Use the partitive article, which expresses that you want part of a whole (some or any), to ask for an indefinite quantity (something that is not being counted). Before a noun, the partitive is generally expressed by de + the definite article. Note that de + le contract to become du and de + les contract to become des, as shown in Table 1.
Note the following about the use of the partitive article:
- Although the partitive some or any may be omitted in English, it may not be omitted in French and must be repeated before each noun.
- Il prend des cèrèales et du lait. (He's having cereal and milk.)
- In a negative sentence, the partitive some or any is expressed by de or d' without the article.
- Je ne mange jamais de fruits. (I never eat any fruits.)
- Je n'ai pas d'amis. (I don't have any friends.)
- Before a singular adjective preceding a singular noun, the partitive is expressed with or without the article.
- C'est de (du) bon gâteau. (That's good cake.)
- Before a plural adjective preceding a plural noun, the partitive is expressed by de alone.
- Ce sont de bons èlèves. (They are good students.)
- Certain nouns and adverbs of quantity are followed by the partitive article de ( d' before a vowel).
The following nouns and adverbs of quantity are followed by de + definite article:
- la plupart (most)
- bien (a good many)
- la majoritè (the majority)
- la plus grande partie (the majority)
- La plupart des gens aiment ce film. (Most people like this movie.)
The adjectives plusieurs (several) and quelques (some) modify the noun directly.
- J'adore plusieurs lègumes. (I like several vegetables.)
- Il achète quelques livres. (He is buying some books.)
The partitive is not used with sans (without) and ne … ni … ni (neither … nor).
- Elle prendra du thè sans citron. (She'll take tea without lemon.)
- Il ne boit ni cafè ni thè. (He doesn't drink coffee or tea.)