FR: de / du / de la / des

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by loclive, Sep 1, 2006.

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  1. loclive New Member

    GA USA
    English (US)
    Moderator note: multiple threads merged to create this one.

    Hello everyone! I majored in French in college, and I'm still confused as to why certain expressions take de while others form du/de la/des/etc. For example, un peu de . . . where it's always de whereas other expressions, i.e. l'histoire de l'art, keep the article (le/la/les). Why is it not histoire d'art? It's easier to say.

    Could someone please clarify? Is it as simple as memorizing the few expressions that take de, or does it have to do with meaning?? I am especially perplexed by the words l'absence de and la perte de which appear in a recent translation project. Any advice on these two specific constructions? Would it be l'absence de ou du desir? Thanks for your help.

  2. OlivierG

    OlivierG Senior Member

    Toulouse, France
    France / Français
    Hi, Loclive,

    It's a difficult question. As a French speaker, this comes quite naturally, and I haven't to think about it when speaking, so I can be wrong in my explanation.

    In your example, both "l'absence de désir" and "l'absence du désir" can be said, but with a slight difference in meaning.

    When using "de", it's a matter of quantity. "Désir" is taken as something that can be present in various "quantity" (beaucoup de désir, peu de désir, pas (or "absence de") désir).
    When using "du" (replaces "de le"), "désir" is taken as a whole, a concept. It can be present or not.

    However, there are probably some other cases in which my explanation doesn't help.
    Probably somebody else here will be able to provide a more complete answer?
  3. :-) Junior Member

    i didn't understood when do i need to use:
    de la


    P.S sorry about the title i read the rules just now [edit]
  4. RuK Senior Member

    Outside Paris
    English/lives France
    They all mean of or some. I want some butter - butter (beurre) is masculine singular, so du. […]
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2011
  5. femmefee

    femmefee Senior Member

    I hope you understand the basic cntractions:
    de le = du
    de les = des...
    le and la are definite articles and they mean a specific thing. e.g. Je mange le formage; Tu manges de la glace (ice-cream is f., you use de la)

    du, de la and des are partitive articles, means some, any, an unspecified quantity of something. e.g. Ce magasin vend du pain; des spaghetti (plural).

    However, when an expression of quantity introduces a noun, No article is used. Compare:
    Tu manges de la glace.
    Tu manges trop de glace.

    Hope this helps.:)
  6. :-) Junior Member

    thanks it helped
    but what about "de" when it appears without "la"
    when do i use it?
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2011
  7. femmefee

    femmefee Senior Member

    In a negative construction, the partitive and indefinite articles change to de, usually meaning (not) any.
    Nous ne voudrions pas de lait.
    Or if you want to stress the negative aspect:
    Je n'ai pas de sous.
    When the plural indefinite or partitive article is used with an adjective that precedes a noun, des changes to de:
    J'ai mangé des tomates. :)

  8. agrouba

    agrouba Banned

    Arabic ;)

    when shoudl we use du, and when should we use de or de la ?

  9. Bix

    Bix Senior Member

    Brussels, Belgium
    French - Belgium

    It all depends on your context ...

    "du" = "de le" , qui n'existe pas.
    Son féminin est "de la" (ou "de l' " si le mot qui suit commence par une voyelle)
    -> "La femme du médecin"
    -> "Le frère de la directrice"
    -> "Le début de l'événement"

    Il y a aussi "du" et "de la" utilisé comme article partitif (see definition on fr.wikipedia, I am not allowed to post links yet)
    -> "Je voudrais du pain"
    -> "Il voudrait de la farine"
    -> "Je voudrais de l'eau"

    "De" ou "D' " est utilisé seul quand ce qui suit est indéfini ou fait partie d'une expression :
    -> "J'ai vu beaucoup de gens"
    -> "Homme de loi"
    -> "Femme de chambre" (=Maiden, in a hotel)

    Il existe aussi le partitif négatif (et donc indéfini) :
    -> "Il me reste peu de nourriture"

    Is that ok ? If not, give us situational examples :)
  10. Moana86 Junior Member

    USA, Indonesia: English

    Quand est-ce qu'on utilise "de" au lieu de "du," "de la" ou "des"?
    Par exemple:
    politisation de la sexualité
    droits de l'homme
    modes de vie
    risque d'exploitation

    Je ne vois pas de diffèrence entre l'usage de "de la" dans le premièr exemple et de juste "de" dans le dernier. On ne dirait pas "politicization of the sexuality" en anglais, par exemple. On dirait juste "of" et donc "risk d'exploitation" me semble plus logique. Ègalement, il semble que "mode de vie" n'en nécessiterait pas ("lifestyles" et pas "styles of life" ou bien "styles of the life"), mais quant aux autres? Aucune idée.

    Est-ce que c'est une fonction du nom ou est-ce qu'il y a un règle qu'on suit? Merci d'avance!
  11. Canard Senior Member

    Portland, OR
    English, USA
    Ce n'est pas une question de ce qu'on dirait en anglais :) mais du fait qu'en français quand on veut parler d'une idée dans un sens plus large, on ajoute l'article.

    Les deux premiers font référence aux idées elle-mêmes de la sexualité ou de l'homme en général: la politisation, mais de la sexualité dans son entier; les droits, mais d'abord l'homme et ses droits à lui. Dans "un risque d'exploitation", il n'est pas question d'une abstraction de l'exploitation (l'idée), mais surtout d'un risque qui est caracterisé par l'exploitation (qualifie le risque).

    D'autres exemples:

    La vie et la liberté sont essentielles au bonheur de l'homme.

    Les problèmes de remboursement qu'il a depuis longtemps ont été empirés par son ignorance des bonnes manières.

    Il y avait un grand danger de déflagration.

    J'espère que ça éclarcit un peu les choses :)
  12. lordterrin

    lordterrin Senior Member

    Sydney, Australia
    American English
    Hello there,

    I'm having a lot of trouble knowing when to use the proper partitive. I thought I understood it, but on the last paper I got back from my teacher most of my mistakes were in regards to this topic. Let me know over what I think is correct, and then you all can correct me :)

    de la - used with singular feminine nouns
    je bois de la thé

    du (de le) - used with singluar masculine nouns
    je bois du café

    des - used with fem. and masc. plural nouns
    je mange des poivres
    j'aime des femmes

    d' - (??)used when the noun begins with a vowel sound.

    The thing that I'm trouble on is determining when to use "des" and when to use "d'". It seems that maybe if the noun following the partitive begins with a vowel sound, you use d', even if it's plural? I'm not sure...

    So I'm not sure in the following example what to use...

    des hommes

    I appreciate your help!

  13. BillyTheBanana Senior Member

    Pennsylvania, USA
    USA, English
    The last bit is somewhat more complex. First of all, d' never replaces des, only de. However, things get a bit tricky when you want to use the partitive immediately after the preposition de. In that case, the partitive is simply omitted. For example, you've probably learned the expression "J'ai besoin de" which means "I need." Let's say you want to translate

    I need some apples.

    At first glance, you might want to say, "J'ai besoin de des pommes." However, because this partitive follows the preposion de, the partitive is dropped and you're left with:

    J'ai besoin de pommes.

    And of course if the following noun starts with a vowel sound, de becomes d' as in

    J'ai besoin d'oranges.

    However, let's say you want to refer to some specific apples sitting on the table in front of you that you need, so you want to say "I need the apples." Here is a case where "de + les" = des and you have

    J'ai besoin des pommes.

    So here you have "des pommes," but it is NOT the partitive. I hope I made the difference clear.

    Does that answer your question?
  14. lordterrin

    lordterrin Senior Member

    Sydney, Australia
    American English
    dude... you are the MAN. Yes, this answers (most) of my questions. I am writing a paper and the following two examples were marked incorrect by my teacher, but I'm not sure why.

    "..ou un groupe des hommes..." the des was crossed out an replaced by d', but I'm not sure if it's because hommes starts with a vowel sound, or because un groupe is singular.

    Second, in the phrase "...Ce film m'a causé d'aimer des ordinateurs," the des was crossed out and nothing was given to replace it. In both cases, the word following des starts with a vowel sound, so I'm confused as to what I am doing wrong.
  15. Ramya New Member

    India - Tamil
    To add on to this, there is another rule with “de”. It can be used only with verbs like “prendre” or “manger”. Verbs “aimer”, “adorer”, “detester” etc. take only article défini (“le”, “la”, “l’”, “les”) if they stand for something generic.
    Eg: Veux-tu manger quelque chose? - specificity
    - Oui, je mangerai des pommes/de la pomme.
    (I shall take some apples/apple)
    Aimes-tu les pommes? (Do you like apples) - generality
    - Oui, je les aime.
    This is why the second phrase of yours does not have any partitive article. It will take “les” and not “des”.
    Another important rule shall be with the negative sentence using “de”. In negation, “des” or “de la” or “du” shall change into “de” or “d’”.
    For eg: Je ne mange pas de pommes.
    Je n’ai pas besoin d’eau.
    Hope this helps.. J
  16. Fred_C

    Fred_C Senior Member

    Hi, the "des" was crossed out, because since "un groupe" needs the preposition "de", (a group OF), des cannot be the partitive article, it has got to be the contraction of "de + les".
    So, if you say "un groupe des hommes", you mean "a group of the men", which is certainly wrong in your context.
    your teacher replaced by "un groupe d'hommes", which is the contraction of "un groupe (de+des) hommes", as Ramya beautifully explained it.

    Note :
    Ramya said that "des" is the partitive plural, like some grammars do, but other grammars might say that it is the indefinite plural, i.e the plural of "un" or "une". (une pomme -> des pommes : an apple -> apples)
  17. Fred_C

    Fred_C Senior Member

    You might want to read this thread, and this one.
    They answer exactly the same question as yours.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2011
  18. gaylep Senior Member

    Michigan, USA
    English - USA

    Je voudrais vous demander quand on utilise "de" vs. "des", par exemple dans la phrase:

    Dans un moment de/du desespoir, j'ai fume une cigarette.

    Merci d'avance!
  19. tie-break Senior Member

    Dans un moment de désespoir, j'ai fumé une sigarette.

    Au bout du désespoir, le chemin s'arrête ou remonte.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2011
  20. itka Senior Member

    Un moment de désespoir
    Une heure de gloire
    Des jours de pluie
    Des mois de travail
    Cinq minutes d'angoisse
    Une seconde d'incompréhension
    Une semaine de vacances au soleil
    "Cent Ans de Solitude" (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

    Toujours "de" (ou d' devant une voyelle) ;)
  21. johnp

    johnp Senior Member

    In these instances the first noun is an expression of quantity and normally just "de/d'" is used. You can include the definite article, hence du, de la, de l' or des if you need the word the to point out something specific about the expression of quantity. For example:

    a lot of students = beaucoup d'élèves
    a lot of the students = beaucoup des élèves
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