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


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!


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


Q&A

Yashika

Kwiziq community member

18 May 2018

2 replies

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

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

18 May 2018

18/05/18

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 !


 

Yashika

Kwiziq community member

18 May 2018

18/05/18

Thanks a lot.

You are best :*

Yashika

Kwiziq community member

18 May 2018

1 reply

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

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

25 May 2018

25/05/18

Hi Yashika,

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

D

Kwiziq community member

18 April 2018

2 replies

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"?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

19 April 2018

19/04/18

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

 

-- Chris. 

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

20 April 2018

20/04/18

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

April

Kwiziq community member

11 January 2018

3 replies

When to use de verus à for possesion

Un stylo est à moi Un stylo est de moi?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

11 January 2018

11/01/18

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).

Chris

Kwiziq community member

11 January 2018

11/01/18

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.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

5 September 2018

5/09/18

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!

That1

Kwiziq community member

10 December 2017

5 replies

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

Chris

Kwiziq community member

11 December 2017

11/12/17

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.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

11 December 2017

11/12/17

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 !

Chris

Kwiziq community member

11 December 2017

11/12/17

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).

That1

Kwiziq community member

11 December 2017

11/12/17

Thanks Chris! Spanish has always been my area of expertise and I thought why not take a shot at French.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

12 December 2017

12/12/17

Merci pour cet exemple Chris :)

Anish

Kwiziq community member

25 June 2017

1 reply

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

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

29 June 2017

29/06/17

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 !

Sara

Kwiziq community member

4 January 2017

3 replies

verbes du deuxième groupe

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

4 January 2017

4/01/17

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 !

Sara

Kwiziq community member

6 January 2017

6/01/17

Merci pour votre réponse. Sara Princ

Sara

Kwiziq community member

6 January 2017

6/01/17

Merci pour votre réponse. Sara Princ

Nazanin

Kwiziq community member

14 October 2016

4 replies

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

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

14 October 2016

14/10/16

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.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

14 October 2016

14/10/16

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: https://french.kwiziq.com/my-languages/french/view/207 I hope that's helpful!

Nazanin

Kwiziq community member

14 October 2016

14/10/16

Thank you very much

Nazanin

Kwiziq community member

14 October 2016

14/10/16

And how is good that you answer quicly Nice of you and your team. :)

Meghna

Kwiziq community member

2 October 2016

2 replies

De and des

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

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

2 October 2016

2/10/16

Bonjour Moushumi, Yes, "maison" is singular, but it belongs to "the Jacksons," which is plural.

Meghna

Kwiziq community member

3 October 2016

3/10/16

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!
Getting that for you now.