French The Indefinite Article

Beginner French - Level A1

Overview

In English we have the indefinite article a, which changes to an in front of a word that starts with a vowel. In the plural we say either some, any or nothing at all. In French, the indefinite articles (articles indéfinis) are un (masculine singular), une (feminine singular) and des (plural for both genders). We use the indefinite article in the following cases:

  • to talk about something non-specific
  • in an introductory capacity to mention something for the first time in a text
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French A1

 

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French The Indefinite Article

An indefinite article is used to define an unspecified/unquantified noun. In English, indefinite articles translate to “a/an,” “some,” or “any.” Just like definite articles, the form of the indefinite article that you choose depends on the gender and number of the person or object that you are referring to.

Indefinite Article

Label

Example

Translation

un

Masculine singular

un chapeau

a hat

une

Feminine singular

une chemise

a man’s shirt

des

Plural for “some”

des chaussures

some shoes

 

Indefinite articles in negative sentences

We learned previously that in order to negate a sentence, you have to sandwich the “ne” and “pas” around the verb. Notice the change in the indefinite article in these examples of affirmative and negative sentences.

Affirmative: J’ai une cravate.                        I have a tie.

Negative: Je n’ai pas de cravate.        I don’t have any tie.

Affirmative: J’ai des bottes.                    I have some boots.

Negative: Je n’ai pas de bottes.         I don’t have any boots.


Affirmative:
 J’ai une écharpe.                       I have a scarf.

Negative: Je n’ai pas d’écharpe.        I don’t have any scarf.

In a negative sentence, the indefinite article always changes to de to signify the English word, “any” (even when the noun is plural). 

Notes:

  • Just like definite articles, you must identify the gender and number of the word that you are defining by an indefinite article. For example, if you want to say “I have an exam tomorrow,” you must first determine the gender of the word exam, or examen, in French. When you learn that examen is masculine singular, you know that the sentence should be translated to, J’ai un examen demain.
  • When des is used in front of a noun that begins with a vowel, the -s on the end is pronounced with a /z/ sound to create a liaison between the indefinite article and the following word.
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Indefinite Articles in French
-credit to: Learn French with Pascal

Directions: Identify whether each underlined noun is masculin singular, feminine singular, or plural.

  1. Avez-vous des questions ? _______________
  2. Tu as une belle voix ! ________________
  3. Elle a un manteau pour plus tard. _________________

Directions: Rewrite each affirmative sentence to become negative.

  1. J’ai un pull bleu. _____________________________________
  2. Ils portent (wear) des chaussettes.___________________________
  3. Elle a un imperméable. __________________________________

Translation and Answers:

  1. Do you have some questions ? Plural - This is understood from the indefinite article des. Note that question is a feminine word in French but regardless of gender, des is used with plural nouns.
  2. You have a beautiful voice ! Feminine singular - This is understood from the indefinite article une.
  3. She has an overcoat for later. Masculine singular - This is understood from the indefinite article un.
  4. Je nai pas de pull bleu. - I don’t have any blue sweaters.
  5. Ils ne portent pas de chaussettes. - They don’t wear any socks.
  6. Elle na pas dimperméable. - She doesn’t have any raincoat.

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