FR: de/des + adjectif + nom au pluriel

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by tobywashere, Apr 22, 2006.

  1. tobywashere Member

    Toronto, Canada
    English - Canada
    If adjectives come before the noun [excellent, bon etc.], do you use de [d'] or des?

    Moderator note: Multiple threads have been merged to create this one. See also this thread discussing exceptions to the standard rule. If you are interested in the article to use before singular nouns, see this thread.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2014
  2. sioban

    sioban Senior Member

    french - France
    d' / de
    Il a eu d'excellentes notes.
    Elle a fait de beaux enfants.
    Il a de bonnes manières.
  3. lilliputthegreat Senior Member

    English; United Kingdom
    Bon soir tout le monde;

    J'ai cru que quand un nom est écrit dans la forme plurielle, il faut que l'article (de, la, le, etc...) corresponde en nature au nom.
    Par exemple: La phrase « La petite fille » devient « Les petites filles » dans sa forme plurielle.

    Donc, pourquoi est-ce que les phrases suivantes (extrait d'une nouvelle) ne se conforment pas en plus? (L’article en question est en caractères gras)

    (1) Sinon, nous nous exposons à de graves désillusions.
    (2) Nous avons pris de nouvelles dispositions d'en prévenir une autre occurrence.

    J’ai hâte de vous lire.
  4. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL, Sp-En mod)

    French (lower Normandy)

    Ici, c'est un cas un peu particulier car il s'agit d'un adjectif + nom
    Sans l'adjectif, on aurait eu :
    (1) Sinon, nous nous exposons à des désillusions.
    (2) Nous avons pris des dispositions d'en prévenir une autre occurrence.

    Mais avec l'article "les", cela ne change pas :
    Les élèves arrivent
    Les nouveaux élèves arrivent

    Des élèves arrivent.
    De nouveaux élèves arrivent.

    Does it help?
  5. pieanne

    pieanne Senior Member

    Nice Hinterland
    But I don't see anything wrong with "des nouveaux vêtements". I'm afraid that, to me at least, it even sounds better than "de ..."
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 3, 2011
  6. pheelineerie

    pheelineerie Senior Member

    Lawrence, Kansas, USA
    American English
    Directly quoted from the Nouvelle Grammaire du Français de la Sorbonne:

    Lorsque le nom pluriel est précédé d'un adjectif, des est remplacé par de.


    J'ai acheté des roses.
    J'ai acheté de jolies roses.

    Ce jeune pianiste a fait des progrès.
    Ce jeune pianiste a fait de grands progrès.

    Mais l'article est conservé lorsque le groupe adjectif + nom est considéré comme un nom composé.

    Ex: des petits pois, des jeunes gens, des petites annonces, des grands magasins, des petites filles, des petites cuillères, des petits pains, des gros mots, etc.

    Résultats 1 - 10 sur un total d'environ 642 pour "des nouveaux vêtements".
    Résultats 1 - 10 sur un total d'environ 67 600 pour "de nouveaux vêtements".

    Still, I don't think it's that important when speaking. Lots of French speakers don't seem to bother with this rule!
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 3, 2011
  7. pieanne

    pieanne Senior Member

    Nice Hinterland
    I don't contest that... But I still don't agree!

    "Ils ont fait de grands progrès" sounds perfectly OK to my ears :) , but "de jolies roses" doesn't.
    I'd say "il n'y avait pas de jolies roses chez la fleuriste" = none
    but "j'ai acheté des jolies roses" = some/a few...

    Yet, I can't explain why...
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 3, 2011
  8. Julz Senior Member

    Thank you pheelineerie for that clarification. Well I thought that strictly speaking it would be "de nouveaux vetements", but not really learning grammar in a technical sense, I was unsure. Furthermore, when speaking and always saying "des" anyway (I think for ease and flow of speech), it increases the confusion.
    Thanks also for providing the results :) It's hard to know the grammar rules strictly when you don't learn it as a foreign language :(

    Edit: In response to pieanne, I know where you are coming from. I guess it's just for ease of speech, or better flow?
  9. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL, Sp-En mod)

    French (lower Normandy)
    I entirely agree with pheelineerie. It's the way I've been taught and I had been a bit distressed to hear things like "des nouvelles industries". Fortunately I was really happy to see that it was not correct. I think it's just easier as there is a rule and no exception.

    Agreed once more.
    I guess "des jolies roses" is becoming very common but is not grammatically correct for the moment though it's commonly used.
    I must say that since I've read the rule once again I feel better using "de", knowing that I'm right.
    Here it what I also found in my Bescherelle.
    At least it's easier for foreigners and natives as well as ears have nothing to do here ...
  10. born in newyork Senior Member

    New York
    La vie ne va pas sans de grands oublis.

    A quote from Balzac (La Cousine Bette).

    My question to the French speakers is:

    1) why isn't it "des" grands oublis?

    2) could we say the same thing without "de"? that is: "La vie ne vas pas sans grands oublis."
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 3, 2011
  11. Pikrass Member

    France - Français
    2) "La vie ne va pas sans grands oublis." is possible. ;) But personally I prefer "La vie ne va pas sans de grands oublis".

    For the first question... I don't know why...
  12. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL, Sp-En mod)

    French (lower Normandy)
    For "de" instead of "des", quite simple:
    when there is an adjective before the noun, "des" becomes "de":

    "des élèves sont arrivés"
    :cross: "des nouveaux élèves"
    is not correct
    -> "de nouveaux élèves"

    "des chiens"
    "des chiens noirs"
    "de petits chiens (noirs)" :)
  13. AllyApple Member

    Central France
    I live in France but my native language is English - I'm Scottish
    I'm confused by a phrase I've read - it says 'tu as toujours de beaux yeux'. Why is it 'de' and not 'des' with the eyes being plural?
  14. mnewcomb71 Senior Member

    Detroit, MI
    USA - English
    "Des" becomes "de" when the adjective precedes its antecedent.
  15. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL, Sp-En mod)

    French (lower Normandy)
    When a plural noun is qualified & preceded by an adjective, then "des" => "de" basically:
    "Tu as des yeux immenses"
    "Tu as des
    de beaux yeux"
  16. pouet Member

    France- French
    You can say both. "de" or "des" are grammatically correct in this case.
    In general, you can use "de" when it's plural if the adjective is before the name, like
    "on mange de bons fruits en été", or "il a de grandes oreilles",
    but not in any case, I believe there is no grammar rule about it...
  17. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    By the way please note that “Voici des belles roses” is correct as well, although not as formal as “Voici de belles roses”.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2011
  18. tilt

    tilt Senior Member

    Nord-Isère, France
    French French
    I'd never say Voici des belles roses, it sounds very odd to me, and not only in formal language.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 3, 2011
  19. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    It is indeed correct. Here is what Le Bon Usage says:
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2011
  20. itka Senior Member

    Nice, France
    Anyway, if you say :
    "J'ai acheté des belles roses"
    it would still be perceived as a mistake.
    Or course, you'll be understood but you'd be looking like a person who doesn't know the right grammar...
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2013
  21. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Let me disagree with you… It is indeed less elegant than de belles roses but not a mistake nor perceived as such – at least in Eastern France and Switzerland.

    Moreover des belles roses seems more natural in:
    Une belle rose, c'est bien ; des belles roses, c'est mieux !
    (when you want to stress that you have several roses rather than beautiful ones…)
    Last edited: May 8, 2013
  22. moiVendremoi New Member

    Canada, English
    Je passe beaucoup d'heures avec mes études pour obtenir des bons points.

    I used "des" in the sentence to describe what i got ("bon points" or "good grades"). is there a rule which obtenir is followed by? perhaps it is like beaucoup where it is only followed by "DE" and nothing else?
  23. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    It has nothing to do with obtenir and everything to do with the adjective bon that precedes points.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2016
  24. itka Senior Member

    Nice, France
    Je passe beaucoup de temps à mes études/à étudier pour obtenir des bons points.

    Mind ! Here, the words "bons points" is like "one word". It is not perceived as an adjective + noun... So we would say : des bons points.

    ... but are you really meaning "bon point"... or something else ?
    This word is usually used to mean a piece of paper with a nice picture that the teacher gives to a good young pupil, at the elementary school...

    I assume you mean "bonnes notes"... So, your sentence becomes :
    "Je passe beaucoup de temps à étudier pour obtenir de bonnes notes".

    de : according to the rule jann gave you.
  25. davideguada

    davideguada Senior Member

    Italy, Italian

    est-ce quelqu'un peut m'expliquer quand utiliser "des" et quand "de+pluriel"

    par ex

    Assurez-vous qu'ils veuillent apprendre et qu'ils aient le courage d'affronter des/de nouvelles situations

  26. ancel New Member

    Je ne sais pas exactement mais instinctivement je mets De nouvelles situations, et non pas Des nouvelles. Peut-être à l'oreille, ça me semble plus évident.
  27. VanOo

    VanOo Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Français - France
    Je pense que le problème vient en fait de 'nouveau'.

    We cannot say:
    'Découvrir de anciennes situations'.
    'Découvrir des anciennes situations'.

    Anyway, you can use 'des'.

    'De' is better but 'des nouvelles situations' is not wrong.

    I hope I could help you.
  28. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    You might be interested in section A.5 of this article.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 3, 2011
  29. Cracker Jack Senior Member

    de nouvelles situations
    d'anciennes situations
    d'autres situations

    If the partitive particle de is followed by adjective, even if it is in plural form, it should always be de and not des. However, if the adjective that follows starts with a vowel, the de should be contracted to d'.
  30. duhme

    duhme New Member

    USA - English
    des becomes de when the adjective precedes the noun.

    des fleurs, mais de belles fleurs.
  31. çamegonfle Senior Member

    French (France)
    I think it is important to precise that "Tu as des beaux vêtements" is also possible: "Tu as de beaux vêtements", that's something that you nearly only write.
  32. LandSurveyor Member

    USA, English (or "American" if you prefer)
    Salut tout le monde!

    Je pense que la bonne construction est "passer de bonnes vacances", par exemple, après les vacances, je pourrais dire à un collègue, "j'espère que tu as passé de bonnes vacances".

    Le truc est que je ne comprends pas pourquoi c'est "passer de" et pas "passer des" bonnes vacances. Les vacances sont pluriels, n'est-ce pas? Est-ce qu'il y a quelqu'un qui peut éclairer ma laterne?

    Merci d'avance!
  33. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL, Sp-En mod)

    French (lower Normandy)

    When a plural noun is preceded by an adjective, "des" becomes "de".
    "J'ai mangé des champignons (blancs)"
    "J'ai mangé de gros champignons"

    Supposedly, in colloquial language, you can say "des", but that's not what my grammar says :p

    I hope it's clearer :)
  34. mieumieu Member

    English/Spanish - Canada
    Je veux juste clarifier, est-ce qu'on dit "il a des bonnes lignes" ou "il a de bonnes lignes". Mon camarade pense que quand il y a un adjectif if faut dire "de" et pas "des".
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2008
  35. marget Senior Member

    Both are possible. I think that purists prefer de bonnes lignes.
  36. Punky Zoé

    Punky Zoé Senior Member

    France - français
    Not only the purists do ;), "des bonnes lignes" isn't totally incorrect but probably used in limited contexts. IMHO, I would rather say "de belles lignes", what are you talking about?
  37. marget Senior Member

    I also say de belles lignes, but I think that based on the rule as described in grammar books these days, the usage is changing and that many people consider des (as well as de, of course) to be perfectly correct in front of plural adjectives that precede the noun. I probably misused the term "purists".:eek:
  38. Tim~!

    Tim~! Senior Member

    Leicester, UK
    UK — English
    Je m'intéresse à des choses irregulières ou inattendues quand j'apprends de nouvelles langues.

    Une de ces choses en le français est que le forme 'des' se transforme en 'de' lorsque l'on ajoute un adjectif devant le nom. Par exemple, dans ma première phrase j'ai écrit "de nouvelles langues." Sans l'adjectif 'nouvelles' j'aurais mis "des langues."

    Je voudrais en savoir plus.

    Est-ce que ça fonctionne comme ça exclusivement si l'adjectif précède le nom, mais pas s'il le suit?

    J'ai lu recemment dans "L'histoire de la langue française" de Mireille Huchon que l'Académie officialisa cette règle, mais l'auteur ne le mentionne que dans une phrase, sans en donner plus de renseignements.

    Est-ce qu'il y a une histoire intéressante derrière ce changement (comme est le cas pour, par exemple, l'usage de l'article dans "l'on")? Si oui, je voudrais en lire.

    Merci :)
  39. Moon Palace

    Moon Palace Senior Member

    Hello Tim,

    When you have an adjective which is in front of the noun, the indefinite article automatically becomes de, as shows the example found on this site:

    For more on these articles and their use, you can look here (see Section A5)

    Hope it helps.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2009
  40. CapnPrep Senior Member


    Sans doute, mais cela remonte à très loin et on manque de renseignements pour comprendre tous les aspects du développement de l'article partitif depuis l'ancien français. Grevisse (§584, a) fournit quelques éléments de réponse à ta question.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 1, 2009
  41. Tim~!

    Tim~! Senior Member

    Leicester, UK
    UK — English
    Thanks for the rapid response.

    I understand what happens. What interests me is why, whether there is a history behind it.

    Is there any reason why "J'ai des fleurs" keeps its indefinite article when we postpone the adjective ("J'ai des fleurs rouges") but loses it once we decide to place an adjective in front ("J'ai de jolies fleurs")?

    I imagine that, for the Académie to authorise the change, there must be some logic or history behind it.

    Or is it just one of those quirks that we have to learn, and which just happens "because"?

    Thanks again :)

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 1, 2009
  42. Joelline

    Joelline Senior Member

    USA (W. Pennsylvania)
    American English

    I'm afraid that I can't give you a reason, but I can tell you that the "rule" has nothing to do with postponing adjectives. The rule is that des > de before a prenominal adjective:
    J'ai des fleurs.
    J'ai des fleurs rouges.
    J'ai de jolies fleurs.
    J'ai de jolies fleurs rouges.
  43. Fred_C

    Fred_C Senior Member

    Yes, but learners must perhaps know that this rule is just recommended, not really mandatory. (So they will not be puzzled when they see that sometimes, it is not applied)
  44. Tim~!

    Tim~! Senior Member

    Leicester, UK
    UK — English
    Thank you.

    I'll remember it as that then. In the same way as "a preceding direct object requires an agreement on past participles", I'll add "des changes to de before a prenominal adjective" to my memory.

    Thank you for articulating it for me, and also to those who took the time to respond and merge threads :)
  45. mattdelm Senior Member


    It is quite simple, some adjectives always come before nouns live bon, tres, grand (mostly the well used adjectives). But the other adjectives go after the noun (most of them).


    un grand livre
    un chat noir


    de bons resultats (plural adjective before noun)
    des chats noirs (plural adjective after the noun)

    I hope this makes Sense. For adjectives that are before the noun its always de.

  46. Mikebo

    Mikebo Senior Member

    English - UK
    Alors, je me trompe ou est-ce qu'il y a, en effet, une autre règle à prendre en compte?

    A savoir, dans le cas où "de" s'utilise comme pure préposition, sans valeur partitive, n'est il pas vrai qu'on dit "des" et non pas "de"?


    Histoire et mécanisme des grands pouvoirs de l'état (titre d'un livre)
    Union Chrétienne des Jeunes Gens du Sénégal
  47. Fred_C

    Fred_C Senior Member

    This is completely different.
    This "des" is the contraction of "de + les", the preposition followed by the definite plural article.

    We were talking about "des", the indefinite plural article, with no preposition, that becomes "de" when an adjective follows.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 3, 2011
  48. thbruxelles Senior Member

    French - France
    I am quite amazed that there are so many answers when we actually do not have any context or phrase.
    Depending on the situation we could have (for example)
    des belles fleurs
    de bien belles fleurs
    les belles fleurs que l'on m'a offertes

    The adjective comes before the noun though, right?
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2009
  49. Mikebo

    Mikebo Senior Member

    English - UK
    The original question:

    If adjectives come before the noun [excellent, bon etc.], do you use de [d'] or des?

    There is no mention of definite or indefinite (perhaps it was badly stated?)

    It was the first reply that turned the conversation in that direction.

    To answer the question fully, I felt it was necessary to make the distinction about de + les.
  50. Tim~!

    Tim~! Senior Member

    Leicester, UK
    UK — English
    OK, a few days after (re-)starting this thread, I can answer my own question, thanks to this piece of academic research on the subject "Opposition Entre De Et Des Devant Les Noms Précédés D'Epithète En Français." (Thanks to itka for the link.)

    I’ll summarise it here for others’ benefit, since it’s not the easiest thing to read as it’s written.

    From the paper
    The researchers use 14,500 examples of the construction, taken from corpora dating from 1601 to 1986.

    They confirm that both forms are used and suggest that it is linguistic "weight" which determines which of the two forms that people will choose. "Weight" could be simplified as whether an adjective is heavy or light, lighter adjectives being associated with 'des'.

    Going back to the introduction of the rule, they confirm that 'de' is used in 83.7% of the cases. However, this frequency in the sixteenth century seems to have depended on the location of the writer, the sample showing a southern writer occasionally using 'des' (in 14% of cases) whilst a northern writer uses 'de' exclusively.

    After the eighteenth century there is no longer any variation that can be attributed to location, usage being uniform in all areas of France.

    The sample now concerns exclusively the later half of the twentieth century. The researchers list four factors which determine which word one would choose.

    First factor: The level of language to be used
    As we may suppose ourselves, usage of 'des' springs up more readily when the text in question is less official than, say, treaties and essays. The peak is with online discussion forums like this one, where 'des' is used in around one third of instances.

    In the more formal writing, 'de' is nearly always preferred. Where 'des' is used, the researchers note that it accompanies specific adjectives that one might call 'light'. For example, they note that there are 617 uses of 'de' in academic texts against 30 of 'des'. Of these 30, 23 occur when the adjective is petit(e)s. Petit is considered to be a 'light' adjective, and its presence caused the academic authors to deviate from their customary 'de' (used in 95% of cases) to 'des'.

    Interestingly, there is one scenario in which 'des' greatly dominates. It is used in about 85% of cases of spoken French in the sample.

    Second factor: Liaison
    To get around contamination the researchers look only at samples which come from treaties.

    There were only 30 cases of 'des' being used and they noticed that 29 of them occurred where the noun concerned started with a consonant (the exception being des grands z-auteurs). In other words, there was no liaison. If words had a liaison, 'de' was always used, except in that one exception.

    Their theory is that liaison causes the word to seem bigger, lengthier, 'heavier’. As is usual with their findings, the lighter epithets take ‘des’ and the heavier ‘de’. Without liaison ‘de’ was used 86% of the time. Words with liaison (so heavier) saw ‘de’ used 92% of the time.

    Third factor: Accentuation
    Once an adjective is given more weight, uses of ‘des’ switch to ‘de’, in line with the central theory of this paper.

    There are two ways of increasing the weight of an adjective. One can either repeat it (“Je te fais de gros gros bisous”) or use a modifier (“Il a pris de très mauvaises habitudes”).

    Fourth factor: Grammatical gender
    The samples were tailored to correspond only to abstract nouns, in what the researchers called a bid to “éliminer autant que possible des facteurs sémantiques”.

    Masculine adjectives can be shorter than their feminine equivalents. In every sample that they looked at (newspapers, novels, magazines, online forums), masculine nouns stood a higher chance of being associated with ‘des’. Of the sample 22% of masculine adjectives were preceded by ‘des’, compared to 8% of feminine forms. Again, the procedure seems to be that we unknowingly opt for ‘des’ before lighter adjectives, and masculine adjectives are considered to be lighter than their feminine equivalents (since feminine forms often follow the formula “masculine adjective + some bit of information”).

    Tim’s overall summary
    So the “rule” (optional though it may be) has been in place for several centuries. At higher levels of French ‘de’ dominates. As the formality of the work decreases, the prevalence of ‘des’ increases. Nonetheless ‘de’ is still the more regularly used form. The only exception is in speech, in which case ‘des’ is used in about 85% of cases. (In this respect ‘des’ seems to map the English ‘gonna’.)

    Even at formal levels ‘des’ makes an appearance with certain adjectives, just because they are so light linguistically that it’s hard to curtail the instinct of doing applying 'des' to them.

    Light adjectives which would normally be fronted with ‘des’ can become heavier in a number of ways.

    1) When there is liaison between the adjective and the noun that it describes, the adjective becomes something heavier, owing to the increase in length.

    2) When an adjective is doubled or modified by an adverb, its linguistic weight is increased and popular usage turns what may have been ‘des’ into ‘de’.

    3) Finally an adjective that we subconsciously treat as light in its masculine form and to which we accord ‘des’ may fall under the heavier category when we use it in its feminine form. Samples show that it is nearly three times as common to apply ‘des’ to the masculine adjective as it is to the feminine.

    Really fascinating stuff :)

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