The in French

How do you say the in French? You’ll learn the essential French articles la, le, l' and les in today’s online lesson, and I’ve included some examples with audio as well.

This is where I’ll introduce you to definite French articles – and I don’t mean the reading kind! If you’ve never heard of definite articles in French,  don’t panic!

I’ve provided step-by-step explanations so you’ll understand these basic rules of French grammar in no time.

Making things really clear with articles

Articles are the little words that make language really clear: “The,” “A,” “Some,” “Several,” “Of,” “Of the,” and “Any.”

Define it...

In English the word “the” is what we call a definite article. That is because the word “the” points to a very specific thing. For example, you may tell someone, “I want the mug” assuming that they will bring you the mug you have in mind.

Or not!

If you tell them, “I want a mug,” you will get whichever mug they choose to hand you! That is because the words “a” or “an” or “some” are indefinite articles and point to a general group of items, things, people or places.

Using the in French

In French, the short defining word before the noun is really part of the noun. For instance, “le musicien” and “la musicienne” for 'the musician.'

In French, “the” is not just one word. Rather there are a total of 4 versions of “the,” depending on the gender and quantity of the noun to which you are referring.

The French word for “the,” if followed by a masculine noun, is “Le.” If followed by a feminine noun, it is “La” and when followed by any noun in the plural, it is “Les” For example, if there is one (male) cat, we say “Le chat.” If there are two or more cats, we say “Les chats.” If there is one woman, we say “La femme.” If there are two or more women, we say “Les femmes.

Any singular noun beginning with a vowel or an “h” is always preceded by an apostrophe after the definite article: “L’"- for example, “ L’homme,” “ L’hiver,” “ L’escalier.” The apostrophe is inserted in between the article and the noun. This is because two vowel sounds in French cannot follow from one word to another. 

In summary:

  • The + masculine noun    = le
  • The + feminine noun    = la
  • The + any noun beginning with a vowel    = l’
  • The + any plural noun    = les

When Indefinite and Definite Work Together in French

"Some" and "several" in French are interchangeable with "any" and "of the."  We refer to words like "some" and "several" as articles. These articles help to define words and quantities, and just like everything else in French, they have to follow gender rules.

This means that almost everything new you learn in French will be subject to the following questions:

  • Is it a female group of words?
  • Is it a male group of words?
  • Is it singular or plural?
  • Does it begin with a vowel?
For more on indefinite articles see A in French

Á plus tard! (See you later!)

Marie-Claire Rivière and the Rocket French Team


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Note that the tests below are listed from easiest to hardest.

Hear It Say It!

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Improve your understanding of spoken French. With Hear it Say it! you can tune your ear to French, increase your vocabulary and improve your pronunciation at the same time! Ready?

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