Les vs. des

Please help me out with this one?: "Les haricots" is translated as "the beans", and "des haricots" as "some beans" or just "beans". That I understand.

But sometimes in an English sentence only "beans" is used, and when I translate into French, when I use "des haricots", it is marked wrong, and the correct answer shows "les haricots". For example, "I like beans" - should I translate it as "J'aime les haricots", or as "j'aime des haricots"?

I have looked at other resources (i.a. for an answer, but I haven't found a good explanation yet.

March 6, 2015


When talking about nouns in a generic sense, the definite article (les) is used.

In particular, with regards to your question, when using verbs that express likes or dislikes (such as aimer, préférer, and détester), the definite article must be used. So it's « J'aime les haricots. »

See Item IB in this link :

Or see the section on Definite Articles here :

Edit: And as usual, the helpful community beats me to it again. :)

March 6, 2015

That confused me too. Thanks. I also want to thank everyone for their comments.

March 8, 2015

Verbs that express preference are an exception to the rule; you always use the definite article with such verbs:

  • J'aime le chocolat = I like chocolate.
  • Il déteste le chocolat = He hates chocolate.
March 6, 2015


Take two English sentences.

"This jar contains beans"

"Beans are good for you"

In both cases there is no article in front of "beans" but we know that we have to put an article in front of the noun in French - so how do we decide? Is it "des" or is it "les".

One way to decide is to try putting "some" in front of the noun and see if the meaning of the sentence is the same. If "some" fits without changing the meaning then use "des" in the French sentence. Otherwise use "les:.

"This jar contains SOME beans" - well that means the same as your first sentence so we can use "des haricots"

"SOME beans are good for you" - in this case adding "some" has changed the meaning of the sentence. The original sentence in effect meant that all beans are good for us - but our new sentence means that only "some" beans are good for us. So "some" does not fit into this English sentence - without changing it - so we can't use "des" - we use "les haricots"

March 6, 2015

Now this is what I've been looking for! Thanks very much - I think I have it now.

March 7, 2015

"des" is used as "some" in english... Je vois des voitures : I see some cars, I don't know how many exactly, but several. Je vois les voitures : I see the cars, I know how many they are and exactly which cars we are talking about

March 6, 2015

Thanks, everyone for your help! You are stars! I've been battling this one for some time. Now at last: mystery solved. :-D

March 7, 2015
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