Difference between "du" and "de"
Examples: du lait - de l'eau / il a du poisson - il boit des vin
The word "du" (femenine: "de la;" before a vowel or mute h: "de l';" plural: "des") is a partitive. It basically means "some." In English, we might say "she eats soup," and what we mean (strictly speaking) is that she eats some soup (that is, a given, finite quantity). We understand this implicitly, so we can leave out the "some." In French, it is necessary to state that fact overtly, so it is required to use the partitive to refer to (a quantity of) something. So, du lait = (some) milk
de l'eau = (some) water
il a du poisson = he has (some) fish**
il boit des vins (with "s") = he drinks (some) wines
**there is an added distinction in French since fish is both singular and plural. The sentence as it is means that he's eating (some) fish meat; it cannot mean that he's eating some fish as in multiple fish. The correct translation of that case would be "Il mange des poissons" = "He's eating some fish (plural)."
This is useful!! :) Is du exactly the same as de la, i.e. can we say de la lait instead of du lait?
It's used in exactly the same situations, but there is one big difference: du is masculine (de + le) and de la is feminine. Use du with masculine nouns (such as lait) and de la with feminine nouns (like bière).
Thanks for your prompt response!! Surprised (^_^). Ok, so de le = du. So does that mean du chocolat = de le chocolate?? But actually I have seen many words with de le in front? Actually I have seen one.
I think a better way of writing is de le --> du because, as you have noted, it is incorrect to use de le as an article. So du chocolat is correct but de le chocolat is not. To give you the complete truth, there is a time when it's right to use de le and wrong to use du, but that's only with le as an object pronoun, not an article.
Merci beaucoup!!! that makes sense. I am now learning about animals. chien is a male dog and chienne is female dog, is this right? So we can both say le chien or la chienne, right? Thanks.
Thank you so, so much. Your explanation was like a lightning bolt only head right now!
du is the contraction form of "de + le" ; des is the contraction form of "de + les" (des can also be an indefinite article) ; au is the contraction form of "à + le" and finally aux is the contraction form of "à + les"
so if we were to put either du or de le it would be correct or must you contract it?
You must contract it to du (with the one exception of pronouns, which I mentioned below).
A former french teacher of mine once poetically explained the usage of "du" and "de la" to me. In the case of uncountable quantities (i.e. milk, water, sugar; NB. a "liter" of milk would be countable, but we are not specifying that), the word denotes the totality of it there is. So, "du lait" means "some of all the milk there is". Whenever I am unsure I think of this, worked every time so far.
Someone said the same to me and I always try to remember that. It is indeed very useful :)
So is there a difference between stating "She eats (some) bread" and "She eats bread (in general)"? I feel like one is more of a present-tense statement of what someone is eating and the other is a statement of general preference. I could see using "Elle mange du pain" for the first, but does it still work for the latter?
Yes, both sentences would (have to) be Elle mange du pain. There is no way to realize that distinction in French without a specific case/context (and you would probably have to add a modifier that is more specific than you mean it to be for this small, general distinction).
So why is 'I like tea (in general)' translated as 'J'aime le the' and not 'J'aime du the'?
The verb "like" is different -- if you like tea, you like tea in general (all of it, so to speak), whereas if you drink tea (as a general habit), you are always drinking some tea, never all of it at once. That's why preference verbs like aimer, préférer, etc. use the definite article.