French Grammar: Partitive Articles

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French Grammar: Partitive Articles
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French Grammar: Partitive Articles
la grammaire française: les articles partitifs

You’ll need to learn to use nouns with their correct articles (les articles) if you want to talk about people, places and things!

There are three types of articles in French: definite articles (les articles définis), indefinite articles (les articles indéfinis), and partitive articles (les articles partitifs). Be sure to review the lessons on definite articles and indefinite articles first before moving on to this lesson!

Study:

You’ll need to learn to use nouns with their correct articles (les articles) if you want to talk about people, places and things!

There are three types of articles in French: definite articles (les articles définis), indefinite articles (les articles indéfinis), and partitive articles (les articles partitifs). Be sure to review the lessons on definite articles and indefinite articles first before moving on to this lesson!

A partitive article is an indefinite article that is used to express a part or an indefinite quantity of something.  The name partitive derives from the fact that this kind of article is used to express part of an item or concept, and not all of it.  In English, we express this idea with the words some or any.

The partitive article always comes before a noun.  The French partitive articles are:

DU  (masculine singular)

du pain
some bread / any bread

DE LA (feminine singular)

de la salade
some salad / any salad

DE L’ (masculine or feminine singular; we use this form when it precedes a noun that begins with a vowel or silent letter ‘h’)

de l’eau
some water / any water

DES (masculine or feminine plural)

des devoirs
some homework / any homework

In English, we often drop the word some or any. In French, the partitive article can never be dropped.  AND, it must be repeated in front of every noun in a sentence or phrase.

Je mange des petits pois et de la viande et je bois du lait.
I am eating (some) peas and (some) meat and I am drinking (some) milk.

Whenever an adjective comes before a plural noun, usually becomes (or D’ before a vowel or silent letter ‘h’).

Elle a de bons amis.
She has (some) good friends.

Nous avons d’autres choix?
Do we have (some/any) other choices?

In a negative sentence, the partitive article becomes DE (or D’ before a vowel or silent letter ‘h’) UNLESS the verb is ÊTRE.  With ÊTRE, we use the full form of the partitive article.

Vous n’achetez jamais de poisson.
You all never buy (any) fish.

BUT:

Velveeta? Ce n’est pas du fromage!
Velveeta? That’s not cheese!

Note that a definite article is often used before a noun to express likes, dislikes, or preferences in general.  In contrast, a partitive article expresses an indefinite amount of something or a part of a whole.  Compare these two sentences:

J’adore la pizza!
I love pizza! (in general)

BUT:

Je voudrais de la pizza.
I would like (some) pizza.

Adapt:

Tu désires des sandwichs?
Do you (informal) want some sandwiches?

Non, je ne désire pas de sandwichs.
No, I don’t want any sandwiches.

Achetez de la mayonnaise. N’achetez pas de moutarde.
Buy (some) mayonnaise.  Don’t buy (any) mustard.

Le professeur, a-t-il de la patience?
Does the professor have (any) patience?

Non, le professeur n’a pas de patience.
No, the professor does not have (any) patience.

Nous avons des devoirs ce soir?
Do we have (any) homework tonight?

Non, vous n’avez pas de devoirs ce soir.
No, you all do not have (any) homework tonight.

Ils mangent de la soupe?
Are they (masculine) eating (some/any) soup?

Oui, ils mangent de la soupe et des biscuits.
Yes, they (masculine) are eating (some) soup and (some) crackers.

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