Virtual Kollage: The definite article in French

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The definite article in French




 The Definite Article
The French definite article agrees with the noun in gender and number.
Singular               Plural
Masculine                                          le                     les
Feminine                                           la                     les

Masculine and feminine                  l’                      les
before a vowel sound
or mute h

Masculine Nouns
Masculine singular nouns take the definite article le. The genders of French nouns are hard to guess. You will learn them as you go along. Pronounce the following nouns with their article. Refer to the Guide to Pronunciation as needed.

le chat (the cat)                    
le frère (the brother)
le chien (the dog)    
le garçon (the boy)
le cinéma (the cinema, film, movies)
le livre (the book)
le cours (the course, class)
le téléphone (the telephone)
le football (soccer) le vin (the wine)

Feminine Nouns
Feminine singular nouns take the definite article la.
la banque (the bank)                        la lampe (the lamp)
la boutique (the store, shop)           la langue (the language)
la chemise (the shirt)                       la soeur (the sister)
la femme (the woman, wife)            la table (the table)
la jeune fille (the girl)                       la voiture (the car)
Many feminine nouns end in -e, but please don’t consider this a general rule because there are notable exceptions

Masculine and Feminine Articles before a Vowel Sound
or Mute h
The definite article l’ is used before all singular nouns, maculine and feminine, starting with a vowel or a mute (non-aspirate) h. The -e or -a of the definite article is dropped (elided). When the noun starts with h, pronounce the vowel that follows the h.

Learn the gender (m. or f.) in parentheses for each noun so that when later you begin to attach adjectives to nouns, it will be easier to remember their gender.

l’ami (m.) the friend (m.)     l’histoire (f.) the story, history
l’amie (f.) the friend (f.)       l’homme (m.) the man
l’anglais (m.) English (language)

l’hôtel (m.) the hotel                       l’architecte (m. or f.) the architect
l’île (f.) the island                 l’emploi (m.) the job
l’orange (f.) the orange (fruit)
l’énergie (f.) energy                        l’université (f.) the university
l’enfant (m. or f.) the child (m. or f.)
l’usine (f.) the factory

Singular Nouns and the Definite Article
The definite article indicates a specific person, place, thing, or idea. It also
precedes nouns that are used in a general sense.

C’est l’amie de ma mère.              That’s (She’s) my mother’s friend.

Les Français adorent le football        The French love soccer and
et le cyclisme.                                                        cycling.

Le, la, and l’
Remember: Le is used with masculine singular nouns beginning with a consonant; la is used with feminine singular nouns beginning with a consonant; and l’ is used with both masculine and feminine singular nouns beginning with a vowel and for most nouns beginning with the letter h.

The Initial Letter h
The letter h is always silent in French. Words starting with the letter hl’homme, for example—are pronounced beginning with the first vowel sound. This is called a mute h.
However, in front of some French words starting with h, for historical reasons, the article does not elide the -e or -a. For example:

la *harpe the harp  la *honte shame
le *héros the hero   le *hors-d’oeuvre the appetizer

This is called an aspirate h. This h is also a silent letter; it is not pronounced. French dictionaries show the aspirate h with a diacritical mark. In this book, words beginning with an aspirate h are indicated by an asterisk (*).


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