Determiners

French determiners
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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 articlesle lait
les enfants
(the) milk
(the) children
2)Indefinite articlesune bouteille
des enfants
a bottle
some children
3)Partitive articlesdu lait
des épinards
some milk
some spinach
    
As are cardinal numbers**
   Cardinal numberstrois enfants
dix bouteilles
three children
ten bottles

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

1)Demonstrative adjectivescette leçon
ces enfants
this lesson
those children
2)Exclamative adjectivesquel aventure !
quelle bonne idée !
what an adventure!
what a good idea!
3)Indefinite adjectiveschaque enfant
certaines idées
each child
certain ideas
4)Interrogative adjectivesquel enfant ?
quelles idées ?
which child?
which ideas?
5)Negative adjectivesje ne vois aucun enfant
nulle eau y a été trouvée
I don’t see any child
no water was found there
6)Possessive adjectivesvotre idée
mes enfants
your idea
my children
7)Relative adjectivesj’ai vu l’enfant, lequel enfant pleuraitI 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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