Indefinite Articles in French


Indefinite articles accompany nouns when referring to a nonspecific item. In English, we have the indefinite articles "a" and "an," which correspond to the French indefinite articles un and une. French also has a plural indefinite article (feminine and masculine) des, which correspond to certain uses of the word "some." The indefinite articles must match the noun they modify in terms of number and gender.
singular plural
masculine un des
feminine une des

Examples:
Nous cherchons un taxi. [We are looking for a taxi.] Il y a des oiseaux dans le jardin. [There are some birds in the garden.]

As you saw in the lesson on definite articles, indefinite articles follow different grammatical rules about when they should be used in English and in French.

Here are the most common uses of indefinite articles:

1. In constructions following the pattern subject = noun, meaning that you are identifying what type of noun something is.
Examples:
Mon fils est un ange. [My son is an angel.]
2. To refer to an approximate amount of something.
Example:
Je cherche un crayon. [I'm looking for a pencil.]

Placed before an adjective, the indefinite plural article "des" changes in "de"
Example:
Il y de nouveaux étudiants aujourd'hui. [There is new students today.]

Here are the most common situations where indefinite articles are NOT used, though English speakers tend to want to use them.

1. Describing an unknown amount
Examples:
Il y a des filles dans l'équipe? [Are there any girls on the team?]
Il y a des oeufs dans ce gâteau? [Are there any eggs in this cake?]

2. Before certain/e, demi/e, tel/telle/tels/ telles), autre.
Nous recherchons une certaine qualité. [We're looking for a certain quality.]
Je t'appelle dans une demi-heure. [I'll call you in a half an hour.]
Une telle maison n'existe pas. [Such a house doesn't exist.]
J'ai besoin d'un autre papier. [I need another paper.]
Related Links:
French Language
Negation in French: How to make negative sentences
Ordinal Numbers in French
Pluralization in French


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