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Back to the Basics: French Definite Articles Posted by on May 22, 2017 in Grammar

Last week, we went over the basics of French articles. This week, we are going to dive more into French definite articles and the ways in which they can change when they are combined with prepositions such as à and de.


In French, the preposition à means “to” and the preposition de means “from.” When they are combined with definite articles, they contract, or connect together to form a new word. Let’s take a look at how this happens.

à + le becomes au

à + les becomes aux

If you want to say: Elle veut aller à [le cinéma] (She wants to go to the movies), you would need to combine à and le to form au. The grammatically correct sentence then becomes: Elle veut aller au cinéma.

If you want to say: Il veut aller à [les Jeux Olympiques]. (He wants to go to the Olympic Games), you would need to combine à and les to form aux. The grammatically correct sentence then becomes: Il veut aller aux Jeux Olympiques.

de + le becomes du

de + les becomes des

If you want to say: Elle vient de [le quinzième arrondissement]. (She comes from the 15th arrondissement), you would need to combine de and le to form du. The grammatically correct sentence then becomes: Elle vient du quinzième arrondissement.

If you want to say: Il vient de [les îles Seychelles]. (He comes from the Seychelle Islands), you would need to combine de and les to form des. The grammatically correct sentence then becomes: Il vient des îles Seychelles.

If you have a feminine singular definite articles, however, it does NOT contract with à or de. Thus, à + la just becomes à la and de + la just becomes de la. 

For example: Elle veut aller à [la boulangerie]. (She wants to go to the bakery.) Because à + la combines together and does not contract, the grammatically correct sentence is: Elle veut aller à la boulangerie.

Finally, if a singular noun begins with a vowel, then you just use à l’ or de l’ regardless of whether or not the noun is masculine or feminine. Et voilà! That’s how you contract French definite articles with prepositions.

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About the Author: Elizabeth Schmermund

Bonjour tout le monde! I'm a freelance writer, doctoral student, mom, and Francophile. I'm excited to share some of my experiences living in France, as well as the cultural nuances that I've learned being married to a Frenchman, with all of you. To find out more about me, feel free to check out my website at http://www.imaginistwriter.com. A la prochaine!