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French grammar - The partitive articles - du, de la and des

The partitive articles - du, de la & des

Another common use of the word de is as a partitive. This is like the words 'some' or 'any' in English.

The singular partitive article refers to an unspecified quantity of an uncountable noun like liquids, powders and grains.

-- The singular forms are de la (feminine) and du (masculine) with the contraction de l' if the noun starts with a vowel or a mute h.

A plural partitive article des is used with undefined qualities of countable items.

-- The plural form is des regardless of gender.

The partitive article should agree with the noun in gender and number.

Je veux de l'eau.
I want (some) water.

l'eau is uncountable

Avez-vous du pain à la maison ?
Do you have (any) bread at home?

le pain is uncountable when we mean 'any bread'

Voulez-vous du café ?
Do you want (some) coffee?

le café is uncountable when we mean 'some coffee'

Tu peux avoir de la viande.
You can have (some) meat.

viande (f) means 'meat'

As-tu de l'huile d'olive ?
Do you have (any) olive oil?

huile d'olive (f) means 'olive oil'

Les enfants veulent du lait ce matin.
The children want (some) milk this morning.
Je veux de la salade et des pâtes.
I want (some) salad and (some) pasta.

salade (f) means 'salade'

pâtes (pl.f) means 'pasta'

les pâtes is always plural when it means 'pasta' and it is countable.

Vous voulez du vin blanc, n'est-ce pas ?
You want (some) white wine, don't you?
As-tu de l'argent ?
Do you have any money?

argent (m) means 'money' or 'silver'

Elle veut du beurre sur sa baguette.
She wants (some) butter on her baguette.

beurre (f) means 'butter'

Voici du gâteau. C'est un petit morceau du gâteau.
Here's some cake. It's a small piece of the cake.

Some cake - not the whole cake

entier (m) means 'whole'

l'entier (m) means 'the whole thing'

Il y a de la glace sur ta chemise.
There is some ice-cream on your shirt.

glace (f) means 'ice cream' or 'ice' or 'mirror'

Vous voulez des légumes ?
Do you want (some) vegetables?

légume (m) means 'vegetable'

Dans la vitrine il y a des gâteaux qui sont très beaux.
In the window there are (some) cakes which are very beautiful.
Y a-t-il des lettres dans la boîte à lettres ?
Are there (any) letters in the mailbox?

la boîte à lettres means 'mailbox'

Elle a des amies formidables.
She has wonderful friends.

formidable (m) means 'great' or 'tremendous'

Avez-vous des livres dans votre valise ?
Do you have (any) books in your suitcase?
Le professeur a de la patience.
The teacher has (some) patience.

Not specifying how much patience he has

patience (f) means 'patience'

Tu as de la chance.
You are lucky. / You are having some luck.

Not specifying how much luck you have

chance (f) means 'luck' or 'chance'