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"Il existe des petits animaux."

February 17, 2013



Since there is an adjective before the noun, shouldn't it be just "de" instead of "des"?


Yes, you are right, such is the rule.


I got this one correct, but could someone please clarify when it is acceptable to use 'il' as 'there'? I am aware it can be used as both 'he' and 'it' but did not know it could be used like this. Many Thanks


As far as I recollect, this is a unique case where "il" matches with "there". You are faced with two phrases that mean the same but are built differently.


In English "there" in this sentence is a "different there" than "there" in most sentences - one has to do with existence and the other with spacial position - and in most languages they have two separate words for these concepts.


Is it the same as "il y a des animaux"?


"il y a de petits animaux" means globally the same thing as "il existe de petits animaux", but it will depend on context (that we do not have).


I think "il existe DES petits animaux" actually means "There exist some of THE little animals" i.e. specific little animals which have been mentioned or will be.

"There are small animals" would be "Il existe DE petits animaux".


no, sorry "il existe des petits animaux" is usual BUT incorrect.

If you get: "le professeur parle des petits animaux", the grammar is correct, because verb parler is constructed with preposition "de" (parler de = talk about), then "des" is the contraction of "de-les".

The sentence here is "il existe" or "il y a", one and the other being impersonal constructions, both using with indefinite article un/une/des but no preposition.

  • "il existe un petit animal" singular - il existe de petits animaux" - plural : "des" is the plural of "un" and changed to "de" in front of an adjective)


You are I believe a native French speaker, and I am not so I will accept what you say. But can I give you the reasons why I thought it would mean "there exist some of the little animals", so you can tell me where my thinking is incorrect?

Let us take a phrase like "MES petits jouets que j'avais comme enfant" (MY little toys which I had as a child), and another phrase "LES petits jouets que j'avais comme enfant" (THE little toys which I had as a child).

Would it be correct to translate "There are still some of my little toys which I had as a child" as "Il existe toujours de mes petits jouets que j'avais comme enfant"?

And if that is correct, would it not also be correct to substitute the second phrase for the first "Il existe toujours de les petits jouets que j'avais comme enfant"? "De les" is of course always abbreviated to "des".

So "Il existe toujours des petits jouets que j'avais comme enfant" would mean ""There are still some of THE little toys which I had as a child"

Your guidance would be appreciated.


1."there exist some of the little animals" would translate in "il existe certains des petits animaux...". But that would leave the sentence unfinished. To make it meaningful, you would need to add (for example): "il existe certains des petits animaux... que je vois sur cette illustration" - which basically means that if "certains" exist, others "do not exist".

  1. "mes petits jouets que j'avais dans mon enfance" and "les petits jouets que j'avais quand j'étais enfant" ("comme enfant" does not work).

  2. "there are still some of my little toys which I had as a child" = "il y a encore certains des petits jouets que j'avais quand j'étais enfant" (note: I skipped "mes" because with "I had", it was redundant). "Des" remains, because of "some of the" that needs to be translated by "certains des (de-les)".

  3. to sum it up, in the sentence "il existe de petits animaux" or "il existe des animaux", "de" and "des" are not a contraction of "de-les" (preposition de + definite article les) but the indefinite article "des", in its plural form (singular being: un = one).

  4. to have "des petits animaux" as a correct form, it is necessary that the introducing construction includes preposition "de", like: "la cage des petits animaux" (possessive), "il parle des petits animaux" (parler de = talk about), etc.

Is it clearer?


Thank you for such a full explanation. I think I understand it better now.

I note that Grévisse's Le Bon Usage (section 584) says that reducing des to de when the adjective precedes the noun is a characteristic of the written language and refined spoken speech, but otherwise des prevails in the spoken language and is spreading in the written language. It also says that des is particularly frequent before petit. So I guess Duolingo is not actually at fault here.


Yes, to my own despair, Le Grévisse is right.

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