French The Definite Article

Overview

In English we only have one definite article: the. In French, there is more than one definite article to choose from. All French nouns are either masculine or feminine. Just as in English, they can be either singular or plural. The word you choose for the depends on whether the noun it is used with is masculine or feminine, singular or plural.

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There are several ways that you express the word “the” in French. The word “the” is called the definite article. The form of the definite article that you choose should be based on the gender and number of the person or object that you are referring to.

Definite ArticleLabelExampleTranslation
leMasculine singularle chienthe dog
laFeminine singularla fleurthe flower
lesPluralles filmsthe movies
l’Masculine or Feminine before a vowell’écolethe school

Notes:

  • Because nouns do not have a gender in English, it can be difficult to know and remember whether a noun in French is either masculine or feminine. Mistaking the definite articles one for another happens often. Using clues in each sentence (like adjective agreement) will give away the gender of some nouns and help in choosing the appropriate definite article. But when you learn new vocabulary words, you should learn the definite or indefinite article (thus, gender) that is associated with it.
  • Remember that even though plural nouns use the definite article les, they still have an assigned masculine or feminine gender.

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
Writing:
I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Spoken Production:
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Spoken Interaction:
I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
Reading:
I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
Listening:
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.