Possessive de

French’s possessive construction

French possessive de
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In English, we use ‘s (apostrophe s) to indicate that one noun possesses another. The French equivalent is the preposition de, with the order of the nouns reversed.

Par exemple…

la lettre de Sandrine   Sandrine’s letter
les cafés de France   France’s cafés

Literally, "the letter of Sandrine" and "the cafés of France.”

When the owner is not a proper name, it must be preceded by a modifier, such as an article, possessive adjective, or demonstrative adjective.

Par exemple…

le travail de l’ingénieur   the engineer’s work
les voitures de ma famille   my family’s cars
la lettre de cette fille   this girl’s letter

 The possessive de can’t be used with stressed pronouns; they require the possessive à.

When the owner is plural, as signified by s’ (s apostrophe) in English, the French modifier must be plural.

Par exemple…

la lettre de ces filles   these girls’ letter
les voitures de mes enfants   my kids’ cars

As always, de must contract with the definite articles le and les.

les cafés du pays   the country’s cafés
le travail des ingénieurs   the engineers’ work

 The possessive de construction is also equivalent to a descriptive noun plus noun in English.

Par exemple…

les clés de voiture   car keys
le livre de français   French book
du jus d’orange   orange juice

French is sometimes more precise thanks to this construction, as it makes a distinction that is missing in English.

le livre de français
(French grammar book)
vs le livre français
(book written in French)
  French book
du jus d’orange
(juice from oranges)
vs du jus orange
(orange-colored juice)
  orange juice
Quiz: Possessive de

 Related lessons

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Learn English In English

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French possession with de

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