Expressing possession with 'de'

Look at these expressions of possession in French:

La maison des Jackson est sur la gauche.
The Jacksons' house is on the left.

Le livre de Paul est sur son lit.
Paul's book is on his bed.

Le jouet de l'enfant est cassé.
The child's toy is broken.

Les notes d'Aurélie sont bonnes.
Aurélie's grades are good.

 

In English, to express possession, we use the 's  for example Tara's bag.

There is no equivalent structure in French: instead, we use de or des (of).


Note however two things:

- the object comes first and the owner last (the reverse of English). It's exactly the same as in Old English. 
e.g. the book of Paul

- you need to add the definite article le, la, l', les before the first element, as in French you cannot have a noun without an article.
e.g. le livre de Paul - Paul's (x) book

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Le livre de Paul est sur son lit.
Paul's book is on his bed.



Les notes d'Aurélie sont bonnes.
Aurélie's grades are good.


La maison des Jackson est sur la gauche.
The Jacksons' house is on the left.


Le jouet de l'enfant est cassé.
The child's toy is broken.


L'histoire de Marie est extraordinaire!
Marie's story is extraordinary!


Q&A Forum 13 questions, 29 answers

JohnA2Kwiziq community member

Using possessive de when owner is not a proper name

I keep messing up on the possession concept. The lesson covers possession using proper names, but does not mention rule for non-proper noun, example, the girl's pen (unless I missed something). The correct way is apparently the pen of the girl, le stylo de la fille, and not le stylo de fille. Can you add a note to the lesson to accentuate this, such as found on Lawless site, https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/possessive-de/

Asked 2 months ago

Using possessive de when owner is not a proper name

I keep messing up on the possession concept. The lesson covers possession using proper names, but does not mention rule for non-proper noun, example, the girl's pen (unless I missed something). The correct way is apparently the pen of the girl, le stylo de la fille, and not le stylo de fille. Can you add a note to the lesson to accentuate this, such as found on Lawless site, https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/possessive-de/

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GeorgeA1Kwiziq community member

In the first example "La maison des Jackson est sur la gauche." why is "sur la gauche" used and not "à gauche"?

Asked 5 months ago
GeorgeA1Kwiziq community memberCorrect answer

Just seen this has already been answered further down!

In the first example "La maison des Jackson est sur la gauche." why is "sur la gauche" used and not "à gauche"?

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TripB2Kwiziq community member

'Le jouet de l'enfant est cassé' in the corresponding lesson. Here it is DE L'ENFANT then why not DU TOURISME in l'Office de Tourisme? Merci en avan

Asked 9 months ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Le jouet de l'enfant is the toy of a particular infante (hence the definite article). L'office de tourisme is the tourist office in general, not of "the" tourism.

TripB2Kwiziq community member

Tysm for taking out tym to answer the question Chris and the lawless team.

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

You,re welcome! :)

'Le jouet de l'enfant est cassé' in the corresponding lesson. Here it is DE L'ENFANT then why not DU TOURISME in l'Office de Tourisme? Merci en avan

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JoanA1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

In the first example, can I say 'La maison des Jackson est à gauche.'?

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Joan,

Yes, you can say:

"La maison des Jackson est à gauche" also for on the left.

 

In the first example, can I say 'La maison des Jackson est à gauche.'?

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YashikaA1Kwiziq community member

in first example "La maison des Jackson est sur la gauche." can we use" de jackson" instead of "des jackson"?

Asked 1 year ago
AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Bonjour Yashika !

Both sentences are correct, but mean very different things :)

La maison des Jackson  =  the Jacksons' / the Jackson family's house

La maison de Jackson  =  Jackson's house  (one person)

I hope that's helpful!
Bonne journée !


 

YashikaA1Kwiziq community member

Thanks a lot.

You are best :*

in first example "La maison des Jackson est sur la gauche." can we use" de jackson" instead of "des jackson"?

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YashikaA1Kwiziq community member

In first example" La maison des Jackson est sur la gauche."

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team member

Hi Yashika,

I believe this has been answered by Aurélie earlier, do you have another question?

In first example" La maison des Jackson est sur la gauche."

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DA2Kwiziq community member

Je me demande, n'est-ce pas la même chose en anglais?

 "as in French you cannot have a noun without article." ou "without an article"?
Asked 1 year ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

In English both options -- with or without "an" -- are possible. 

 

-- Chris. 

GruffKwiziq team member
Actually, no 'an' was missing here. I've corrected the lesson.

Je me demande, n'est-ce pas la même chose en anglais?

 "as in French you cannot have a noun without article." ou "without an article"?

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AprilB1Kwiziq community member

When to use de verus à for possesion

Un stylo est à moi Un stylo est de moi?
Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi April,

The only case I can think of when you would say 'de moi' is in the following example, meaning 'from me':

Ce cadeau est de moi This gift is from me.

For possession you could only say,  Le stylo est à moi.

Hope this helps!

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
That's a good question, April. Somehow I've managed to get a feel for it which I'll try to put in words. "De" is used to denote intellectual ownership while "à" implies personal physical ownership. It is often translated as "by" in this context: "Ce livre de Zola est excellent." -- This book by Zola is excellent. "De" is also used to describe an object further. In these instances one could translate "de" with "of the": "La balle des enfants." -- The ball of the children. "À" really expresses ownership in a more direct sense as "de". "Ce manteau-ci est à moi." -- This coat belongs to me. I hope I was able to shed some light on this. -- Chris (not a native speaker).
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
Looking at the two sentences from your question: Le stylo est à moi -- The pen belongs to me. Le stylo est de moi. -- The pen is by me (i.e., I made it) The first one sounds very natural to my ears, whereas the second one doesn't. -- Chris.

When to use de verus à for possesion

Un stylo est à moi Un stylo est de moi?

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That1A0Kwiziq community member

When is it appropriate to use d’ instead of de?

Asked 1 year ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
You use "d'" whenever the next word starts with a vowel. This works for all words ending on the letter "e" when the next word starts with a vowel and is called elision. Here is the corresponding lesson: https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/glossary/contraction/l-elision-elision -- Chris.
AurélieKwiziq team member
Attention! Chris is correct about elision BUT it does not apply to "all words ending in -e", but only pronouns and prepositions (you cannot apply elision on nouns or adjectives for example!) Bonne journée !
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
Yes, thank you, Aurélie. I forgot about that. To augment this with an example: "Notre évaluation va commencer tout de suite." and NOT "Notr' évaluation.....". -- Chris (not a native speaker).
That1A0Kwiziq community member
Thanks Chris! Spanish has always been my area of expertise and I thought why not take a shot at French.
AurélieKwiziq team member
Merci pour cet exemple Chris :)
SagarB1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Bonjour, tout le monde.

I have a quick question on the use of 'de' to denote ownership. If I wish to say:"The student's pen", where the student in question happens to be female, would it be correct to say:

"Le stylo d'étudiante" ?

When is it appropriate to use d’ instead of de?

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AnishA1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Why do we use l´ in front of enfant, but not in other cases such as Gousse d'ail (a garlic pod)

Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Anish !

This is a very interesting question, and one many people are struggling with :)

The difference comes down to the specificity of "ownership". Let's take two similar examples:
1- la chambre de l'enfant  versus  2- la chambre d'enfant

1- The room belongs to a specific child = the child's room
2- The "child" element is characterising the type of room, but doesn't indicate who specifically owns that room  = the nursery / "the child room"

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Why do we use l´ in front of enfant, but not in other cases such as Gousse d'ail (a garlic pod)

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SaraB1Kwiziq community member

verbes du deuxième groupe

Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Sara ! The "verbes du deuxième groupe" in French are regular -IR verbs which follow the conjugation of "finir". They're characterised by an "-iss-" suffix in the plural forms of Le Présent: "nous finissons, vous finissez, ils/elles finissent" I hope that's helpful! Bonne Année !
SaraB1Kwiziq community member
Merci pour votre réponse. Sara Princ
SaraB1Kwiziq community member
Merci pour votre réponse. Sara Princ

verbes du deuxième groupe

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NazaninA1Kwiziq community member

la pomme de terre

Bonjour et excuse moi :) For the potato that we say la pomme de terre, why don't we say "la pomme de la terre" ? I mean shouldnt we use le /la/les as possesive after de?? Merci beaucoup
Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer
Bonjour Nazanin !

Here you are not saying "the apple of THE earth", which would imply a possession by one of the other, but more "the earth apple" which is a general characteristic of that kind of apple.
Therefore, you will not use the definite article "la" which makes it a specific case ("of THE earth").
Here it's not a case of possession, but rather a case of characterisation, such as explained in the following lesson:
Compound nouns formed with prepositions à, de, en

I hope that's helpful!
LauraKwiziq team member
Bonjour Nazanin, Good question. No, because "de" is not possessive here: it's not saying that the "apple" belongs to the ground, it's describing where it comes from.
NazaninA1Kwiziq community member
Thank you very much
NazaninA1Kwiziq community member
And how is good that you answer quicly Nice of you and your team. :)

la pomme de terre

Bonjour et excuse moi :) For the potato that we say la pomme de terre, why don't we say "la pomme de la terre" ? I mean shouldnt we use le /la/les as possesive after de?? Merci beaucoup

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MeghnaC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

De and des

Why did you use la maison DES in the first example ? The maison is singular n'est c'est pas?
Asked 3 years ago
LauraKwiziq team member
Bonjour Moushumi, Yes, "maison" is singular, but it belongs to "the Jacksons," which is plural.
MeghnaC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
I hadn't realised that Jackson represented a family name, I thought it was the name of an individual. Your explanation makes perfect sense now . Merci!

De and des

Why did you use la maison DES in the first example ? The maison is singular n'est c'est pas?

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