Definite article in French - le, la, les
How to use the definite article in French
The definite article in French is used in more or less the same way as we use the in English. However, one of the main differences is that in French, there is more than one definite article to choose from. Moreover, all French nouns are either masculine or feminine and, just as in English, they can be either singular or plural.
Forms of the definite article
le père (the father)
la mère (the mother)
l'hirondelle (the swallow)
les pères (the fathers)
les dames (the ladies)
Le and la change to l' when they are used in front of a word starting with a vowel and most words starting with h.
If à or de are placed in front of a definite article they'll be contracted:
|à/de + article||Contracted article||Example|
|á + le||→ au||la mousse au chocolate (chocolate mousse)|
|à + les||→ aux||mentir aux collègues (lie to the colleagues)|
|de + le||→ du||parler du livre (speak about the book)|
|de + les||→ des||à l'ombre des arbres (in the shadow of the trees)|
Exceptional cases of using the definite article
You should be aware that there are some exceptional cases when it comes to using definite articles in French.
1) Abstract & concrete nouns
Different from the English language definite articles in French are used with words that describe qualities, ideas or experiences (= abstract nouns) and things you can touch with your hands (= concret nouns).
- J'ai la grippe. (I've got flu.)
- Je n'ai pas le temps (I don't have time.)
- Je n'aime pas le café. (I don't like coffee.)
2) Countries, continents & regions
ln French you always have to use the definite article in front of the names of countries, continents and regions.
- la Bretagne (Brittany)
- l'Europe (Europe)
- Je viens des États-Unis. (I come from the United States.)
3) Formal addresses
If you use an article in combination with madame or monsieur you have to put the article inbetween.
- Monsieur le Commissaire (Mister Police Inspector)
- Madame la Présidente (Miss President)
4) Use with names
The definite article in French is used before:
- family names in the plural form (les Duponts)
- proper names in the singular form (le jeune Dupont)
- titles (le docteur Knock)
5) Times & days
You use the definite article with dates, and also with the names of the days of the week and the seasons when you are talking about something that you do regularly or that is a habit
- Elle part le 7 mai. (She's leaving on the seventh of May.)
- Je vais chez ma grand-mère le dimanche. (I go to my grandmother's on Sundays.)
- Paris, le 14 juillet 1998. (Paris, on the 14. July 1998.)
Note that you do NOT use the definite article after en.
Practise with a private teacher on Skype!
- Private Skype lessons
- Learn any topic
- Flexible appointments
I teach: English, French, Italian
Italian is my mother tongue.I carry out different kind of lessons, aimed at those who want to live in Italy or travel; but also for... students (or PhD or Teachers) who need to learn italian to read and speak fluently (to read original manuscript, to speak at conferences, seminars etc). Read more
Very experienced teacher!
German lessons and learning materials included
I teach: German, English, French
My name is Christina and I provide fun German and French language lesson for children and adult beginners or intermediate who want to... strengthen their language skills, improve the grammar knowledge, enrich the vocabulary and get into the German culture! I can teach in English or French!I had experince in teaching German, English and French to foreign people so I do have a lot of useful learning material I can provide you to make it easier! Read more
French lessons for all
I teach: Spanish, French
I’m French, currently living in the Netherlands. I lived in Paris for almost twenty years, and I know very well my country (and of course... my language, French, my mother tongue). I taught French for two years in Spain, conversation class about culture essentially.I have a French for foreigners Master.I enjoy sharing what I know. I’m a very eclectic person and curious about everything. To give you an idea, my interest (and sometimes hobbies) are: philosophy, spirituality and religions in general, meditation, psychology and psychoanalysis, history, geography, literature, writing (in particular creative writing, and I’m used to write everyday), art (painting, photography), sciences (vulgarisation level) and cultural matters in general. I travel a lot (as a backpacker), sometimes by foot, and the places I know well are France, the Netherlands, Italy and Serbia.One of my qualities is my capacity of adaptation, I enjoy preparing documents to help the student to acquire autonomy, but I love speaking too, and it’s the best way to learn a language.I'm waiting for your message, please when contact me, explain quickly who you are, why you want to study French and what you are looking for exactly.See you soon. Read more