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I'm having difficulty learning some rules for using de.  You'd think I'd know by now, but I still struggle with it.  Here's my latest bout:

Elle mange beaucoup de frites.

Elle mange beaucoup des pâtes.

I believe that both of these sentences are grammatically correct.  If so, why does the former use de while the latter uses des?  The object of her gluttony in each case is plural.  Is it because fries are individual (count them – there are 25) while pasta is, well, like a plateful, being many noodles but undistinguished?  Because pasta is plural like jury or committee or milk?  (Granted, one doesn't eat milk, but you get the idea.)

Elle boit beaucoup d'eau.

Elle boit beaucoup de l'eau.

I'm hoping you can straighten me out.

Incidentally, I unsuccessfully tried to find a previous discussion about this.  I'll bet there is one, but I just wasn't clever enough to locate it.

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I think "Elle mange beaucoup des frites." would also work.

I am not sure about the rule myself but to help myself  I translate it into my head in English.

So " She eats a lot of (the ) chips " can mean one of two things and I assume "Elle mange beaucoup de (des)  frites." works the same way in French.

I can't help a lot more sorry.

Yes I do think there was an earlier discussion but I can't find it either.

Perhaps  Neil  will be more help to you.

Hi George/others -- the way I usually explain it is like this:

- the French preposition "de" combines with the article to give "de + le" = "du", "de + les" = "des"

- the French for "some" is also made by using the preposition plus article

- French doesn't usually like a "bare" noun, so if there isn't an article, insert the article for "some"

- the French for "a lot of" is "beaucoup de..."

- French has a "rule" that you never have two "de"'s (or words based on "de") repeated one after the other.

So then to work out which form to use, you logically work through the above rules.

"A lot of chips" > "A lot of some chips" > "Beaucoup de [des frites]" = "Beaucoup de [frites]"

"A lot of the chips" > "Beaucoup de [les frites]" > "Beaucoup des frites"

So what you end up with is "Beaucoup de frites" meaning "A lot of chips", i.e. "A lot of chips in general", and "Beaucoup des frites" meaning "A lot of the chips", i.e. "A lot of the specific chips that I've just mentioned".

I'm catching on, I think.

So, both … beaucoup de pâtes and … beaucoup des pâtes are correct.  A lot of pasta / a lot of the pasta.

Exactly: they're both grammatical French in principle -- which one is the correct option just depends on what you're trying to say :)

de + de + les = de + des = de for 'of some of' is how I see that part of your note- a mnemonic for what de can be.

Can a sentence start with des for 'some' ? :
Des journaux sont sur la table.

Or is it better this way?:
Certains journaux sont sur la table.

We can say
"Des journeaux sont sur la table"
"Des bouteilles sont au frigot"
"Le poulet est au four"
"Les glaces sont au réfrigirateur"

you can add "il y a" before "des":
"Il y a des gens dehors"
"Il y a du café dans le placard"

Saying "certains journaux" is correct but ugly and not natural for a french interlocutor

Hey, I'm French, so here are the right sentences :

Elle mange beaucoup de frites => correct

Elle mange beaucoup des pâtes => wrong => elle mange beaucoup de pâtes

=> frites and pâtes are 

Elle boit beaucoup d'eau => correct

Elle boit beaucoup de l'eau => wrong => elle boit beaucoup d'eau

When using an adverb like Beaucoup or peu, you just write :

- de (feminine plural + masculine plural and singular)  => beaucoup de frites, beaucoup de salsifis, beaucoup de pain

- d' (all femine and masculine, plural and singular, begining with a vowel) beaucoup d'eau, d'ananas...

It is the same for every verbs : elle écoute beaucoup de musique, il lit peu de livres...

But:

Elle mange beaucoup de frites (en général)

Elle mange beaucoup des frites (que vous lui préparez)

that's correct! 

But you need to add "que vous lui préparez", because "elle mange beaucoup des frites" alone is not right. 

It also would be correct to write "elle en mange beaucoup, des frites"

Elle boit beaucoup de l'eau que tu as lui apporté ?

Yes correct! But you need to write "Elle boit beaucoup de l'eau que tu lui as apportée"

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