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Determiners are a category of grammatical terms including articles, numbers, and non-qualifying adjectives. Unlike descriptive adjectives,* determiners serve two functions: they introduce and modify nouns at the same time. Determiners are used much more frequently in French than in English.
Characteristics of French Determiners
- Introduce and modify nouns
- Always precede nouns
- Must agree in gender and number with nouns
- Cannot be modified
- Cannot be used with other determiners (i.e., only one determiner is allowed per noun)**
- Can be used with descriptive adjectives
Types of French Determiners
|All three types of articles are determiners:|
|1)||Definite articles||le lait
|2)||Indefinite articles||une bouteille
|3)||Partitive articles||du lait
|As are cardinal numbers**|
|Cardinal numbers||trois enfants
All the different types of non-descriptive adjectives are also determiners.
|1)||Demonstrative adjectives||cette leçon
|2)||Exclamative adjectives||quel aventure !
quelle bonne idée !
|what an adventure!
what a good idea!
|3)||Indefinite adjectives||chaque enfant
|4)||Interrogative adjectives||quel enfant ?
quelles idées ?
|5)||Negative adjectives||je ne vois aucun enfant
nulle eau y a été trouvée
|I don’t see any child
no water was found there
|6)||Possessive adjectives||votre idée
|7)||Relative adjectives||j’ai vu l’enfant, lequel enfant pleurait||I saw the child, said child was crying|
* Descriptive adjectives are what you typically think of when someone says "adjective." They have a single function: to describe nouns, such as blue, hot, small, or lovely.
** Articles, cardinal numbers, and some indefinite adjectives are exceptions: they can be used together.
- les dix enfants dans l’autre salle – the ten children in the other room
- un certain point – a certain point