Understanding French Partitive Articles: An Essential Grammar Concept for Learners


Bienvenue! As a French teacher, I understand that learning a new language can be challenging, especially when it comes to mastering grammar concepts. Today, we’re going to dive into the world of partitive articles in French. These articles play a crucial role in expressing quantities and referring to unspecified or unknown quantities. Let’s explore the ins and outs of French partitive articles together!

What are Partitive Articles?

Partitive articles are used to express an indefinite quantity of a noun, often representing something that cannot be counted or is not specified. In English, we use words like “some” or “any” to convey similar ideas. In French, we have three partitive articles: “du,” “de la,” and “de l’,” which correspond to the English word “some.”

Using ‘Du’:

The partitive article “du” is a contraction of the preposition “de” and the masculine definite article “le.” We use it before masculine, singular nouns. For example:

  1. Je voudrais du pain. (I would like some bread.)
  2. Tu as du lait? (Do you have some milk?)
  3. Nous avons mangé du fromage. (We ate some cheese.)

Using ‘De la’:

We use the partitive article “de la” before feminine, singular nouns. Take a look at these examples:

  1. J’ai besoin de la farine pour la recette. (I need some flour for the recipe.)
  2. Elle a acheté de la confiture. (She bought some jam.)
  3. Je veux boire de la limonade. (I want to drink some lemonade.)

Using ‘De l’:

The partitive article “de l'” is used before singular nouns starting with a vowel or silent “h” for both masculine and feminine nouns. Here are some instances where we use it:

  1. Nous avons besoin de l’huile d’olive. (We need some olive oil.)
  2. Je veux boire de l’eau gazeuse. (I want to drink some sparkling water.)
  3. Il m’a offert de l’argent. (He gave me some money.)

Exceptions and Notes:

  1. When referring to an indefinite quantity of a plural noun, we simply use the plural form without a partitive article:
  • Nous avons des chocolats pour la fête. (We have some chocolates for the party.)
  1. In negative sentences, the partitive article changes to “de” instead of the contracted forms “du” or “de la”:
  • Je ne veux pas de café. (I don’t want any coffee.)
  • Ils n’ont pas de sucre. (They don’t have any sugar.)


Understanding partitive articles is essential in French as it allows us to express and refer to indefinite quantities of nouns. By grasping the usage of “du,” “de la,” and “de l’,” you will enhance your ability to speak and write more accurately in French. Practice using these articles in everyday conversations and explore various contexts to solidify your understanding. Bonne chance dans votre voyage linguistique! (Good luck on your language journey!)