Master the Use of Articles in French

Learn l’article défini, l’article indéfini, and l’article partitif in French.

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In French, articles are part of a broader grammatical category called les déterminants. They are words that modify a noun, and indicate that a noun is a noun without describing it.

The best way to learn articles in French, is actually to learn the genders of many nouns. It is also a good idea to learn the nouns with their corresponding articles so that the genders are easier to remember.

Memorizing genders is not only a way to ensure that you are using the correct article in French, it also helps you ensure that you are using the correct form of the adjective or pronoun as well.

There are three types of articles in French: indefinite, definite, and partitive.

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Indefinite articles

Indefinite articles or articles indéfinis are used when you speak about an unspecific noun or the amount of something. They are also used to speak about a single unit of something or in the singular.

French differs from English when it comes to articles. In English, there are two indefinite articles, “a” and “an”. In French, there are three indefinite articles and their use will depend on the gender of the noun and the quantity.

Indefinite articles in French

Gender Article Meaning
masculine un a/an/one
feminine une a/an/one
masculine and feminine plural des some

For example:

  • un livre (a book)
  • J'ai un livre dans mon sac. (I have a book in my bag.)
  • une amie (a friend (female))
  • des fruits (some fruits)

Note: In English, “some” can be an adjective, adverb, or pronoun depending on its usage.

It is important for you to know that when referring to a person’s religion, or profession, you don’t use an indefinite article.

  • Il est enseignant. (He is a teacher.)
  • Il est médecin. (He is a doctor.)
  • Nous sommes chrétiennes. (We are Christian women.)

Definite articles

Definite articles or articles définis imply that you are speaking about a specific noun or class of nouns. In English, there is only one definite article: the word “the”. However, in French there are four definite articles. The use of the appropriate article will depend on the gender, quantity, and first letter of the following noun. It is therefore essential to know the gender of the noun used. To do so, continue to perfect your vocabulary.

Definite articles in French

Article Gender Meaning
le masculine the
la feminine the
l’ noun starts with vowel/h muet the
les masculine/feminine plural the/these

For example:

  • le livre (the book)
  • la maison (the house)
  • l’orange (the orange)
  • les animaux (the animals)

Definite articles in French are also used to indicate the general sense of a noun. This is a clear difference to English, where definite articles are not used in this way.

Check-out the examples below:

  • C’est la vie! (That is life!)
  • J’aime les chiens. (I like dogs.)

The best way to learn a new language, is by listening to the language being spoken by someone else. You can do this by watching French films or TV shows, or by speaking to a native French speaker. Further improve your grasp on French by watching French movies! We have a list of 11 great French films on Netflix to watch in 2023 to help you get started.

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Practice using other articles in French like “des” (or “any”) in your daily conversations via Busuu’s free online courses and vocabulary reviews today!

Partitive articles

Partitive articles or articles partitifs are used to speak about a part or a portion of an uncountable noun. In French, there are four partitive articles which depend on the gender, quantity, and first letter of the following noun. These articles are mostly used with food or drink.

Partitive articles in French

Article Gender Meaning
du masculine some/any
de la feminine some/any
de l’ noun starts with vowel/h muet some/any
des masculine/feminine plural some/any

For example:

  • du lait (some milk)
  • de la farine (some flour)
  • de l’eau (some water)
  • des raisins (some grapes)

Now that you have learned about the types of articles and have had a look at some examples, you should have a little more confidence in your abilities to master French. There are many more grammar rules to learn but before you go further, discover the best way to learn French with our ten tips.

How to use the correct article

Choosing the correct article in a sentence really depends on the message you are trying to convey. Articles cannot be used interchangeably.

  • Article indéfini (indefinite article) is used to talk about one of something. It is also used to talk about something with an unknown or uncountable quantity.

  • Article défini (definite article) is used to talk about a specific noun or something in general.

  • Article partitif (partitive article) is used to talk about something that has an unknown quantity or that is not countable.

French articles

Gender Indéfini Meaning Défini Meaning Partitif Meaning
masculin un a/an/one le the du some/any
féminin une a/an/one la the de la some/any
in front of vowel or h un/une a/an/one l’ the de l’ some/any
pluriel/plurielle des some les the des some/any

Using articles in English is quite straightforward. However, in French, it requires some knowledge of the gender and quantity of the noun preceding it. Learning the meanings of the various French articles and sentence syntax will also further help you decide which articles to use. By learning how to use the right article in everyday conversations, you will take your French speaking and writing skills to the next level!

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