French Language

Discuss and learn French: French vocabulary, French grammar, French culture etc.

French Vocab Games app for iPhone/iPad French-English dictionary French grammar French vocab/phrases

For the latest updates, follow @FrenchUpdates on Twitter!

Definite articles are used tons more in French than in normal written or conversational English, and most of the time I understand that. But I have a little thing that's tripping me up today.

I know that under normal circumstances, in any list of multiple items in French we want to use the definite article for each noun, even though in English this is usually not done except for emphasis. For example,

l'hockey, l'étude, et le travail = hockey, studying, and work [job]

In a normal sentence, I believe that God, the dude, can be expressed as Dieu, without le, though if you're talking about the god of such-and-so, you use the definite article:

Suisse, espère en Dieu toujours! (from the Swiss national anthem, borrowed b/c I couldn't think of a better example  :)  )

le dieu du vin = the god of wine

So the monkey wrench in my understanding of definite articles is, how does God fit into a list? Let's go back to the first example. Say I'd like to list hockey, God, and work as so-and-so's main interests. 

l'hockey, Dieu, et le travail


l'hockey, le Dieu, et le travail

Which is correct?

And if Dieu should go without a definite article in this case, is it because (as I assume above, just from reading and developing an instinct about it), God, the dude with the capital "G," doesn't need an article before his name, but gods, the folks who ran around on hilltops in Greece, do—or is there another way to understand the rule?

Thanks in advance!

Views: 822

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

As far as alphabetical order is concerned, French behaves roughly similar to English: the article doesn't usually affect the ordering, which is taken from the actual "content" words of the items being listed. In a list, you also don't necessarily need to put the articles: it would be quite common to have a list of sports, countries, school subjects etc in French without articles, even though individually in a "normal" sentence you would include the article.

In terms of usage, the use of the article with "dieu" is roughly similar to English: if you are referring to "God" from the point of view of a presumed single deity, you would capitalise and use without the article; in other cases, you would usually not capitalise and would use with the expected article.

(Oh, I wasn't even worried about alphabetizing, I just meant "God with a capital G" as in, single deity, usually seen capitalized in English.)

So if I understand you correctly—you're saying that in a list such as this, it *is* okay to mix words that have their definite articles in with Dieu, which doesn't call for a definite article, so this is the correct version:

l'hockey, Dieu, et le travail

Thanks again, Neil!

We say 'LE hockey'

For instance 'Je hais le hockey, Dieu et le travail' is correct but unlikely, not because of the absence of the article but because of the list which suggests that God is not something essential. Actually, it sounds like a figure of speech.    

We say 'LE hockey'

I know it's getting off-topic, but I'm curious—Where are you when you say "we" pronounce... (where is the "h" aspirated)? In France or Québec? I don't think I've noticed an aspirated h when I visit QC, but I could be wrong...

I'm in France.

As far as I'm aware, giving "hockey" an h aspiré is the usual case for speakers in France. BUT, as you may be aware, h aspiré can vary between speakers/regions (e.g. words such as "haricot", "hollondais" vary between speakers in France). So it's not impossible that many Canadians don't give this word an h aspiré.

Any French Canadian speakers around to comment?

Neil, I'm assuming you want to say "hollandais" :-)

ooops sorry yes!

Think of the difference in talking or writing about "God" and "the gods".  If I were speaking about "God" with a Big G in your list of "hockey, God, and work" "le hockey, Dieu, et le travail" would be the way to go. But to keep your example going, "hockey, the gods, and work" would be "le hockey, les dieux, et le travail".  And to end it all, "le hockey et le dieu du travail."

I guess, as Greg points out above, the "h" in hockey is aspirated and requires the full "le".


Follow BitterCoffey on Twitter

© 2022   Created by Neil Coffey.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service