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FR: un/de/du + adjectif + nom au singulier

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

  1. tobywashere Junior Member

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

    Moderator note: Multiple threads have been merged to create this one. If you are interested in what article to use before plural nouns, see this thread.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2011
  2. marget Senior Member

    If the noun is singular, use the entire partitive article: du bon pain, for example
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2011
  3. Joelline

    Joelline Senior Member

    USA (W. Pennsylvania)
    American English
    In some circumstances, you would want to use the indefinite article (un, une): Elle a fait de beaux enfants. > > Elle a fait un bel enfant.
     
  4. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    French grammars often suggest that the partative becomes de before adjectives which precede their noun, not just for plurals.

    But il a de bon vin sounds strange to me: wouldn't people more naturally say il a du bon vin?

    How about nous avons de bon papier? It again sounds strange to me.

    The other case where the partative is reduced to de is after a negative.

    Il n'a pas de vin not il n'a pas du vin

    Nous n'avons pas de bon vin - de, not because of the adjective, but because of the negative.

    What do you think?
     
  5. tilt

    tilt Senior Member

    Nord-Isère, France
    French French
    That's wrong. De replaces des only for plural.
    Whit singular, you may use de la or du, which is the contraction of de le:
    Il a du bon vin.
    Il a de bons vins.
    Nous avons du bon papier.
    Nous avons
    de bons papiers.
    That's right.
     
  6. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    There is a case where de replaces the full partitive, even with a singular: if the adjective begins a vowel, e.g.

    d'excellent vin.
     
  7. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod

    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    Are you sure? ;) :p
    J'ai de l'excellent vin chez moi
    J'ai d'excellents vins chez moi
     
  8. tilt

    tilt Senior Member

    Nord-Isère, France
    French French
    That's true, but elision and partitive replacement before an adjective are two different things.
    De is elided even without an adjective preceding the noun, if the noun itself starts with a vowel: Je n'ai pas de tante but Je n'ai pas d'oncle.
     
  9. tilt

    tilt Senior Member

    Nord-Isère, France
    French French
    Yes DP, Geostan is right. One can say une cave pleine d'excellent vin.
     
  10. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    That's what I was taught. I must admit that your example makes me stop and think, but "de l'excellent vin" sounds odd to me. I think I would say "un excellent vin" to avoid the "de l'."

    Another exception has occurred to me. If the phrase is further qualiified by an adverb, then "de" is obligatory whether the noun is singular or plural.

    Il vient d'acheter de très bon pain chez le boulanger.
     
  11. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    However, in this case, the partitive article is omitted because of the preposition "de."

    du bon vin
    plein de

    On ne peut pas dire: plein de du bon vin, alors on omet le partitif.
     
  12. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod

    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    Vous préférez peut-être de l'eau, alors ? :( :p

    Strange. I don't know what you don't like about "de l'", it occurs quite a lot ...

    I'm afraid it should be "du" :eek:
    du très bon pain
    du super bon pain
    du bon pain
    de l'excellent pain


    Tricky indeed!
     
  13. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    De l'eau is fine. There is no adjective in front of the noun.

    As for the other part of my comment, if, in fact, the use of the full partitive is currently common in the cases I've indicated, then my French is a little behind the times for this construction.

    Cheers!
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2011
  14. tilt

    tilt Senior Member

    Nord-Isère, France
    French French
    Un excellent vin refers to a single wine (Un Château Laffitte 1987, for example).
    De l'excellent vin means excellent wine, whichever the number of wines, just like d'excellent vin.
    Nous avons bu de l'excellent vin doesn't say how many different wines we drunk.

    I'm sorry but it's wrong!
    You may say Il vient d'acheter de très bons pains chez le boulanger or Il vient d'acheter du très bon pain chez le boulanger, but not what you suggested.
     
  15. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    You should avoid the word "wrong" in a topic like this. You may say that it is not currently used, or that in your opinion, it is more usual to say..., etc. but I can defend the usage that I discuss on the forums. It may be dated, as I suggested earlier, but it is definitely not wrong.

    Cheers!
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2011
  16. tilt

    tilt Senior Member

    Nord-Isère, France
    French French
    Well, let's say I'm as sure it's wrong as you are when stating:
    ;)
     
  17. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    Then what is wrong is the word "obligatory," not the construction.
     
  18. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I'm always very careful to avoid using words like wrong to describe another person's stated view in a post, because it can seem illiberal, because it suggests that the other person hasn't really considered his view with care, or been to any trouble to find out if what he is saying is correct, and because it can, in my experience provoke antagonism. I prefer to hedge my bets with a lot of in my view's and I have always been led to understand's.

    Now I find myself accused of being wrong, and wonder where my error lies.

    French grammars often suggest that the partative becomes de before adjectives which precede their noun, not just for plurals seems the obvious candidate. But I didn't write those words lightly, and I am, however careless I may seem, meticulous about checking facts before putting forward a view which might be incorrect, and misleading, not to say wrong.

    Rather than giving a list of authorities going back to the 17th century including Maupas and Vaugelas, I will cite Grévisse: Le français correct (1973): De bon Tabac: Devant un groupe <adjectif + nom>, au lieu de du, de la, de l’, la langue écrite ou soignée emploie, pour marquer le sens partitif, le simple de : De bon tabac (Académie) – Ils burent de mauvais thé (E. Henriot).


    I don't think my statement that French grammars make this suggestion can be considered wrong. I don't propose to take it back.
     
  19. sensa Senior Member

    Canada
    English, Canada
    I have just finished reading about rules when to use indefinite articles:

    En francais soutenu, l'article indefini se change en de (ou d') devant un nom precede d'un adjectif ou apres une negation absolue.

    This means "un, une, des" change to "de" in 2 situations:
    1) in a sentence where an adjective preceeds a noun
    2) in a negative sentence

    is that correct?

    Here are 2 examples my book gives me of both of these situations:

    1) Voici de belles roses
    2) Je n'ai pas de stylo

    But, in this sentence (which is another example of a sentence where an adjective preceeds a noun) they use "un" when I would have put "de":

    Il a une petite difficulte.

    I guess in the description of when to use "de" instead of "un, une, des", they should have added that sentences with an adjective preceeding a noun must also be plural?
     
  20. hikingnicoo New Member

    France french
    This means "un, une, des" change to "de" in 2 situations:
    1) in a sentence where an adjective preceeds a noun
    Not exactly. That is true with a plural noun : "Ce sont de vraies histoires"
    When an adjective follows a noun : ce sont des histoires vraies
    singular : c'est une histoire vraie
    2) in a negative sentence
    Right
     
  21. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Your guess is correct :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2011
  22. tilt

    tilt Senior Member

    Nord-Isère, France
    French French
    [If you read this thread] you'll discover (as I did!) that de should be used even if the noun is singular, in formal language!
    I agree noone follows this rule nowadays, but it exists. Thus we should say il a de petite difficulté.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2011
  23. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    That's right but it is very literate – even old-fashioned or perceived as incorrect – and, as you said, nobody ever uses it nowadays – even novel writers. Therefore I guess we should not bother our English speaking friends with it… :p Here is what Le Bon Usage (Grevisse) says:
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2011
  24. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    Mais la règle porte sur l'article partitif, pas l'article indéfini singulier. On ne pourrait jamais dire Il a de petite difficulté.

    N'est-ce pas?
     
  25. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Well it apparently would be possible… But quoting myself:
     
  26. tilt

    tilt Senior Member

    Nord-Isère, France
    French French
    Honnêtement, j'avoue m'être bien posé la question aussi, et je ne sais plus que penser.

    Spontanément, je serais plutôt de ton avis. Mais selon l'exemple de Grévisse dans le thread que j'ai cité, on peut dire Ils burent de mauvais thé (singulier) aussi bien que Ils burent de mauvais thés (pluriel).

    En supprimant l'adjectif mauvais de ces phrase, on obtient :
    • Ils burent de mauvais thés -> Il burent des thés.
    Ils burent de mauvais thé -> Ils burent... un ou du thé ?
    Personnellement j'opterais pour un, car j'y vois le singulier de des. Si c'est bien le cas, pourquoi la phrase Il a une difficulté ne deviendrait-elle pas Il a de petite difficulté ?

    J'ai "de" grosse difficulté, pour le coup !
     
  27. tilt

    tilt Senior Member

    Nord-Isère, France
    French French
    Honnêtement, j'avoue m'être bien posé la question aussi, et je ne sais plus que penser.

    Spontanément, je serais plutôt de ton avis.
    Mais selon l'exemple de Grévisse dans le thread que j'ai cité, on peut dire Ils burent de mauvais thé (singulier) aussi bien que Ils burent de mauvais thés (pluriel).

    En supprimant l'adjectif mauvais de ces phrase, on obtient :
    • Ils burent de mauvais thés -> Il burent des thés.
    Ils burent de mauvais thé -> Ils burent... un ou du thé ?
    Personnellement j'opterais pour un, car j'y vois le singulier de des. Si c'est bien le cas, pourquoi la phrase Il a une difficulté ne deviendrait-elle pas Il a de petite difficulté ?

    J'ai une grosse difficulté, pour le coup !
     
  28. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    Mais ce n'est pas la même chose. de mauvais thé est partitif, une petite difficulté est l'article indéfini singulier.

    Cheers!
     
  29. tilt

    tilt Senior Member

    Nord-Isère, France
    French French
    Si effectivement on a affaire à un partitif, ce que je veux bien admettre, alors contrairement à ce que j'ai supposé depuis le début, Ils burent de mauvais thé (article partitif) n'est pas le singulier de Ils burent de mauvais thés (article indéfini).

    Ceci expliquerait la confusion qui est la mienne !
    Et Hikingnicoo aurait finalement raison : devant un qualificatif du nom, de remplace tout article partitif (singulier comme pluriel), mais l'article indéfini uniquement s'il est pluriel.

    C'est ça ?
     
  30. hikingnicoo New Member

    France french
    Il a de petites difficultés

    "Ils burent de mauvais thés" which is quite different that "Ils burent du mauvais thé".
    But "ils burent de mauvais thé" is incorrect.
     
  31. tilt

    tilt Senior Member

    Nord-Isère, France
    French French
    No, it's not! :p
    It's old-fashioned, literary, very formal and almost noone would say it, but it's not.
    See there (same thread […], but directly to the related post this time).
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2011
  32. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    C'est bien ça. J'ajouterais seulement que l'article partitif de par sa nature n'a pas de pluriel. Des est le pluriel de un/une.

    Et je suis d'accord avec vous que la forme de bon vin n'est pas incorrect, seulement désuet. Pour certains, je suppose, c'est la même chose.

    Cheers!
     
  33. itka Senior Member

    France
    français
    Mais oui, le pluriel de l'article partitif existe bien. Seulement il est rare !
    Il s'agit de prendre "une partie" de quelque chose de non-comptable, au pluriel. Il n'y a pas tellement d'exemples, mais ceux qu'on donne habituellement sont bien des partitifs :
    il mange des épinards
    il mange des rillettes

    et bien sûr, à la forme négative, il devient de :
    il ne mange pas d'épinards
    il ne mange pas de rillettes
     
  34. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    Me voilà corrigé! Mauger dit en effet qu'on peut avoir un partitif pluriel lorsque le nom en question n'a pas de singulier. Je n'y avais jamais pensé. Ah! il y a tant de choses à apprendre!

    Cheers!
     
  35. tilt

    tilt Senior Member

    Nord-Isère, France
    French French
    Exactement. Pour un nom donné, l'article partitif est unique, soit singulier, soit pluriel.
     
  36. 1amateurdechopin Senior Member

    Polish, English
    Bonjour,

    I was reading one of the threads and I came across this expression: "(Vous faites du) bon travail. Continuez comme ça !" Shouldn't it be "Vous faites de bon travail"?? Merci d'avance!
     
  37. çamegonfle Senior Member

    French (France)
    faire de quelque chose (non comptable)

    "Vous faîtes de le bon travail"
    le travail
    "de le" = "du"
    donc: "Vous faîtes du bon travail."

    exemple féminin:
    Vous faîtes de la soupe.
    la soupe
    "de la" = "de la" ;-)
     
  38. SophiePaquin Senior Member

    Northern Saskatchewan
    English-Canada
    Mais, il y a le régle qui nous dit que quand l'adjectif précède le nom c'est toujours 'de'

    Par exemple:
    Tu as de beaux vêtements.
    Il a de longs cheveux.

    Pourquoi cela n'applique pas ici?
     
  39. 1amateurdechopin Senior Member

    Polish, English
    Voilà. C'était ma question! Pourquoi est-ce qu'on ne dit pas "de bon travail"?
     
  40. Punky Zoé

    Punky Zoé Senior Member

    Pau
    France - français
    Bonjour

    Il s'agit ici du partitif "du", travail étant un mot non comptable. Cela signifie : de manière générale, vous travaillez bien".

    S'il s'agissait d'un travail particulier on dirait : "vous avez fait un bon travail"
     
  41. çamegonfle Senior Member

    French (France)
    avoir de quelque chose (non comptable)

    Vous avez du parfum.
    Vous avez du bon parfum.
    le parfum

    I think it's because it's plural. I guess the rule is: in plural, you can say both:
    Tu as de les beaux vêtements.
    le vêtement, les vêtements
    de les = des
    donc: Tu as des beaux vêtements. (formal + informal)
    Tu as de beaux vêtements. (formal)

    mais c'est toujours: Tu as des vêtements.
     
  42. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod

    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    Just to say that I agree with Punky Zoe.
    Je veux de la grenadine / des frites / du chocolat
    (some chocolate)
    "du" est partitif

    "des" becomes "de" when the adjective is before a plural noun:
    "J'ai des vêtements"
    "J'ai de beaux vêtements"


    To say that is the verb "avoir de quelque chose" is wrong I think.
    avoir + object direct
    -> J'ai [un frère]
    -> J'ai [du chocolat]

    That's the same verb, functioning the same way in both cases.
     
  43. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    This thread is very interesting on this point. In particular it looks at the view that the partative becomes de before (adjective + noun) only in the plural, a view I've heard from more than one French speaker, but for which I can find no confirmation among authorities on grammar.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2011
  44. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    In [this] thread, you already quoted Grevisse saying that the reduction to de with singulars is formal ("langue écrite ou soignée"), and others confirmed that this is not what French speakers would normally say.

    It is also quite clear in Le bon usage (§584 in the 14th edition) :
    So, yes, you are 100% correct, but I would not recommend to anyone trying to communicate in spoken or written French today to use de in the singular.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2011
  45. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    That's interesting, CapnPrep. Thank you.

    I wonder if the difference between singular and plural shift of the partative comes from the fact that you only use it in the singular for non-countable things - the singular of de bonnes cerises is une bonne cerise - and so not very often.

    This maybe makes a usage recommended by people like Vaugelas sound very strange to modern French speakers.
     
  46. roymail Senior Member

    Ardenne Belgium
    french (belgian)
    It doesn't sound so strange ! Tu as de beaux vêtements (pronounced d'beaux vêtements) is sometimes heard. But, yes, it's essentially written french.

    Moderator note: The discussion about whether or not de is partitive in such examples has been moved here.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2011

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