Determiners

Déterminants

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
les enfants
(the) milk
(the) children
2) Indefinite articles une bouteille
des enfants
a bottle
some children
3) Partitive articles du lait
des épinards
some milk
some spinach
       
As are cardinal numbers**
    Cardinal numbers trois enfants
dix bouteilles
three children
ten bottles

All the different types of non-descriptive adjectives are also determiners.

1) Demonstrative adjectives cette leçon
ces enfants
this lesson
those children
2) Exclamative adjectives quel aventure !
quelle bonne idée !
what an adventure!
what a good idea!
3) Indefinite adjectives chaque enfant
certaines idées
each child
certain ideas
4) Interrogative adjectives quel enfant ?
quelles idées ?
which child?
which ideas?
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
mes enfants
your idea
my children
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

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French determiners
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