Verbs and Expressions with de / du, de la, des

De vs des
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Knowing when to use de vs du, de la, des

For French verbs and expressions that must be followed by the preposition de, the choice of de vs du, de la, des depends on whether the noun that follows is modified and/or specific.

1. With an unmodified noun (no adjective or article), use de:

Il a envie de chocolat.   He wants (some) chocolate.
J’ai besoin de chaussures.   I need (some) shoes.
Tu dois changer de train ici.   You have to change trains here.


With verbs / expressions like avoir peur de and se méfier de plus a noun, you’re talking about that noun in its entirety, so the direct object is required.

J’ai peur des souris.   I’m afraid of (all) mice.
Elle se méfie de la police.   She mistrusts (all) the police.

2. With an unspecific noun preceded by an adjective, use de:

Il a envie de bon chocolat.   He wants (some) good chocolate.
Elle se sert de grands oreillers.   She’s using big pillows.
J’ai besoin de bonnes chaussures.   I need (some) good shoes.

3. With a modified, specific noun, use de + definite article.

Il a envie du bon chocolat que tu m’as donné.   He wants the good chocolate that you gave me.
Elle se sert des grands oreillers dans le salon.   She’s using the big pillows in the living room.
Nous voulons profiter des nouveaux accords.   We want to take advantage of the new agreements.
Il s’agit de la réforme agraire.   It’s a question of land reform.

 Conseil concis

The word "the" is often needed in English when the noun is specific, and the word "some" is usually an option when it’s unspecific.

 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

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De vs du, de la, des with French verbs

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2 Responses

  1. Joseph Kearney 19 May 2018 / 15:32

    Are ‘changer d’appearance’ and ‘changer de l’appearance’ different when translating them, as the first should mean ‘change appearance’ and the second should mean ‘change the appearance’?
    And also, another example: ‘j’ai besoin de chaussures’ and ‘j’ai besoin des chaussures’. Do they translate to ‘I need shoes’ and ‘I need the shoes’, respectively?

    • lkl 20 May 2018 / 1:47

      Generally speaking, yes, there’s a difference in meaning. For avoir besoin, your translations are correct.

      However, it’s not always a question of meaning, but rather grammar. In the case of changer, that verb must be followed either by an unmodified noun or by a definite article + noun. Changer d’apparence means to change appearance in a general, undefined sense, while changer l’apparence refers to changing the appearance of something specific (eg, changer l’apparence de notre site). You can’t say “changer de l’apparence.”

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