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

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.


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?


Q&A

Cheryl

Kwiziq community member

18 May 2019

1 reply

Ok, in the examples on non-countable items, the English translation uses "some". E.g. Il achete du pain. He buys some bread. Similar question in the

Similar question in the quiz (instead a female buying coffee), but when I chose the "some" option (she buys some coffee), I was not granted the score. That's contradictory and confusing. Which is it? With the "some", or without?

Alan

Kwiziq community member

18 May 2019

18/05/19

They are both possible - you have to select both options to be marked correct. 

Normally there is a hint that 1 or more answers can be correct, but perhaps it was missing in this question. However, any time you have to select answers by ticking a checkbox next to them, you can assume that more than one answer could be correct - and usually there will be more than one.

jane

Kwiziq community member

2 April 2019

5 replies

This quiz is a bit baffling.

You point out that in English we don't tend to use the 'some' that is necessary in French, but then in your examples, you translate all the sentences using some/any. eg 'I eat some jam',  'he buys some bread', 'do you want some potatoes?' etc. In the quiz we are not told we can choose multiple answers so going by the law of averages we assume that 'Jane eats some ice cream' must be the correct answer where in fact you then say that is only 'nearly' right and 'Jane eats ice cream' is what you want. I would have chosen the right answer had you not persistently translated your examples with 'some'! Perhaps you should either bracket all the 'somes' or allow for both answers  to be right?

Jonathan

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2019

3/04/19

I agree. You can use some or omit it in English, it makes no difference to the meaning. Both answers are right.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

4 April 2019

4/04/19

Hi Jane, 

Can you re-post this using the ‘Report it’  button on your Correction Board as it will link directly to the quiz you are referring to and makes it easier to answer your query.

Merci d’avance!

jane

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2019

4/04/19

Sorry I can't see a 'Report it ' button anywhere!

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

4 April 2019

4/04/19

You may have to do that particular quiz again...

Cheryl

Kwiziq community member

18 May 2019

18/05/19

Exactly!

Abuduldurakoroma

Kwiziq community member

21 March 2019

1 reply

Combien des enfants avez vous

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

22 March 2019

22/03/19

Hi Abuduldurakoroma,

Combien d’enfants avez-vous?

Abuduldurakoroma

Kwiziq community member

21 March 2019

3 replies

Avez vous du fromage

Jim

Kwiziq community member

21 March 2019

21/03/19

Avez-vous du fromage     >  Do you have any (some) cheese?

Abuduldurakoroma

Kwiziq community member

21 March 2019

21/03/19

Non,je n'ai pas de fromage

Chris

Kwiziq community member

27 March 2019

27/03/19

Non, je n'en ai pas. -- No, I have none.Non, je n'ai pas de fromage. -- No I have no cheese.

Christine

Kwiziq community member

17 March 2019

3 replies

Why is he second answer incorrect?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

18 March 2019

18/03/19

Which second answer Christine?

Christine

Kwiziq community member

18 March 2019

18/03/19

Hi Cecile, 

I do not remember which question it was but when I got the results of one of the tests it was the same as my answer which had been marked incorrect!

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

18 March 2019

18/03/19

Hi Christine, 

If this refers to a quiz, you need to use the 'Report it' button in your Correction Board as it links directly to the specific quiz and makes it easier for us to answer you...

This is too vague I am afraid.

Sara

Kwiziq community member

5 February 2019

2 replies

How do you select more than one answer?

Richard

Kwiziq community member

5 February 2019

5/02/19

If a question can accept more than 1 answer there will be a checkbox beside each possibility/response; you check/tick the box(es) besides the answer(s) you believe are correct.

Sara

Kwiziq community member

6 February 2019

6/02/19

My question relates to the 2-question quiz, where there is a drop-down box, and as far as I can see, no way to choose 2 answers--although there was more than 1 correct answer.

renwa

Kwiziq community member

1 September 2018

3 replies

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!

June

Kwiziq community member

27 November 2018

27/11/18

What about "des fruits"? is "fruits" here countable or uncountable? 

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

28 November 2018

28/11/18

That's an interesting question June...

In French fruit is very countable -

We say for instance:

"Tu veux un fruit?"  which would translate in English as, "Do you want a piece of fruit"

or

J'ai des fruits comme dessert I have (some) fruit for dessert

Hope this helps!

xuan

Kwiziq community member

23 July 2018

6 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' ...

Firstname

Kwiziq community member

3 December 2018

3/12/18

Hola me llamo pedro y quiero saber como se dice "fea" en frances 

Jenny

Kwiziq community member

9 May 2019

9/05/19

Fille- you mean girl

Or fils- son?

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:

Using le, la, l', 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. 
Thinking...