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  5. "The girl talks about the dreā€¦


"The girl talks about the dresses."

January 18, 2013



I am still confused about the use of les and des. In the comments section I keep getting answers about it's simple really and directed to sites where I get explanations about definite and indefinite, general and particular. All perfectly clear to me.

But again I come across what I consider an inconsistency.

The girl is not speaking about all dresses, the idea of dresses, an unlimited number of dresses which presumably would involve using des .

She is speaking about a very specific group of dresses, limited in number, known to her and presumably the reader in the normal course things. To me this would seem to require the use of les. However the system marks les as incorrect.

There must be some aspect to des/les usage that has completely eluded me.

It would be helpful if any answers offered here did not direct me to some web site or video but dealt with this specific example and why one usage is correct and the other is not.


The inconsistencies you're seeing are actually because "des" is essentially two different words.


In English, the definite pronoun, "the" is not pluralized for a plural noun. We don't have a plural "the" (for example: the dress, the dresses)

In French the definite pronouns "le" (male) and "la" (female) are both pluralized to "les". For example: la robe - les robes.


In English, we also have indefinite pronouns: "a" and "an". When we pluralize a noun with an indefinite pronoun, we drop the indefinite pronoun or maybe replace it with "some". (example: a dress - [some] dresses)

In French, the indefinite pronouns are "un" (masculine) or "une" feminine. They are both pluralized to "des". (example: une robe, des robes)


In English, we could say something like "she talks about the dresses". This phrase is translated in French to "Elle parle des robes". From the discussion of definite pronouns above, you might think this should be "elle parle de les robes" -- and you're right!

"des" is also a 'contraction' of "de les", except it's more or less required to make that contraction in French.


Excellent response. Thank you for clearing that up!


I agree with northernguy. Up until now, I thought my usage of des vs les was correct and this inconsistency threw me for a loop. Explanations would be helpful for reinforcing these awkward grammatical rules.


"des" is a contraction of "de" and "les" ("des" translates to 'about the' above)

However, "des" is also the plural for of the indefinite pronouns "un/une"


Thank you DemiReticent. I think I get it. It`s actually the old two different words which are identical in appearance trick.

It seems you are saying that les would not have been correct any way as it would have required de in front of it to make sense. In this case des is the contracted plural form of de la. It also happens to be the evil twin of the indefinite plural.

Hopefully, after reading your to the point comments I will be able to suss out the proper usage in the future.

Again, thank you, very helpful.

[deactivated user]

    here is definitely Les since is The dresses

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