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Des vs. les

Hello! I am having difficulty remembering/knowing when I should use les and when I should use des. I have read the grammer notes over and understand it in theory, but always make mistakes on this in practice. It seems we don’t really have an English of des. I had mistakely though de was the plural of de or du, but it is the plural of un/une. In english we would use those both for the plural of the (le) and the plural of a/one (un/une). We don’t really say ones. I know it can’t be translated literally but does anyone have a handy tip to remember when to use des and when to use les? Please and thankyou in advance!

January 7, 2018



You can use des in instances where you can think of being able to say in English "some." In English we don't always say "some", but we definitely say "the." "The" refers to a specific thing or set of things, such as:

The butterflies Les papillons

You're talking about a specific object. Whereas:

(Some) butterflies/ Butterflies Des papillons

Not a specific set of butterflies. Just some.


Just a follow up question. When would I use quelques over des for some. What is the difference between:

J’ai quelques papillions

J’ai des papillions

When would I use quelques for some and when would I use des? Are they interchangable? Or am I using quelques wrong.


J'ai des papillions: I have butterflies

J'ai quelques papillions: I have some (or a few) butterflies

They are interchangeable, in general, but for some words it gets confusing, for example, if you translate from English to French:

There are some apples: il y a des pommes.

There are a few apples: il y a quelques pommes.

... I know, it's confusing :-)


im on this dilemma right now,

as some have mentioned, its specific vs non specific

whilse some say its also to do with if its countable, eg straweberries is countable, while milk is not....

damn french is confusing :)

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