Using le, la, l' to say "the" (definite articles)

Look at these cases:

Le garçon mange une pomme.
The boy is eating an apple.

La fille est jolie.
The girl is pretty.

L'animal est timide.
The animal is shy.

Elle est dans l'hôtel.
She is in the hotel.

French has three words for the: le, la and l'.

Unlike English, all nouns (words for things) in French are masculine or feminine.

  • Use le with masculine nouns
  • Use la with feminine nouns
  • Use l' with words of either gender that begin with a vowel or the letter h.

 

Grammar jargon: le, la and l' are definite articles (the is the definite article in English).

In some cases, French and Englisgh use these definite articles in a different way, look at these lessons for such cases:

Using le, la, l', les before nouns when generalising (definite articles)
Using le, la, les with titles, languages and academic subjects (definite articles)
Using le, la, l', les with continents, countries & regions names (definite articles)
Using le, la, les with weights and measures (definite articles)
Using le, la, les with body parts and clothing (definite articles)

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

La fille est jolie.
The girl is pretty.



Le vampire est caché.
The vampire is hidden.



L'animal est timide.
The animal is shy.


Elle est dans l'hôtel.
She is in the hotel.


Le garçon mange une pomme.
The boy is eating an apple.


Q&A

Peter

Kwiziq community member

24 May 2016

1 reply

When to use the definite articles

In English, we often drop the definite article but it seems in French, that it is always used or used more often than in English, is this the case? What is the correct rule

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

24 May 2016

24/05/16

Bonjour Peter,


We offer a few lessons addressing the different cases where the definite articles are used differently in French.
Thanks to your question, we've now added links to them in the main lesson. Please have a look:
https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/revision/grammar/using-le-la-l-to-say-the-definite-articles


A bientôt !

Peter

Kwiziq community member

24 May 2016

1 reply

Le garcon, la fille, l'hotel, les enfants

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

24 May 2016

24/05/16

Bonjour Peter,


We offer a few lessons addressing the different cases where the definite articles are used differently in French.
Thanks to your question, we've now added links to them in the main lesson. Please have a look:
https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/revision/grammar/using-le-la-l-to-say-the-definite-articles


A bientôt !

Megan

Kwiziq community member

11 April 2016

5 replies

L'

I still don't understand when do you do l'.

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

12 April 2016

12/04/16

Hi Megan,

If the next word starts with the letter a, e, i, o or u, then you contract le or la to l'.

If it starts with an h, but the h is silent/mute/unpronounced when the word is spoken (so in effect the next letter which is a vowel is the real first letter) then again, contract le or la to l'.

It just makes the words a bit easier to say and that's reflected in how they're written.

Does this answer your question?

Joakim

Kwiziq community member

12 April 2016

12/04/16

Are there no French nouns beginning with "y" ?

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

12 April 2016

12/04/16

Joakim,

Yes, there are, but you don't contract in front of them: le yaourt, le yurt, etc.

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

12 April 2016

12/04/16

You would contract "le" + "y" though (the adverbial pronoun) - again because it's pronounced as a vowel here. "Je l'y rejoins" for example.

Megan

Kwiziq community member

12 April 2016

12/04/16

Yes that answers my question.
Thanks

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