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'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

    or

    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).


Negatives
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.


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