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French Grammar from RapideFrench.com

Articles

Articles in French indicate the gender (masculine or feminine) and whether it is singular (just one) or plural (more than one).

The definite articles le, la, l’, les mean the. They are used more often in French than in English. le is masculine, la is feminine, les is plural (masculine or feminine) and l' is a contraction when followed by a vowel or an 'h' e.g. la voiture but l'homme.

In French, 'les' is used when generalising, for instance when giving opinions: J'aime les chats means I like cats rather than I like the cats. Similarly Les docteurs travaillent beaucoup means generally Doctors work a lot. Also this can apply when describing a concepts or idea to a singular article: Le stress est un gros problem means Stress is a big problem.

Also look out for reflexive verbs, for example he brushes his teeth is il se brosse les dents

The indefinite articles are un, une (mean a) and des (means some). They are sometimes omitted, including when giving occupations. For example I want a house with a swimming pool is Je veux une maison avec piscine and My mother is a programmer is Ma mère est programmeuse.
The partitive articles du, de la, de l’, des (meaning some) are contracted to de or d’ when:
  • it is after a negative e.g. Je veux des poires Je ne veux pas de poires
  • when an adjective goes before the noun (most go after, see more exceptions like this) e.g. des gâteaux de gros gâteaux, and des autres gâteaux d’autres gâteaux

Note

The preposition à (at/to) changes some forms of the definite articles: au (not à le), à la, à l' and aux (not à les). Similarly the preposition de (of/some) changes them: du (not de le), de la, de l’ and des (not de les). See separate grammar article on prepositions.