Using the preposition ‘de

The French word de is a preposition with several meanings: ‘of’, ‘from’, ‘about’, or ‘some’. For example:

Le jardin de la maison – the garden of the house

Il vient de Marseille. – He comes from Marseille.

Nous parlons de la France. – We’re talking about France.

Je voudrais de la glace. – I would like some ice-cream.

All the nouns used after ‘de‘ above were feminine. If we use ‘de‘ with a masculine singular noun, it combines with ‘le‘ (meaning ‘the’) to make ‘du‘. For example:

La porte du salon – the door of the sitting room

Il vient du village. – He comes from the village.

Nous parlons du garçon. – We’re talking about the boy.

Je voudrais du café. – I would like some coffee.

If the singular noun begins with a vowel or silent ‘h’, use ‘de’ with ‘l’‘ no matter whether the noun is masculine or feminine. For example:

La porte de l’hôtel – the door of the hotel

Il vient de l’étranger. – He comes from abroad.

Nous parlons de l’enfant. – We’re talking about the child.

Je voudrais de l’ananas. – I would like some pineapple.

With plural nouns, either masculine or feminine, ‘de’ combines with ‘les’ to make ‘des’, for example:

Les clés des chambre – the keys of the rooms

Il vient des Etats-Unis. – He comes from the United States.

Nous parlons des vacances. – We’re talking about the holidays.

Je voudrais des fraises. – I’d like some strawberries.

Sometimes ‘de’ is used on its own, and not ‘du’, ‘de la’, or ‘des’. This happens when talking about quantities, saying or asking for how much, or how many. For example:

Je voudrais un kilo de sucre.” – “I would like a kilo of sugar.”

Achetez une bouteille de vin.” – “Buy a bottle of wine.”

Avez-vous un paquet de biscuits?” – “Have you got a packet of biscuits?”

Combien de chiens as-tu?” – “How many dogs have you got?”

Nous avons beaucoup de temps.” – We have got lots of time.”

Elle a assez de livres.” – “She has got enough books.”

Tu as un petit peu d’argent?” – “Have you got a little bit of money?”

Notice in the last sentence that before a vowel (or silent ‘h’), ‘d” is used rather than ‘de‘.

De‘ is only used after a negative verb, for example:

Je n’ai plus de pain.” – “I haven’t got any more bread.”

Vous ne voulez pas de sucre?” – “Don’t you want any sugar?”

Il n’a jamais d’idées.” – “He never has any ideas.”

Il n’y a que de mauvaises nouvelles.” – “There is only bad news.”

For a plural adjective coming before a noun (as in the last sentence above), just use ‘de’, for example:

de bonnes choses – good things

de nouvelles idées – new ideas

de longs voyages – long journeys

Here are some verbs that are followed by ‘de’, used in sentences:

J’ai décide de vendre ma voiture. – I’ve decided to sell my car.

Nous avons besoin de l’argent. – We need some money.

Il a envie de vous voir. – He wants to see you.

Tu as peur des araignées. – You’re afraid of spiders.

Elle a cessé de nous parler. – She has stopped speaking to us.

Ils ont conseillé à mon frère de quitter l’université. – They advised my brother to leave university.

Je suis content de savoir ses nouvelles. – I’m happy to hear his news.

Vous leur avez dit de travailler. – You told them to work.

Nous lui avons demander de rester. – We asked him to stay.

Tu dois essayer d’apprendre. – You must try to learn.

Il va m’empêcher de partir. – He’s going to prevent me leaving.

Je suis en train de jouer de la guitare. – I am in the process of playing the guitar.

Vous serez obligé de sortir. – You will be obliged to go out.

Elles finissent de faire le ménage. – They’re finishing doing the housework.

J’ai oublié d’acheter du fromage. – I forgot to buy cheese.

Nous allons permettre aux enfants d’aller au cinéma. – We’re going to allow the children to go to the cinema.

Il m’a persuadé de l’accompagner. – He persuaded me to go with him.

Vous leur avez prié d’arrêter. – You begged them to stop.

J’ai promis de les aider. – I promised to help them.

Tu n’as jamais refusé de travailler. – You have never refused to work.

Nous venons d’acheter les cadeaux. – We have just bought the presents.

Elle regrette d’avoir vendu l’appartement. – She regrets having sold the flat.

Ils vont tâcher d’arriver avant huit heures du soir. – They’re going to try to arrive before 8pm.

With thanks to Elizabeth Allen

Read more on irregular verbs and on learning French

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