Articles, Elisions, Contractions, Words Beginning in Spanish Rules



Grammar notes like those below can be helpful if you're having trouble with the lessons, so consider trying the lessons above before reading the notes. They'll be more helpful once you have a context for understanding them.

Articles


Articles (e.g. "the" or "a") provide context for a noun. In English, articles may be omitted, but French nouns almost always have an article. French has three types of articles:
Definite articles ("the") are used with specific nouns that are known to the speakers, as in English, but also to indicate the general sense of a noun, unlike in English.
Indefinite articles ("a"/"an"/"one") are used for countable nouns that are unspecified or unknown to the speakers.
Partitive articles ("some"/"any") indicate a quantity of something uncountable.

Articles have multiple forms, as provided in this table:
ArticleMasculineFemininePluralExample
Definitele/l'la/l'lesle chat — the cat
Indefiniteununedesune femme — a woman
Partitivedu/de l'de la/de l'de l'eau — (some) water
It is critical to understand that articles must agree with their nouns in both gender and number. For instance, le femme is incorrect. It must be la femme because la is feminine and singular, just like femme.

Elisions

Le and la become just l' if they're followed by a vowel sound. This is an example of elision, which is the removal of a vowel sound in order to prevent consecutive vowel sounds and make pronunciation easier. Elisions are mandatory—for instance, je aime is incorrect. It must be j'aime.

These other one-syllable words can also elide: je, me, te, se, de, ce, ne, and que. Tu can also be elided in casual speech, but not in writing (including on Duolingo).

Contractions

In a contraction, two words combine to form one shortened word. For instance, the partitive article du is a contraction of the preposition de with le.
du pain — (some) bread

However, since du can create vowel conflicts, when it would appear in front of a vowel sound, it takes the elided de l' form instead. This is also the case for de la.
de l'ananas [masc.] — (some) pineapple
de l'eau [fem.] — (some) water

Words Beginning with H

The letter H is always mute (silent) in French, but when H starts a word, it can act as a consonant (aspirate) or vowel (non-aspirate). For example, the H in homme acts as a vowel. This means that "the man" must be written as l'homme.

Conversely, an aspirate H doesn't participate in elisions or liaisons (which you'll learn about soon). It's usually found at the beginning of loanwords from German or other languages. For instance, "the hero" is le héros. Pay attention to this when learning new vocabulary.

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