Learn French Grammar
'A' ... the Indefinite Article

The word 'a' in English is called the indefinite article.

While it sounds a bit academic and technical it is really quite simple.

If we are talking about any article in French such as 'a' mouse or 'an' apple we are not referring to any particular mouse or any particular apple.

It is just any old mouse or any old apple.

That is why it is an 'indefinite article'.... because it is 'indefinite.'

Once we talk about that exact mouse on the table, or that exact green apple that it is eating, it becomes 'the mouse' and 'the apple'. It refers a particular, definite mouse.

The word 'the' is the definite article.

There are several words for the indefinite article in French.

un - une - des.

Very few nouns in the French language can be used without a

    Definite Article - the


    The French Indefinite Article - a or an.

French Indefinite articles are used as follows:

when the noun is not specific - a (any) book, not THE book.

French Indefinite articles depend on the gender and number of the noun.

    Masculine Singular (that is one male object): un
    Feminine Singular (that is one female object): une

    Plural (that is two or more objects, whether male or female or a mix of male and female objects): des

The indefinite article in French is used even when it is not translated in English

    Ce sont des amis. They are friends.
    (des translates as some but is omitted in English).

When a definite article is used in the negative (unless with the verb être) the indefinite article is always de.

    As-tu un stylo? Non, je n’ai pas de stylo.

    Do you have a pen? No, I do not have a pen.

    Avez-vous des enfants? Non, nous n’avons pas d’enfants.

    Do you have any children? No, we do not have any children.

The exception of the verb être:

In the negative, the indefinite article remains and does not change to de.

    C’est un haricot. Ce n’est pas un champignon. It’s a bean. It is not a mushroom.

    Elle est une bonne cuisinère. Elle n'est pas femme d'affaire. She is a good cook. She is not a business-woman.

The other exception - When you don’t use the indefinite article in French.

When you are talking about a person’s nationality, religion, or profession, you do not use an article of any kind because those words are considered to be adjectives in French.

    Elle est artiste. She is an artist.

    Ils sont américains. The are American.

    Nous sommes baptistes. We are Baptist.

There it is, the French indefinite article, a fancy way of saying 'a', 'an', or 'some'.
For more French grammar lessons like the French indefinite article lesson.

Copyright©. All rights reserved. Learn-French-Help©, exceltra, Transcity Properties Ltd, 32 Alverton, Great Linford, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK14 5EF, United Kingdom.


Share this page:
Enjoy this page? Please pass it on. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.


Custom Search


Get French lessons and verbs emailed direct to you free

Get lots of useful French lessons and French verbs sent to you each week free by email, from the 200 Words a Day accelerated language learning team. Great for learning, review and consolidating your French knowledge.

Yes, send me my free Learn French newsletters. My details are:


Your privacy is important to us. We do not sell our mailing lists.