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

 Related lessons

 Share / Tweet / Pin Me!

French determiners
Stay up to date with Lawless French!
Twitter Facebook Quora Instagram Pinterest YouTube RSS Newsletter

Any Questions?

 Get help on the forum.

More Lawless French

 Subscribe to my twice-weekly newsletter.

Support Lawless French

  This free website is created with love and a great deal of work.

If you love it, please consider making a one-time or monthly donation.

Your support is entirely optional but tremendously appreciated.