French Grammar: Nouns – Indefinite Articles

Nouns - Indefinite Articles

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French Grammar: Nouns – Indefinite Articles
la grammaire française: les substantifs – les articles indéfinis

Nouns (les substantifs) are people, places, and things. They have names! In French, indefinite articles (les articles indéfinis) are considered part of the noun. You’ll need to learn to use nouns with their correct articles if you want to talk about people, places and things!


Indefinite Articles : (les articles indéfinis)

The indefinite articles (les articles indéfinis) in English are : A / AN (singular form) or SOME / ANY (plural form). NOTE: In negative English sentences, SOME / ANY become NOT ANY / NO.

The indefinite article is used with a NON-specific noun, or a noun that has NOT been mentioned.

In French, the indefinite article also helps us identify the number (le nombre) and gender (le genre) of the noun.

There are THREE different indefinite articles in French, split by gender (in the singular forms only) and by number.

Masculine Singular Nouns: UN

Feminine Singular Nouns: UNE

ALL Plural Nouns: DES

un livre : A book (doesn’t matter which book!)
des livres : Some books / Any books (doesn’t matter which books!)

une chaise : A chair (doesn’t matter which chair!)
des chaises : Some books / Any chairs (doesn’t matter which chairs!)

In a negative construction, the indefinite article (UN, UNE, or DES) is dropped and replaced by DE (or D’ before a noun that starts with a vowel or silent letter ‘h’).

Elle n’a pas de voiture.
She does not have a car.
(Also: She has no car.)

Nous n’avons pas de pain.
We don’t have any bread.
(Also: We have no bread.)

Je n’ai pas d’argent.
I do not have any money.
(Also: I have no money.)

The indefinite article (UN, UNE, or DES) also becomes DE (or D’) when used right before a plural adjective.

Il y a de grandes fenêtres dans la salle.

There are big windows in the room.

The indefinite article (UN, UNE, or DES) also becomes DE (or D’) after expressions of quantity such as combien (how much/how many), beaucoup (a lot), peu (few/a little), trop (too much/too many).

Combien d’hôtels à Paris acceptent les cartes bancaires?
How many hotels in Paris accept credit cards?

Beaucoup d’étudiants étudient dans la bibliothèque.

A lot of students study in the library.

Peu de parkings dans la ville sont gratuits.

Few parking lots in the city are free.

Il mange trop de malbouffe.
He eats too much junk food.

The indefinite article (UN, UNE, or DES) is dropped (1) when it comes directly before occupations, professions, or nationalities; (2) before the numbers 100 (cent) and 1000 (mille); and (3) in exclamations after quel/quelle/quels/quelles.

Nous sommes américains.
We are Americans.

Il est professeur.
He is a professor.

Cent dollars.
One hundred dollars.

Mille citoyens.
One thousand citizens.

Quel joli paysage!
What a beautiful landscape!


Tu as un livre de français?
Do you (informal) have a French book?

Oui, j’ai un livre de français.

Yes, I have a French book.

Elle a une soeur?
Does she have a sister?

Oui, elle a une soeur.
Yes, she has a sister.

Ils achètent des ballons?
Are they (masculine) buying (some) balloons?

Non, il n’achète pas de ballons.
No, they  (masculine) are not buying any balloons.

Vous gagnez combien d’argent?
How much money do you all earn?

Nous gagnons mille euros.
We earn one thousand euros.