belle avenue du monde?

What is the most beautiful avenue in the world?

Ce sont les articles les moins chers.

These are the least expensive items.

16. before a title, rank or profession when a proper noun, i.e., the name of the person follows

Le docteur Bernard est gentil.

Doctor Bernard is nice.

Connaissez-vous le professeur Leblanc?

Do you know Professor Leblanc?

L'empereur Napoleon est mort en 1821.

Emperor Napoleon died in 1821.

La reine Elisabeth habite en Angleterre.

Queen Elizabeth lives in England.

But the article is omitted

- before titles when the person is addressed directly (with or without a following proper noun)

Bonjour, professeur (Duvalier).

Good day Professor (Duvalier).

Au revoir, docteur (Lebrun).

Good bye, Doctor (Lebrun).

Comment allez-vous, general (Desjardins)?

How are you, general (Desjardins)?

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- before Monsieur, Madame, Mademoiselle, Monseigneur and Maître followed by a proper noun

Où habite Monsieur Duval?

Where does Mr. Duval live?

Je ne connais pas Madame Bizard.

I don't know Mrs. Bizard.

Maître Langlois a défendu le criminel

Attorney Langlois defended the criminal

17. in formal direct address the definite article is used between Monsieur (Madame, Mademoiselle) and a following title, rank or profession

Bonjour, Monsieur le professeur.

Good day, professor X.

Merci, Monsieur le president.

Thank you Mr. President.

Bonsoir, Madame la directrice.

Good evening director Y.

Oui, Monsieur l'agent.

Yes, officer.

18. before cardinal points l'est the east l'ouest the west

le nord the north le sud the south

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l'Amérique du Nord (du Sud) North (South) America l'Europe de l'Est (de l’Ouest) Eastern (Western) Europe But:

la côte est the East coast la côte ouest the West coast

19. before infinitives used as nouns

Le boire et le manger sont excellents en France.

Food and drink are excellent in France.

Le dîner est servi.

Dinner is ready.

pendant le petit déjeuner et après le déjeuner during breakfast and after lunch

Le rire est bon pour la santé.

Laughter is good for one's health.

20. with cities when the article is an integral part of the city name La Haye (The Hague), La Havane (Havana), Le Havre,

Le Caire (Cairo), La Mecque (Mecca), Le Mans Note:

When the city names beginning with Le are preceded by à or de, contraction occurs.

Il habite au Caire. He lives in Cairo.

II vient du Havre. He comes from Le Havre.

When the city name is modified

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le Paris du Moyen Age medieval Paris la Rome de l'Antiquité ancient Rome

But: Normally, cities are used without an article.

On appelle Paris la Ville Lumière.

One calls Paris the city of lights.

Lyon est la deuxième ville de la France.

Lyon is France's second largest city.

21. before names of people and geographical names [continents, countries, oceans, French departments and regions, American states, Canadian provinces, big islands, mountains and rivers]

Les Québécois sont sympathiques.

French Canadians are nice.

La France a la forme d'un hexagone.

France has the shape of a hexagon.

Le Portugal est un petit pays.

Portugal is a small country.

L'Asie est plus grande que l’Europe.

Asia is bigger than Europe.

II faut absolument que vous visitiez la Normandie.

You absolutely have to visit Normandy.

Connaissez-vous le Texas et la Floride?

Do you know Texas and Florida?

La Colombie britannique est au Canada.

British Columbia is in Canada.

Nous avons visité la Réunion et la Sardaigne.

We visited Reunion Island and Sardinia.

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La Loire et le Rhône sont des fleuves.

The Loire and the Rhône are rivers.

But the article before geographical names is omitted with Israel, Haïti, Monaco, Andorre and some islands (Borneo, Madagascar, Cuba, Malte, Chypre, Tahiti, etc.)

Monaco est une principauté.

Monaco is a principality.

Je connais bien Israel.

I know Israel well.

and after de (from) or en (in, to) when these prepositions precede a feminine country (region, province, etc.) which is not modified by an adjective, or a masculine singular country beginning with a vowel

Il vient de France. He comes from France.

Ils vont en Iran. They go to Iran.

Note however that with masculine singular countries (regions,

provinces, etc.) not beginning with a vowel, and with masculine plural countries, the definite article le is always retained after à (in, to), dans (in, to) and de (from, of).

Nous allons au Bresil. We go to Brazil.

Il vient des États-Unis. He comes from the United States.

J'habite dans le Colorado. I live in Colorado.

Elle est originaire du Japon. She is originally from Japan.

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22. The definite article is also used in many common expressions and proverbs

regarder la tête to watch TV faire la cuisine to cook

faire l’amour to make love faire les courses to go shopping

(ne pas) avoir le temps (de+ inf.) (not) to have time (to do sth) (ne pas) avoir le choix (not) to have the choice

être à l’heure to be on time

coûter les yeux de la tête to cost an arm and a leg à la prochaine! See you next time!

Au secours! Help!

Ouvrez le livre à la page 10. Open the book to page 10.

tous (toutes) les deux both

à l'école / à l’église at (in, to) school / at (in, to) church à la maison (at) home

C'est l'heure du dîner (déjeuner). It's dinner (lunch) time.

Je n'ai pas ferme l’oeil de la nuit. I didn't sleep a wink all night.

Après la pluie le beau temps. Every cloud has a silver lining.

L'argent ne fait pas le bonheur. Money can't buy happiness.

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L'union fait la force. In unity there is strength.

La parole est d'argent mais le silence est d’or.

Words are silver but silence is golden.

C'est le calme avant la tempête. It's the calm before the storm.

L'habit ne fait pas le moine. Clothes don't make the man.

Les apparences sont trompeuses. Appearances are deceiving.

The omission of the definite article

Contrary to English, the definite article is not used in French before numbers used with rulers (kings, emperors).

François Ier (Premier) Francis the First Henri IV (Quatre) Henry the Fourth

The definite article is also omitted in certain expressions and after the preposition en.

par terre on the ground nuit et jour day and night en semaine during the week en presence de in the presence of

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