Descriptive de vs Possessive de

De vs du, de la, des

Sometimes the choice between de and du, de la, des is simply a question of whether you’re describing a noun or indicating a possessor.

1. To show possession of a noun, use de + definite article:

le livre de l’étudiant
le livre des étudiants
  the student’s book
the students’ book
it belongs to the student(s)
le panier du chien   the dog’s basket it belongs to the dog

 Unless it’s a proper noun:

le livre de Jean-Luc   Jean-Luc’s book
le panier de Bijou   Bijou’s basket

or there’s some other determiner such as a demonstrative adjective or possessive adjective:

le livre de cet étudiant   this student’s book
le panier de mon chien   my dog’s basket

2. To describe a noun, use de + descriptive noun construction:

le livre d’étudiant   student book the book for or about students
le panier de chien   dog basket the basket for a dog

3. To distinguish one noun among a group, use de + definite article. This is often used in advertising.

le livre de l’étudiant étranger foreign student book the book for foreign students
  foreign student’s book the book that belongs to a foreign student (e.g. Felipe)
le panier du chien délicat discriminating dog’s basket the basket for discriminating dogs
(there are two dogs; this basket belongs to the discriminating one)

 This can be tricky, because this construction looks like it could be either descriptive or possessive.

 More about de vs du, de la, des

Partitive and indefinite articles
Quantities, adjectives, and prepositional phrases
Descriptive de vs possessive de
Verbs and expressions with de
Quiz on de vs du, de la, des

 Related lessons

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De vs du, de la, des
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6 Responses

  1. Victor 24 July 2018 / 19:41

    In point 3, there are 2 French phrases, but 3 English translations, i.e. the English translation “foreign student’s book” appears to be missing its corresponding French phrase. Or am I wrong and “le livre de l’étudiant étranger” has 2 different English translations?

    • lkl 24 July 2018 / 23:56

      Bonjour – the latter, it has two translations.

  2. Miss Drew Chateau 11 June 2018 / 10:09

    Hi, just wondering what the difference would be between saying a glass of wine and a wine glass.

    By the way, your site’s amazing and it’s really helped me in studying for my A Levels.

    • lkl 13 June 2018 / 7:49

      A wine glass is a glass whose purpose is to be filled with wine (whether or not it is).

      A glass of wine is a glass, usually a wine glass, filled with wine.

      Thanks for your nice comment, happy to help! 🙂

  3. Malonnie Kinnison 6 June 2017 / 18:56

    Je me demande si vous connaissez un site semblable à celui-ci pour des francophones qui apprennent l’anglais

    C’est un site extraordinaire!