Indefinite Article – un, une, des

French indefinite articles
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Article indéfini

The aptly named indefinite article indicates an unspecific or unidentified noun.

Par exemple…

Je veux un chat ou un chien.   I want a cat or a dog.
Achète des oignons.   Buy some onions.

Characteristics of indefinite articles

  1. Used with countable nouns (as opposed to uncountable nouns like money and water)
  2. Placed directly in front of a noun or an adjective + noun
  3. Agree with the noun in number and sometimes gender

French indefinite articles

  Masculine Feminine
a, an, one   un une
some   des des

+ There are two singular articles, each of which can mean a, an, or one:

  1. Masculine: un
  2. Feminine: une

+ There is only one plural indefinite article: des.

Using indefinite articles

You can use indefinite articles in front of unnamed, unidentified, or unspecified nouns, as long as they are countable.

Par exemple…

Il y a un problème.   There’s a problem. (What problem?)
Un touriste a été blessé.   A tourist was wounded. (Who?)

The nouns may be modified by

1) adjectives

Par exemple…

J’ai une bonne idée.   I have a good idea.
C’est un pays extraordinaire.   It’s an extraordinary country.

2) noun phrases

Par exemple…

Je cherche des livres de cuisine.   I’m looking for (some) cookbooks.
Voici une photo de notre fils.   Here’s a picture of our son.

3) relative clauses

Par exemple…

Je veux un chien quí n’aboie pas trop.   I want a dog that doesn’t bark too much.
C’est une journée dont on se souviendra.   It’s a day we’ll remember.

  The indefinite article is not used when talking about a person’s profession, religion, or any other defining noun in the following construction:

Noun / Name / Subject pronoun + être + profession / religion / noun

Par exemple…

Ma sœur est avocate.   My sister is a lawyer.
Marc est musulman.   Marc is a Muslim.
Ils sont cousins.   They are cousins.

  In certain constructions, the indefinite reverts to simply de (or its contraction d’).

With negation

Je ne veux pas de chien.   I don’t want a dog.
N’achète pas d’oignon.   Don’t buy any onions.

After expressions of quantity

J’ai vu beaucoup de chats.   I saw a lot of cats.
Il a très peu d’idées.   He has very few ideas.

After avoir envie and avoir besoin (plural only)

J’ai envie de tomates.   I want some tomatoes.
As-tu besoin d’idées ?   Do you need some ideas?
But: J’ai besoin d’un stylo.   I need a pen.

When an adjective precedes the noun (plural only)

J’ai reçu de beaux cadeaux.   I received some beautiful gifts.
Il a écrit d’autres livres.   He has written other books.
But: Tu as un joli chien.   You have a pretty dog.
   
Quiz: Indefinite article

 Related lessons

Learn Spanish En español

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French indefinite articles
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