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The indefinite article in French

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The Indefinite Article in French
The singular indefinite article in French, corresponding to a (an) in English, is un for masculine nouns and une for feminine nouns. The plural of both forms is des, roughly equivalent to some (though it’s usually not translated as some). Depending on the context, un/une can also mean the number one.
Singular               Plural
Masculine                  un                         des
Feminine                une                       des

Masculine Nouns
Pronounce the examples, learning the gender of each noun along with its article. The indefinite article is the same for nouns beginning with a consonant or a vowel.

un ami a friend (m.)                         un hôtel an hotel
un autobus a bus               un jardin a garden
un billet a ticket                              un musée a museum
un dictionnaire a dictionary         un pianiste a pianist (m.)
un fauteuil an easy chair un salon a living room

Feminine Nouns
Pronounce the following examples and learn the meaning of words new to you. A practical way to learn the gender of a noun is to link it with un or une.
une amie a friend (f.)                      une librairie a bookstore
une bibliothèque a library                       une mère a mother
une héroïne a heroine                  une page a (book) page
une *Hollandaise a Dutchwoman
une valise a suitcase                    une leçon a lesson une ville a city

Note that l’héroïne (f.) (unlike le *héros) is pronounced with a mute
h and elides its definite article. The h of le *héros is an aspirate h (no

Plural Nouns
The plural defi nite article of all nouns is les; the plural indefinite article is des. Most French nouns are made plural by adding an -s to the singular. In addition, note the following plural endings:

  1. Nouns that end in -s, -x, or -z in the singular stay the same in the plural. un choix des choix a choice, (some) choices

le cours        les cours     the course, the courses
le nez                    les nez        the nose, the noses

  1. Some plural noun endings are irregular.

le bureau les bureaux the desk (or office), the desks (or offices)
un hôpital des hôpitaux a hospital, (some) hospitals
le lieu les lieux the place, the places
le travail les travaux (the) work, the tasks (or jobs)

  1. The masculine form is always used to refer to a group (two or more people) that includes at least one male.

un étudiant et six étudiantes = des étudiants students
un Français et une Française=des Français French (people)

Pronouncing the Plural
The final -s is usually not pronounced in French:
les touristes [lay too-Reest]

Spoken French distinguishes most singular and plural nouns by the pronunciation of the definite article:

le touriste [luh too-Reest] versus les touristes [lay too-Reest] When the -s of a plural article (les or des) is followed by a vowel sound, it
is pronounced [z] and begins the following syllable; this is called a
les_exercices (m.) [lay-zehg-zehR-sees];
des_hommes (m.) [day-zuhm]

There is no liaison with the aspirate h. Pronounce the nasal vowel un[In] before un *héros [In ay-Roh], and do not make the liaison with -s in les *héros [lay ay-Roh]. Pronounce the following out loud:

des_artistes [day-zahr-teest]
les_hommes [lay-zuhm]
les cafés [lay kah-fay]
des *hors-d’oeuvre [day uhr-dERR-vR]
des_étudiants [day-zay-tU-dyAn]
les restaurants [lay Rehs-toh-RAn]

NOTE: The word les (or des) *hors-d’oeuvre is invariable in the plural; it has no fi nal -s.

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