French Zero Article

Beginner French - Level A1

Overview

A common mistake when learning a foreign language is directly translating from language to language. Oftentimes, there are words, expressions, and sentences that can’t be translated word for word. A common example of this concept in French is when one talks about occupations or professions. The "zero article" is the classification for phantom articles, when nouns are used with no article at all.

In English, the zero article is extremely common:

  • I love [*] Coke.
  • Let's talk about [*] cars.
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French A1

 

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French Zero Article

Zero Article for Professions

A common mistake when learning a foreign language is directly translating from language to language. Oftentimes, there are words, expressions, and sentences that can’t be translated word for word. A common example of this concept in French is when one talks about occupations or professions.

Take a look at these examples and try to point out the grammatical difference between French and English sentences that talk about occupations.

English

French

I am a writer.

Je suis écrivain.

You are a pilot.

Tu es pilote.

She is a chef.

Elle est cuisinière.

 

When talking about occupations or professions, notice how no indefinite article (a/an = un/une/des) is used in the sentence.

Notes:

  • An exception to this rule is when there are adjectives used in the sentence to describe the person in their professional role.

            Je suis un écrivain prudent.                I am a careful writer.

            Tu es un bon pilote.                            You are a good pilot.

            Elle est une cuisinière formidable.     She is a formidable chef.

  • A second exception is when you use the neutral expression C’est to express “It is” or “This is”.

            C’est un pompier qui sauve les personnes d’un feu. 

            It is a firefighter who saves people from a fire.

  • Remember that the profession may change spelling depending on if one is talking about a male or female.
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In French we don't say un or une (a) when stating someone's profession. We literally say "He is a lawyer", or "She is a doctor." 
-credit: lingoni French

Direction: Translate the following sentences from French to English. Use the vocabulary (Quizlet) from this lesson to learn the words for various professions.

  1. She is a nurse.
  2. He is a nurse.
  3. They are athletes.
  4. I (fem) am a mechanic.
  5. You (formal) are a teacher.

Answers:

  1. Elle est infirmière. - Notice that infirmière is the feminine way to say nurse. We know to use this version from the subject pronoun, Elle.
  2. Il est infirmier. - Notice that infirmier is the masculine way to say nurse. We know to use this version from the subject pronoun, Il.
  3. Ils sont athlètes. - Note the -s on the end of athlètes. We add an -s to indicate that “athletes” is plural.
  4. Je suis mécanicienne. The abbreviation (f) or (fem) indicates that the subject or word is feminine.
  5. Vous êtes professeur. -In French, there is no spelling difference between the masculine and feminine version of “teacher.” In this example, we are using the formal version of Vous; this implies we are talking about a singular person, hence why there is no -s on the end of professeur.

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