The Definite Article

The definite article, or l’article défini, is used before a noun. In English, the definite article is the, but in French they have four: le, la, l’, les.

Deciding between le, la, l', les

Le is used for singular, masculine nouns that begin with a consonant.

Le garçon. The boy.
Le chat. The cat.
Le taureau. The bull.

La is used for singular, feminine nouns that begin with a consonant.

La fille. The girl.
La tasse. The cup.
La vache. The cow.

L’ is used for singular nouns that begin with a vowel (remember that h is sometimes a vowel).

L’homme. The man.
L’enfant. The child.
L’animal. The animal.

Les is used for plural nouns. The pronunciation of les changes depending on whether a vowel comes after. If the following word begins in a consonant, les is pronounced as /le/ whereas it is pronounced as /lez/ if a vowel comes after.

Les filles. The girls.
Les taureaux. The bulls.
Les enfants. The children.

Contractions with de and à

Le and les change forms when à or de come before to create a contracted preposition-article combo.

DE + LE = DES
DE + LES = DES

À + LE = AU
À + LES = AUX

Donnez le fruit aux enfants.
Give the fruit to the children.

Elle parle du livre.
She’s talking about the book.

À + LA remains as à la, just like à l’.

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