When to use Les and Des in French [Explanation + 6 Examples]

when to use les and des

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In this French grammar lesson you will learn when to use les and des.

In this lesson you will learn about:

  • what the definite and indefinite articles are in French
  • when to use les
  • when to use des
  • how les and des are used in sentences
  • how you can quiz yourself on when to use les and des
  • how Anki Files can be downloaded for when to use les and des

Please refer to the French A1 Curriculum to get a better overview of French grammar, if you are curious about this fits in French A1.

By the end of the lesson you will know all about when to use les and des in French!

Table of Contents

Overview of Definite and Indefinite Articles

SingularPlural
Definite Articlesle, la, l’les
Indefinite Articlesun, unedes

When to use Les

If you want to use the plural form of le, la or l’ then you will use les.

This is because – as you can see in the table – the plural form of le, la, and l’ is les.

Let’s take a look at how they are used in French.

Le vélo rouge est derrière les vélos bleus.

The red bicycle is behind the blue bicycles.

La petite montre est dans la boîte avec les vieilles montres.

The small watch is in the box with the old watches.

De toutes les universités, je préfère la première université.

Of all the universities, I prefer the first university.

In English, you can use “the for both singular and plural articles.

But, as you can see, if you want to pluralize le, la, or l’, then you will use les.

When to use Des

If you want to use the plural form of un and une then you will use des.

This is because – as you can see in the table – the plural form of un and une is des.

Let’s take a look at how they are used in French.

Il y a une voiture. – Non, il y a des voitures.

There is a car. – No there are [some] cars.

Il y a un chien. – Non, il y a des chiens.

There is a dog. – No there are [some] dogs.

Il y a un garçon. – Non, il y a des garçons.

There is a boy. – No there are [some] boys.

As you can see, if you want to pluralize un or une, then you will use des.

You may have noticed that I put “[some]” in the English translations of the sentences.

This is because in English, you don’t have to say “some“, when you refer to a small group.

When you say “I have dogs”, you are actually saying “I have some dogs”.

But, in English it is fine to omit the word “some“.

In French, you have to include the word “some“, so you get des.

Example Sentences When to Use Les and Des

The final section of this lesson on when to use les and des is about seeing them in action.

This is valuable because you can improve your understanding on when to use les and des through examples.

This section contains all of the previous sentences, neatly organised in one place.

Le vélo rouge est derrière les vélos bleus.

The red bicycle is behind the blue bicycles.

La petite montre est dans la boîte avec les vieilles montres.

The small watch is in the box with the old watches.

De toutes les universités, je préfère la première université.

Of all the universities, I prefer the first university.

Il y a une voiture. – Non, il y a des voitures.

There is a car. – No there are [some] cars.

Il y a un chien. – Non, il y a des chiens.

There is a dog. – No there are [some] dogs.

Il y a un garçon. – Non, il y a des garçons.

There is a boy. – No there are [some] boys.

Quiz Yourself on When to use Les and Des

It’s not enough just to read the article on this subject.

You should test your knowledge to see if you really understood everything, and to be able to repeat the material.

It is also for this reason that it is recommended to download the Anki Decks and do them.

At the end of every lesson you can do a small test.

You will see the sentences of the previous chapter. It is up to you to give the correct answer.

You will either need to fill in the blanks, choose the correct multiple choice option, or both.

Once you are done the correct answer will be shown.

You can redo the quiz as many times as you want!

Fill in the Blank!Le vélo rouge est derrière vélos bleus. [The red bicycle is behind the blue bicycles.]
Fill in the Blank!La petite montre est dans la boîte avec vieilles montres. [The small watch is in the box with the old watches.]
Fill in the Blank!De toutes universités, je préfère la première université. [Of all the universities, I prefer the first university.]
Fill in the Blank!Il y a une voiture. – Non, il y a voitures. [There is a car. – No there are (some) cars.]
Fill in the Blank!Il y a un chien. – Non, il y a chiens. [There is a dog. – No there are (some) dogs.]
Fill in the Blank!Il y a un garçon. – Non, il y a garçons. [There is a boy. – No there are (some) boys.]

Anki File for When to use Les and Des

It is important to do the Anki excercises for this lesson, so that you can remember what you just studied.

By downloading the Anki File for French A1 you can practice every French A1 lesson that is on Language Atlas.

At this moment the Anki File for this lesson doesn’t exist yet. However, in due time this will be available on Language Atlas.

If you don’t know why you should use Anki, or don’t know how to use Anki or merge Anki files please click here.

Anki can be downloaded from here.

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