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  5. "The man drinks the alcohol a…


"The man drinks the alcohol and the child drinks the water."

January 21, 2013



L'homme and l'alcool got me, continually get me.


@Minabey (sorry can't reply under your question for technical reasons):

Here are tips for you:

You need to understand how the choice of words affects the meaning, in particular with "determiner", ie those little words that come in front of nouns:

If the English is :

o INDEFINITE ARTICLE - "we are eating an apple" means "one apple", so "nous mangeons une pomme" (indefinite article, singular). - "we are eating apples" means "a certain number of apples", so "nous mangeons des pommes (indefinite article, plural). NOTE: the English language does not have a plural to a/an, while the French have DES as a plural of un/une.

o DEFINITE ARTICLE - "we are eating the apple" means "a specific apple", so "nous mangeons la pomme" (definite article, singular). - "we are eating the apples" means "several apples", so "nous mangeons les pommes" (definite article, plural).

The same applies to "the man drinks the alcool" / "the child drinks the water" meaning "a specific alcohol/water", so "l'homme boit l'alcool" / "l'enfant boit l'eau" (definite article, singular, and elided (apostrophe) because "alcool" and "eau" start with a vowel).

o DE + DEFINITE ARTICLE - "we are eating bread" means "a piece of bread, some bread", so "nous mangeons du pain (du = contraction of de + definite article le) - "we are eating meat" means "a portion of meat, some meat", so "nous mangeons de la viande (de + definite article)


I'll be writing this down to study it further. My brain is not cooperating (it's 2:30 AM where I am. :)

Thank you so much, Sitesurf, for taking the time to type all these down. It definitely helps clarify things.


You know what, I typed down a number of rules on a Word doc and I cut & paste when I need one or the other. Good night !


is it really incorrect to say "le homme" instead of "l'homme" and "le alcool" instead of "l'alcool" ?


Yes it is. You have to remember that the French "elide" vowels in front of words starting with another vowel sound, and replace them with an apostrophe.

It is true for words starting with a vowel (alcool, eau, etc) and also for words starting with a non-aspired "h". To know more about "h": http://french.about.com/od/pronunciation/a/h_3.htm


Why is it incorrect to say "L'homme boit de l'alcool et l'enfant boit de l'eau" ?


Because what you propose is in English: "the man drinks (some) alcohol and the child drinks (some) water"


so if it stood "man drinks alcohol and kid drinks water" it would be "d'alcool" and "d'eau"?


No, partitives need an article: "the man drinks alcohol and the kid drinks water" would be "l'homme boit de l'alcool et l'enfant boit de l'eau".


and what about the contractions? if it is "le alcool" in the original form, shouldn't it then be "de le" --> "du alcool"? :) thanks


no, it is not "le alcool", but already "l'alcool" (alcool starts with a vowel).

so DE + L' works


This confuses me as well. What I do is use du a lot when I think the sentence is not specific - what kind of alcohol or whose alcohol it is. I would appreciate any tips to help me understand this. Tips, s'il vous plait? :)


not sure why I can't use de l'eau here


If you have read the whole thread, you should know... anyway "the water" does not translate "de l'eau" but "l'eau".


when can we say "boire(infinitif) de xxx" or "boire(inf) du xxx" or "manger(inf) de" or "manger(inf) de"


You can use the infinitive form of those verbs after "je veux, je souhaite, j'aime, je peux..."


First thanks your every replys . Then sorry for my poor English. You do not get my point. I know du = de le or sometime it meas du = a part of something, but i can't understand when it means could be i eat the WHOLE something or i eat a PART of something and when can i use "je boirs(mange) des xxx" Is there any rule especially(like "boire de, manger de", I don't know) for those none(meal meat fish or chicken etc.) or verbs(boire or manger etc.). This part is hard for me because in my native language(mandarin) there is no countable or uncountable but in French or English manything are uncountable(money news water etc.). Like you say that I can say : j'aime mager xxx ,but I can't distinguish when it should be "j'aime boire du cofe" or it should be "j'aime boire cofe". I don't know whether you can understand what i say. Sorry again.


No problem, my English is far from being perfect, so...

  1. To know if something is countable you have to imagine that you are actually counting :

-- une fraise, deux fraises, trois fraises... (strawberries)

Now, in sentences:

  • je mange une fraise (I eat a/one strawberry)

  • je mange des fraises (I eat strawberries): you know that it is more than one, you don't mention how many, but you could count them. So it needs an "indefinite" article.

Note: in English, "strawberries" or "some strawberries" conveys this idea, but there is no plural indefinite article. But in French, the plural of "un/une" is "des".

  • je mange la fraise (I eat the strawberry): the scenario is, for example, that there is only one strawberry left on the plate, or that there is only one at the top of a cake, as a decoration. So you will refer to this single strawberry as "la fraise" = "the strawberry", with a definite article, because this strawberry is defined.

  • je mange les fraises (I eat the strawberries): same thinking than la/the, only in plural.

2.To know if something is uncountable, you have to imagine that you cannot count them:

  • je bois du vin (a glass of wine, a sip of wine, a mouthful of wine?)

  • je mange de la viande (a chunk of meat, a slice of meat, a piece of meat?)

  • j'aime boire du café (a cup of coffee)

3.Other cases:

  • generalities in French take a definite article: j'aime le café (I like coffee, in general)

  • countable and uncountable: je bois un café (I have a coffee) : "a cup of" is implied, "un café" becomes countable, then.



what a helpful master you are! I need to work harder. Thank you.

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