French Indefinite Articles - dummies

By Veronique Mazet

The French indefinite article is the equivalent to a/an and some (but English often skips it). Do you ask about one thing, describe a couple of things that happened, and make plans for an outing that hasn’t yet been defined? If so, you’re an indefinite article kind of person, like the French! And as such, you should treat the article indéfini as the default article in French.

French Indefinite Articles
French Article Usage in French English Equivalent Example
un Before masculine singular nouns a/an un chat (a cat)
une Before feminine singular nouns a/an une maison
(a house)
des Before masculine or feminine plural nouns some des enfants (some children)
de, or d’ before nouns beginning with a
vowel or a mute -h
Instead of any indefinite article, after a negative verb no or not any pas d’ordinateur
(no computer)

Use the indefinite article when you talk about one or several individual things that you can count, as opposed to an entire category of things.

Il y a un livre sur la table. (There is a book on the table.)

Tu as mangé une banane. (You ate a/one banana.)

Il a vu des lions au zoo. (He saw (some) lions at the zoo.)

You also can use the indefinite articles un and une before an expression of quantity, like une tranche de (a slice of), un morceau de (a piece of), and un peu de (a little bit of).

In a sentence with a negative verb, un, une, and des are replaced by de, even if the noun it introduces is plural. Here are some examples.

Il n’y a pas de souris dans notre garage. (There is not a mouse in our garage.)

Elle ne veut pas d’enfants. (She doesn’t want any children.)

This rule has one exception. Don’t use de when the negative verb is être (to be). Just use the indefinite article as if the sentence was affirmative. Here are some examples:

Cet animal n’est pas un chien. C’est un renard. (This animal is not a dog. It’s a fox.)

C’est une voiture rouge, n’est-ce pas? — Non ce n’est pas une voiture rouge! C’est une voiture noire. ( It’s a red car, right? — No, it’s not a red car! It’s a black car.)

Choose between the definite article (le, la, l’, les) and the indefinite article (un, une, des, and de) to complete the sentences. Check a French-English dictionary if you need help with the vocabulary.