Using du, de la, de l', des to express some or any (partitive articles)

Look at how to say some (or any in questions) in French: 

Tu veux du café?
Do you want some coffee?

Je mets de la confiture sur ma tartine.
I put (some) jam on my toast.

Tu as de l'argent?
Do you have (any) money?

Tu veux des pommes de terre?
Do you want some potatoes?

Est-ce que tu as de la farine?
Do you have any flour?

When things are countable (dogs, cars etc.) and you want to say some, you use des.
 
E.g.   Il y a des chiens.            
        There are some dogs.
        There are dogs.
 
Notice how in English you can omit the some: NOT in French! See Plurals of the and a = les and des (articles).
 
However, with uncountable things, we use du, de la, de l' to say some, as such:

Feminine noun la confiture de la
Je mange de la confiture.
(I eat some jam.)

Masculine noun le pain du

Il achète du pain.
(He buys some bread.)

Noun starting with a vowel
or mute h

l'huile de l'
Tu achètes de l'huile.
(You buy some oil.)

 

Note that some words can be both countable and not countable, for example chocolat, can mean chocolate (in general) or chocolates (individual sweets). Depending on which it is, use the correct article, like this:

J'ai des chocolats dans ma poche. (I have some chocolates in my pockets.)
Je veux du chocolat tout de suite. (I want some chocolate right now.) 
ATTENTION: partitive articles behave differently in negative sentences (ne...pas) See the related lesson: Du, de la, de l', des all become de or d' in negative sentences (partitive articles).
Grammar jargon: Names for uncountable things like milk are sometimes called mass nouns as well as uncountable nouns
Partitive articlesdu, de la, & de l' (some/any) are used with mass nouns. Definite articles (le, la, l', les) and indefinite articles (un/une/des) are used with countable nouns.

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Est-ce que tu as de la farine?
Do you have any flour?



=


Tu veux du café?
Do you want some coffee?


Tu veux des pommes de terre?
Do you want some potatoes?


Tu as de l'argent?
Do you have (any) money?


Je mets de la confiture sur ma tartine.
I put (some) jam on my toast.


Q&A

renwa

Kwiziq community member

1 September 2018

1 reply

you said that we use des only with countable nouns, does that means that uncountable nouns are treated as singular in french ?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

3 September 2018

3/09/18

Hi Renwa,

You will use du, de la, de l' (some) for uncountable nouns which are singular articles: 

J'ai de la confiture d'abricot, si vous préférez? = I have some apricot jam if you prefer?

Il y a du bon chocolat dans le placard. = There is some good chocolate in the cupboard.

Nous avons de l'argent à changer en arrivant. We have some money to change on arrival.

Hope this helps!

xuan

Kwiziq community member

23 July 2018

4 replies

de l'argent ou d'argent?

what's the differnece between de l'argent ou d'argent?

and how to use them? thank you!

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

24 July 2018

24/07/18

Hi Xuan,

In the lesson de l'argent can mean 'some' or 'any'. e.g.

J'ai de l'argent à te donner =I have some money to give you

Vous avez de l'argent en Euros? Do you have any money in Euros?

In what context have you seen 'd'argent'?

Normally when argent means 'silver' , we will use 'en',

i.e. Elle a un beau collier en argent= She had a pretty silver necklace.

Hope this helps!

 

Chris

Kwiziq community member

24 July 2018

24/07/18

Or in J'ai peu d'argent.-- I have little money.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

xuan

Kwiziq community member

25 July 2018

25/07/18

Hi Cécile!

thanks for your reply! it's helpful for me.

somme d'argent

jeux d'argent

they are from google translation. 

thanks again!

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

26 July 2018

26/07/18

Of course as in,

beaucoup d'argent ( a lot of money)pas d'argent (no money)

Not particular to 'argent' ...

Hugh

Kwiziq community member

26 April 2018

5 replies

'mange du pain' vs 'mange le pain'

Hi there; apologies if this question has been asked and dealt with before. I have just been told that, as a translation of Aurelie eats bread, 'Aurelie mange le pain' is incorrect, with 'Aurelie mange du pain' being the correct answer. I can understand how, if the English was Aurelie is eating bread one would write 'du pain', because Aurelie can only ever be eating some bread at a given moment. I also understand how Aurelie mange le pain would lead one to infer that the sentence is referring to a specific piece of bread that Aurelie is eating. However, surely in English, one of the major connotations of Aurelie eats bread, is that it is a general statement about one of the kinds of food that Aurelie eats (in the same way that one might say Aurelie eats meat (ie Aurelie isn't a vegetarian). And if it is a general statement, then one is effectively saying that Aurelie will eat any bread that is put in front of her. In other words, she doesn't as a general rule, only eat some bread ('du pain') she eats all breads ('le pain'). In which case, shouldn't Aurelie mange le pain be marked correct? What am I missing here? Thanks in advance!

Chris

Kwiziq community member

26 April 2018

26/04/18

Hi Hugh,

Aurélie mange du pain. -- That's the general statement, without reference to any specific piece or kind of bread. In English you might translate this as:

Aurélie eats (some) bread.
Aurélie is eating (some) bread.

Aurélie mange le pain. -- This versions has the connotation that you are talking about a specific piece of bread that has been talked about before in the context of the sentence. A possible translation to English would be:

Aurélie eats the bread.
Aurélie is eating the bread.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Hugh

Kwiziq community member

26 April 2018

26/04/18

Hi there; thanks for this.

I'm not sure it addresses my central query: if the statement Aurelie eats bread is intended to signify that, as a general rule, Aurelie is an eater of bread (Do you take sugar in your tea?, I am allergic to mushrooms, He loves biscuits, might all be  a similar sort of statement), then how would one write that in French?

Alan

Kwiziq community member

26 April 2018

26/04/18

But Hugh's point, which I agree with, is that "Aurelie eats bread" would only be used in the sense that Aurelie is not, say, allergic to bread. So it's similar to "Aurelie likes bread" or "Aurelie dislikes bread". Compare that to the example "Il déteste le café" in this lesson:

https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/use-le-la-l-or-les-before-nouns-when-generalising-definite-articles

Chris

Kwiziq community member

27 April 2018

27/04/18

Well, I am not sure I can explain it any different than I did in my previous post:

"Je suis végétarien mais je mange du pain." -- That's the general statement.

"Je mange le pain qui reste sur la table." -- That's with reference to a specific piece of bread.

The verb "aimier" is different in this respect:

J'aime le pain. -- I like bread. This is the general statement for aimer. But not for manger.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

P.S.: I have talked to two French native speakers about this and the corroborate my understanding.

Alan

Kwiziq community member

27 April 2018

27/04/18

You added one new thing in this post - the verb aimer is different. This is definitely the key issue. I've seen it described in grammar books as verbs of preference, so also includes préferer, adorer, détester etc. But the question is whether it really only applies to a specific list of verbs, or also to other verbs when a generalisation is involved.

I would like to get the opinion of one of the experts on this site.

Nancy

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

2 replies

I don’t understand how Julie beut du chocolat can mean Julie wants some chocolate and Julie wants chocolate

Chris

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

3/04/18

The sentence "Julie veut du chocolat." can be literally translated as, "Julie wants of the chocolate." This obviously doesn't work in English very well. In English you would say, "Julie wants some chocolate.", meaning she wants a part of some indeterminate amount of chocolate. Equally possible is the English translation, "Julie wants chocolate.", without the "some". In both cases it is a part of some indeterminate amount of chocolate.

However, if you happen to have some sweets in your pocket as, e.g., some pieces of chocolate, you could say, "Tu veux des chocolats?", which is a different question from "tu veux du chocolate?".

Tu veux des chocolats? -- Do you want some sweets?
Tu veux du chocolate? -- Do you want (some) chocolate?

I hope this helps, -- Chris (not a native speaker).

Nancy

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2018

4/04/18

Thanks so much for your answer. That is bit somewhat clearer I guess but still a little confusing. I am sure it will make more sense the more I know. The problem is not being in a sutuation where you do not use the language day to day and don’t get the inscand outs of the language. 

Tom Rune

Kwiziq community member

3 January 2018

4 replies

Plural partitive?

Some sources name a "plural partitive" - des. This lesson doesn't though. I can't really see how something could be uncountable and plural at the same time. Would you agree?

Nigel

Kwiziq community member

5 January 2018

5/01/18

Other articles in this course describe des as a partitive e.g. https://french.kwiziq.com/my-languages/french/view/23 , or describe des as a partitive article. I think that using "uncountable" as the definition sends us on the wrong track. I think that saying partitive singular is for when the number is not relevant, or not inferred, rather than uncountable e.g. "some tea". Partitive plural is for when there is clearly more than one of the object referred to e.g "some teas". For example: Did you try some tea? Singular partitive, uncountable (or more exactly, counting is a meaningless concept in the context) Essayez vous du the? Did you try some teas? i.e. different types of tea, and you could count the number of teas you tried. Essayez vous des thes?

Nigel

Kwiziq community member

5 January 2018

5/01/18

Avez vous essaye du the? Avez vous essaye des thes? :(

Tom Rune

Kwiziq community member

6 January 2018

6/01/18

On the contrary, I believe the difference between uncountable (or mass) nouns vs count nouns is key here. The former use the partitive article, the latter the indefinite article, which can be singular or plural. Both types of nouns, of course, use the definite article. All examples I've seen so far with "des", including in the lesson you refer to, could interpret "des" as the plural indefinite article, rather than the "plural partitive" article. Which is why I wonder if the latter concept actually exists at all. Even in your example with "des thés", it's very clear that we're talking about TYPES of tea, or different tea flavors, rather than an indefinite amount of the liquid tea. I'll be happy to be proven wrong if someone can come up with a good example of the plural partitive.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

27 February 2018

27/02/18

It has taken me a while to understand what the problem is here...

The exemple you give is incorrect , in French if  you want to express different types of things, you will not use the partitive "Des" but something like , 

Vous avez essayé plusieurs/différentes sortes de thé or  vous avez essayé des thés différents/ divers ?  

you can't simply say des thés, this would be the same for any kind of food stuff.

 

Not sure if this helps? 

Elena

Kwiziq community member

13 October 2017

3 replies

Why there is not liaison when we pronounce Des harricots? Should't it be pronounced as /dezaricot/ ?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

13 October 2017

13/10/17

Bonjour Elena, In French, there are two forms of the letter «h»: 1) le «h muet» 2) le «h aspiré» With the «h muet» there is liaison With the «h aspiré» there is NO liaison I know that this is covered on this site but I am having difficulty locating it; so here is a link to a lesson that Laura has written on another site: https://www.thoughtco.com/french-pronunciation-of-h-1369563 This gives a great definition and explanation between the two «h» forms. If you are so inclined and need a video here is a link from a competitors site: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=h+muet+vs+h+aspir%C3%A9&atb=v70-2&ia=videos&iax=videos&iai=IVR7W7OSONg At times, I find it very helpful to search outside of Kwiziq for explanations when I become stuck on a topic. This gives me another point of view on the topic. However, having said that, I DO always come back to this site because I find it quite superior in the manner the material is presented and quite frankly, I love the quizzes. J'espère que ma réponse vous aiderait. Bonne chance et bonne continuation dans vos études en français, la langue de Molière et qui a été utilisé par le monde français depuis l’époque d’Hugues Capet

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

14 October 2017

14/10/17

Hi Elena - Ron is correct.

French words starting with 'h' fall into two categories. One where the 'h' considered mute or silent, and the other where it's considered 'aspirated' and therefore liaison doesn't occur because it's in the way of the vowel. Confusingly, in fact, the h isn't really aspirated in the spoken form at all - it's just the liaison that doesn't happen. This probably for historic reasons as most of the 'h aspiré' words were adopted from other languages (handicap, hippie, hockey for example) where the h was truly aspirated (i.e. can be heard).

Haricot is a little trickier as you will sometimes hear people liaise it, but it's considered incorrect. There was even a rumour circulating - started by a newspaper - that the academie française was going to change the rules to allow it, but they have debunked this.

You can read more here:
http://www.academie-francaise.fr/questions-de-langue#43_strong-em-le-haricot-ou-l-haricot-em-strong

Note also that for h aspiré words, it's not just liaison but élision that's 'interdit'. We must write "le haricot" and not "l'haricot".

More about French elision: https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/glossary/contraction/l-elision-elision

I see we are missing a page on liaison and we can add some info about h aspiré / muet too.

Hope this helps!

Ron

Kwiziq community member

14 October 2017

14/10/17

Salut Gruff, I appreciate your reply because I was unaware of the historical reasons for the difference that you cite here. Merci et bonne journée

Habiba

Kwiziq community member

4 July 2017

1 reply

For feminine nouns like lait. You use de la? Does this mean that Je veux de la lait is correct.

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

4 July 2017

4/07/17

Bonjour Habiba, Lait is masculine, so the correct sentence is Je veux du lait.

Laura

Kwiziq community member

30 May 2017

3 replies

In the sentences above "Il y a des chiens", why Il ya and not ce sont since "des chiens" is plural?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

30 May 2017

30/05/17

Bonjour Laura ! "Il y a" means "there are" whereas "ce sont" means "these/they are": "Il y a des chiens ici." (There are dogs here.) "Ce sont des chiens." (These are dogs.) I hope that's helpful! À bientôt !

Laura

Kwiziq community member

30 May 2017

30/05/17

merci! i am just a beginner and this distinction was not clearly presented in class.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

1 June 2017

1/06/17

Bonjour Laura ! Here are links to our two related lessons :) https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/how-to-say-there-is-or-there-are-il-y-a https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/cest-and-ce-sont-this-is-these-are-demonstrative-pronouns Bonne chance !

Claudia

Kwiziq community member

24 September 2016

1 reply

Please add that when using the verb être the Partitive doesn't change

For example: Ce sont des poires. ----> Ce ne sont pas des poires.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

26 September 2016

26/09/16

Bonjour Claudia ! Thanks you very much for this excellent suggestion. I've now added this precision to the related lesson: https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/the-partitive-article-in-negative-sentences Merci beaucoup et à bientôt !

lucieeee

Kwiziq community member

29 July 2016

1 reply

In negative sentences we only use de?

I mean, if I want to express I don't have any pommes, is it "Je n'ai pas de pommes",or "des pommes"? That is to say, when there is a negative sentence, the only partitive article I need to use is de, is that right?

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

1 August 2016

1/08/16

Yes, that's correct.
Getting that for you now.