August 2, 2020

Le, La, L', Les

Hello everyone! Today, I would like to introduce you to one of the first things beginners to learn in French: Defined Articles. As a French teacher, I often have this question that comes up from my students: when should you put LE, LA, LES or L 'in front of a name?

This may seem complicated to you, especially if you are from a country where a language such as English is spoken, because the definite article in English is simply the article "THE", given that common names do not have a genre. So grab your notebook, make yourself comfortable and let me walk you through the basics of the French language.

 

The name

First of all, what is a name?

A noun is a word or a group of words used to designate an object, an animal, a feeling, a thing. For example, the word "chaise" refers to an object, so it is a noun.

Names, in French, have a gender: feminine or masculine. This is one of the fundamental bases of the French language, because adjectives, articles, and other elements vary according to the genre (and number) of nouns.

For example, a "chaise" is a feminine name. A "livre" is a masculine name. In order to better know if a name is masculine or feminine, when you look it up in a dictionary, it is very important to note the gender of the name with.

Articles

Now that we have quickly seen what a name is, let's find out what an article is. In French, an article is a determinant that comes before a name. There are several types of articles: definite articles, indefinite articles and partitive articles.

The indefinite articles are characterized by: UN, UNE and DES.

The partitive articles are: DU, DE LA, DE L ’, and DES.

But in this lesson, we'll just focus on the definite items: LE, LA, LES, L ’.

A definite article is a word, a determinant, (LE, LA, LES, L ’) that is placed in front of a noun to introduce:

one specific thing already identified: Le chat de ma voisine
a general category of things: J’aime les chats.
So if you know what exactly you are talking about, you should use the definite article.

How to use definite articles in French?

You know that the article comes before a name, and that a name must have a gender, in French. The defined article changes depending on the gender and number of the name.

Definite Article

Type of noun

Le

Masculine Singular

Example: Le chat.

La

Feminine Singular

Example: La table.

Les

Masculine/ Feminine Plural

Example: Les amis.

L’

Masculine/ Feminine Singular

commençant par une voyelle (a, e, i, o, u) ou un H muet*.

Examples: L’oiseau.

L’horloge.

* In French, there are two types of "h": the silent h (considered as a vowel) and the aspirated h (considered as a consonant).

Here are some examples :

Silent H 

Aspirated H

L’horloge

L’habit

L’hiver

L’histoire

L’habitude

Le hibou

Le héros

Le haricot

La haie

La haine

Le hall

So we can see that the definite article agrees with the noun: if the noun is feminine, the definite article will be feminine (LA), unless the noun begins with a vowel or a silent H (L ’). If the name is plural, the definite article will be plural (LES).

Applications of the defined article

You will use the definite article when you want to mention something that you already know, that you have already clearly identified.

"Passe-moi la télécommande"

Another use of the definite article: to talk about your tastes. In fact, to talk about your tastes, what you like or don't like, you talk about one thing in general:

“J’aime le chocolat, mais je n’aime pas le lait. "

"J’adore les abricots ! "

Definite Articles: Conclusion

In short, here is what to remember about defined articles:

There are 4 definite articles: Le, La, Les, L ’.
The defined article means something already identified or a general category.
It agrees with the noun, in gender (masculine / feminine) and in number (singular / plural).
Defined articles are the first things to learn when starting out in French. They are essential for understanding different aspects of the language later in your learning.

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About the author 

Jaimi Saunders

J’aimi has worked in the education industry for over 20 years, gaining experience in teaching, mentoring, and coaching. As a seasoned educator he is passionate about advancing teaching excellence and student motivation. In addition to working in the education industry, he is also involved in continuing his personal education and improvement. Outside of the office, J’aimi enjoys, antique vehicles, motorcycles, and travelling to new destinations.

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