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De vs Du, De la and Des

When do you use de, du, de la, des? I can't really find the "pattern" they're in. Duolingo explains the words as follows:

de of, to, in

Ex: J'aime la boulangerie de mon village.

du of the, from the, about the

Ex: Je mange de la viande avec du sel.

de la with, some, about

Ex: Je mange de la viande avec du sel.

des Plural of un/une (although it's a partitive article too)

Ex: L'homme tient des légumes.

Can someone help me with these words and when to use them? Thank you in advance!

November 30, 2017



When there is a definite article (le, la, les):

Du is a contraction of de + le. For example:

  • C'est un livre au sujet [de le] chienC'est au sujet [du] chien

(Au sujet de = lit. On the subject of, about)

De la is a combination of de + la (and it turns into de l' if the noun is a vowel).

  • C'est un livre au sujet de la table.
  • C'est un livre au sujet de l'orange.

Des is a contraction of de + les.

  • C'est un livre au sujet [de les] chiensC'est au sujet [des] chiens.

With an indefinite article or possessive, it just remains as "de".

  • C'est un livre au sujet d'un roi.
  • C'est un livre au sujet de mon chien.

To explain the sentences in your post--

De is also used when there's some of something, a quantity that cannot be counted, or a quantity that is unspecified, hence:

  • Je mange de la viande avec du sel → I eat meat (not THE meat, just some meat) with salt (uncountable noun).

  • L'homme tient des légumes → The man holds (some) vegetables.

And as a side note, when you're using expressions of quantity (such as beaucoup de, trop de, un peu de, etc.), it stays as de. For example: J'ai mangé beaucoup de pommes → I ate a lot of apples.

There's a more exhaustive list here.


Thank you so much!



Duolingo has been having problems with giving a 404 error after people post things. If you go back out to the forum, wait and minute and refresh the page, your original post will almost always appear. So, try that before making another duplicate post. Good luck with getting your question answered. You've organized it impressively! :)

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