FR: avoir besoin/peur + de / des

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by sophiestar, Sep 18, 2008.

  1. sophiestar Member

    U.S.A., English
    I know that normally one doesn't use the definite article with "avoir besoin de" when referring to something in the partitive sense: J'ai besoin d'argent, for example.

    But what if I'm referring to a countable object, not an abstract noun? Eggs, for example. Would "I need some eggs" be "J'ai besoin d'oeufs" or "J'ai besoin des oeufs".

    Merci d'avance!
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2008
  2. bopli Member

    Hello sophiestar...
    both...depending on context

    1. J'ai besoin d'oeufs >>> 'indefinite' - 'not specific eggs'
    >>> you need some eggs or you have to buy some

    2. J'ai besoin des oeufs, stp >>> 'definite' - 'specific eggs' >>> (all) the eggs that are there

    hope this helps...
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 24, 2013
  3. janpol

    janpol Senior Member

    France - français
    J'ai besoin d'oeufs pour faire un gâteau.
    - Tu veux faire une omelette ? Ah ! non ! J'ai besoin des oeufs pour faire un gâteau !
    (sous entendu : les oeufs dont nous disposons / qui sont dans le réfrigérateur / que j'ai rapportés du supermarché ce matin...)
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2008
  4. sophiestar Member

    U.S.A., English
    Okay, I think I get it...

    Je vais au supermarché parce que j'ai besoin d'oeufs pour faire une tarte.


    J'ai besoin des oeufs que tu as acheté hier.

    Am I correct?

  5. bopli Member

    You are correct except...
    'J'ai besoin des oeufs que tu as achetés hier'.
    >>> agreement in gender and number
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 24, 2013
  6. KraftDinner Senior Member

    American English

    I was watching a movie in French and I believe I heard a woman say "mais j'ai besoin de ciseaux!". I believe it was for 1 pair of scissors, but is it also possible to use besoin des or besoin du with other nouns? For example, do we say "j'ai besoin d'eau" or is it "j'ai besoin de l'eau"? Do we say "j'ai besoin des ciseaux" when we need more than one pair of scissors?

  7. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    One says: J'ai besoin de ciseaux (I need scissors)
    J'ai besoin des ciseaux. (I need the scissors).
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 24, 2013
  8. Jet Lewis Senior Member

    Brussels (Belgium)
    French (Belgium)
    "J'ai besoin d'eau" means that you're thirsty and you need to drink water.
    "J'ai besoin de l'eau" means that you need the bottle of water around.


    "J'ai besoin de ciseaux" means that you need a pair of scissors that maybe someone who's around you have.

    "J'ai besoin des ciseaux" means that you need the pair of scissors you know there is one around you.
  9. Fred_C

    Fred_C Senior Member

    Hi, the expression is "avoir besoin de", and "de" is a preposition.
    This preposition is subject to the following contractions :
    De + le -> du
    De + les -> des
    De + du (partitive) -> de
    De + de la (partitive) -> de
    De + de l' (partitive) -> d'
    De + des (partitive or plural indefinite) -> de

    The woman said "besoin de ciseaux" as the result of the contraction : "*besoin de des ciseaux",
    Likewise, you must say : "J'ai besoin d'eau", as the result of the contration "*besoin de de l'eau".

    You can say "J'ai besoin des ciseaux", but it would be the result of the contraction "*J'ai besoin de les ciseaux".
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 24, 2013
  10. Trendywendy_41 Senior Member

    Hi there,
    Isn't the expression 'avoir peur de' as well?
    But one says J'ai peur de l'eau but J'ai besion d'eau?
    One site says "Watch out for the prepositional phrases" To me, these are both prepositional phrases.

    One would think that J'ai peur de l'eau means the specific water that one's just about to be pushed into! Or is it J'ai peur d'eau? I don't think so?
    Any advise?

  11. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    There's a fundamental difference in the conception of the water here.

    One idea of being scared of (the) water applies to all water bodies. It reflects a fear of drowning. To speak in the general, when your conception of the thing in question admits no divisions into categories or segments (in other words, when on some level you really are talking about ALL of that thing in the world), then you use the definite article in French. This gives you j'ai peur de + l'eau, les chiens, le noir, etc. Note that sometimes we include "the" in this context in English, and other times we omit it (afraid of the dark, of (the) water, of spiders, etc.)

    Of course, you could also have certain specific water in mind ("the" water) -- the water you're about to be pushed into, today's choppy waves and strong currents in the bay, the water you believe to be contaminated and unsafe to drink, etc. And of course you need the definite article then, regardless of which language you're speaking.

    But it's very hard to imagine a situation where you would be afraid of "some" water. With fear, it's all or nothing, or else it's a specific case.

    On the other hand, when you say "I need water" in the generic, you don't need all the water in the world. The water in this conception can be divided into portions and you need only some of it. So you wouldn't say "I need the water" with the definite article unless you had certain specific water in mind (the 150ml of water that you measured out and set aside for your recipe / the container of water that your painting group is passing around to rinse their paintbrushes in, etc.). In other words, needing water can refer to a specific case and will use the definite article in that context... but the general case is "some" instead of "all or nothing." So if you're just saying "I need water," instead of introducing water with the definite article (l'eau), you will introduce it with the partitive article (de l'eau). This gives you a contraction of the preposition de with the partitive article (de + de l' = de):

    j'ai besoin de + de l'eau = j'ai besoin d'eau
  12. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    I realize it can be confusing. But there is a difference in the nature of the expressions avoir besoin de and avoir peur de. The first one deals with quantities. So you distinguish between J'ai besoin d 'argent (I need some money) and J'ai besoin de l'argent. (I need the money.)

    With avoir peur de, the fear is generic and as such not usually quantifiable. In this case, if you need to say you have fear of some things and not others, you would add something to show this.

    J'ai peur des loups. I am afraid of wolves [all wolves, wolves in general). J'ai peur de certains loups. (I am afraid of some wolves, and not others.)

    I hope I have explained this satisfactorily.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2013
  13. arundhati Senior Member

    French - France
    I agree with Geostan, and sometimes "avoir besoin de l'eau", when it's not quantifiable, is required : "le chlore a besoin de l'eau pour former un chlorure".
  14. Trendywendy_41 Senior Member

    Thank you all for your responses,
    J’ai peur des chiens. I am afraid of dogs (all the dogs in the world)
    J’ai peur des chiens qui me mordent. I am afraid of the dogs that bite me (specific dogs)
    J’ai peur du chien qui me morde. I am afraid of the dog that bites me.
    J'ai peur de certains chiens. I'm afraid of some dogs (J'ai peur des certains chiens would mean I am afraid of the some dogs right? :))
    J’ai besoin d’un chiein. I need a dog (is that right?)
    J’ai besoin de chiens. I need dogs. (some dogs)
    J’ai besoin des chiens qui sont fidèles à l’homme. I need dogs that are faithful to men (specific dogs)

    I think I've got it

    Thank you

  15. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    J'ai besoin des certains chiens sounds strange to me.
    Unless you need all the dogs that are faithful to men, I would say J'ai besoin de chiens qui sont fidèles à l’homme
    Note that the 3rd person indicative of mordre is mord. With an e it is a subjunctive form.

  16. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    In that example, I'd rather omit the definite article because you're talking about some water here: Le chlore a besoin d'eau pour former un chlorure. When including it, you're talking about water as an entity, almost as if it were a person. It makes me think of water as one of the four elements.

    I guess that's Trendy's point: it sounds as strange in French as in English. ;)
  17. arundhati Senior Member

    French - France
    Oui, presque, en tant "qu'entité chimique" en tout cas, pour parler de la molécule.
  18. Trendywendy_41 Senior Member

    Isn't that the same as J'ai besoin des chiens qui sont fidèls à l'homme? Talking about specifics?
  19. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Yes, that's it, Trendy. :)
  20. Trendywendy_41 Senior Member

    Thank you. You've all really helped me to understand this. :p

Share This Page