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Grammar Confusion

Sometimes I find that I am confused when using 'de' with articles in instances such as 'les poissons de la Bretagne' and 'les stars du cinéma' in comparison to 'les problèmes de santé'. I am wondering how to know when to drop the article and when to include it. Could someone please help? Does it depend on the specific noun or the context?

Thanks a lot :)

March 23, 2018



From what I understand of your question, you are asking what to do when you have "de" and le/la/les?

If that is the case, the following should help:

  1. De + le = du
  2. De + la = de la
  3. De + les = des
  4. De + l' = de l'

  5. When you have a sentence such as "J'ai du jus d'orange. / I have some orange juice.", It really means "J'ai de le jus d'orange. / I have some of (de) the (la) orange juice.", but we change the "de le" to "du".

  6. When you have a sentence such as "J'ai de la viande. / I have meat.", we just leave the "de la" together and the literal translation is, again, "I have some of (de) the (la) meat."

  7. When you have a sentence such as "J'ai des pommes. / I have some apples.", it really means "J'ai de les pommes / I have some of (de) the (les) apples.", but we change the "de les" to "des".

  8. Lastly, when you have a sentence such as "J'ai de l'eau. / I have some water", we just leave the " de l' " as it is, but the literal translation is, again, "I have some of (de) the (l') meat."


For 7. I think you meant "I have apples." or "I have some of the apples." For 8. I think you meant "I have water." or "I have some of the water."


a bit of a trick I had learning french at home is to think of how specific you want to be. generally you can think of du/des/de la as some (unspecified quantity) and a solo de as more specific. read here if you'd like a bit of a primer on how to be specific (or unspecific) with quantites in french or here for all the possible ways to use de


Thanks for your help :) , do you mean that 'les marchés de fromage' is referring to the markets in general and 'le marché du fromage' is more specific?


No, les is plural and le is singular. The cheese markets or the markets that sell cheese (Literally, the markets of cheese.) vs. the market of the cheese which must be some special cheese to own a market.


Yes, those are good links AndrewRangerG, but sometimes people on the app cannot access them easily. So here are the links that you can use on your web browser: https://www.thoughtco.com/du-de-la-des-1368977#Quantities%20in%20French


Plus another: https://www.thoughtco.com/de-french-preposition-1368915

Notice "health problems" becomes "problèmes de santé" or literally "problems of health", so that is an example of when you would not use "de la". Another example is "apple juice" which is "jus de pomme". "A glass of wine" becomes "Un verre de vin."

Interestingly, "de France" means "from France" so "de la France" is used for "of France". "Poissons de la Bretagne" is similar and so you know that the fish are "of" this area rather than necessarily "from" it. For example, I could catch a fish that has this name somewhere other than the place it comes from.

Another notable example for not using the definite article is when changing from "some" to the negative "not any".

"J'ai du lait." but

" Je n'ai pas de lait."

Then there are expressions which use "of" such as" I have a lot of milk." which is "J'ai beaucoup de lait."

I think it might be useful to have this link also, because in French the definite article is also used for generalizations when it is not used in English: https://www.thoughtco.com/introduction-to-french-articles-1368810


What a concise clarification.

P.S. How many accounts do you have now man? what happened to the OG ALLintoLearning


My original account was created on my husband's laptop. Then I created a second account on my Samsung tablet, which was stolen and is compromised. This account I created on my replacement tablet which is an iTablet and originally it was to test Chinese, Korean, etc. before it came out on the web version. I did not want to compromise my original account in case something happened to my tablet again. During all this time my original email address was not currently in use, so I am using this one everywhere now.

One day when I have the money to pay all the fees for letting my original email lapse, I will get that email account back and fix the original Duolingo account.

I have checked and the email company I went through originally is willing to fix it for almost $90.00 and they charge a fee per month which was originally less than $5,00 a month, but which went up. They require a credit card number which they continue to automatically charge you from every month. One day my credit card was stolen and they were cut off. The fees for that were excruciating and they will have to wait. You can understand that I am using a free email account now.

Originally, the account was free with a particular phone service, but my husband kept changing phone companies and I decided to keep that account to make it easier for all the people trying to contact me. They just kept raising the monthly fee, so when my credit card was stolen and I stopped it; I just thought that it was time to move on anyway - totally forgetting all the accounts based off of that email.

So, always create a new email address and change all your accounts to that new email address, before you delete the old email address, because they send the confirmation of change of address to your old email address.

My original account was allintolearning.


I cry for you, I lost my original duo account in the same way. I used that moment to make sure this account went higher and faster than my previous


Yes, I have been on Duolingo since 8-12-2013, so it will take me a while to amass 211549xp and 4687 lingots. I had level 25 in French and Spanish, level 22 in German, level 18 in Portuguese and level 16 in Italian and Dutch, I was learning every language I could and spending every free hour on this. I will never be able to do it faster. My old account gives an error 404, because they could not confirm my account through my old email address. It's okay, I tested out of some of the lessons and I obviously needed practice in the lessons that I did not test out of. I no longer even care about my streak. If I get busy, I let the streak start over. I know how much time I spend and I just don't worry about it anymore.


AIL3 - question: why do you pay for an email account when many, such as gmail, are free? Just curious. ☺


I explained that originally the account was free. Then, when I should have left, I maintained it as I had too many friends, groups and schools invested in that account. I thought, once my children are grown and the schools, sports, etc. won’t need to reach me, but then my card was stolen and the account prematurely closed.


Thanks - I obviously skimmed a bit. I know what you mean though with children, sports, schools etc. Mine are adults now so I don't have to bother with that. Bonne chance ! ☺


Thank you for your help :)

So you would not use an article when the word is attributive and creates a compound word? like 'un court de tennis' and 'une console de jeu'? but you would if you needed to say something like 'un marché du fromage' because that is not a compound word?


A cheese market or « un marché de fromage » is correct for a market that sells cheese, but what you are writing is a market of the cheese, making me wonder if the cheese owns a market? Well, there have been stranger nicknames. The name would be capitalized in English though.

Now you might see « le marché du fromage » which would be a stock market term. Now in English we capitalize that “the Cheese Market” to differentiate it from the market that sells cheese or would “the cheese market” be known only from context. In French it is not capitalized, unless of course,it is a headline in a newspaper.

In English we can also use the word “of”, for example “Department of Transportation.” It is actually a bad example because they use a different expression , « Département des Transports » So you do have to watch out for differences of expression. « Les transports » is a thing there that is always plural and as a generalization in French always comes with the definite article. Here is a better example “Department of Education” is « département d’éducation ». Why is it not capitalized? It might be if they were talking about our government, but their government might not have it as high up in their government as we do. So they may have more than one such department.

The best thing to do is check the dictionary for agencies like that. www.dictionary.reverso.net www.larrousse.com


Thanks for the clarifications, I have given you a lingot :)

If 'du' or 'de' with any other relevant article indicates possession, what is the reason for the term 'les stars du cinéma'?


Not always, the indication can also be that there is indeed a definite article required.

(This is also required form for the indefinite “some” as if in the French mind that would be “some of the” )

I think for unknown reasons in English we can say cinema but in French it is quite theatrical and they say the cinema. Just another expression? So, it’s “the stars of the cinema”. I would be inclined to say “the movie stars”. Keep in mind that generalizations in French use the definite article. Think of other expressions, “The arts” for example.

Please actually go to the links that I provided for more thorough explanations.


Thanks again. Sorry for all the questions, I have only just been able to access the links due to problems with my phone :)


You are always welcome. I just know that the links have a great way of explaining these things. I only help that I have been of some service.

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