First, we have a variety of articles in French, and among them we have partitive and indefinite articles. Dear French learners, after reading this article, you should be able to get rid of any confusion concerning these specific articles that make you hesitate and that sometimes block your fluency.


Partitive Articles


First, the word partitive means a part of something and in French it is usually used to describe a part of something unquantifiable. For translation fans, the partitive article is the equivalent of “some” or “any” in English. But, I always recommend thinking in French and being more natural in expressing these kinds of situations. So, let’s go in depth and examine partitive articles.


In fact, we have four forms of the French partitive article:


Form #1: du - masculine singular

  • Il y a du vent aujourd’hui. There is wind today.


Form #2: de la - feminine singular

  • Je mange de la viande. I’m eating some meat.


Form #3: de l' - masculine or feminine in front of a vowel or h muet

  • Je bois de l'eau. I’m drinking water.


Form #4: des - masculine or feminine plural

  • Voulez-vous encore des frites? Do you want some more fries?


Let’s Recapitulate!


  • Articles partitifs
  • Quantité indéterminée






(a part of something)

du pain (bread)

de l’argent (money)

de la viande (meat)

de l’eau (water)

Plural (only for countable nouns)

des bonbons (sweets)

des pommes (apples)


Would you like to make sure that you have assimilated this notion?


Let’s train: here is a link to a website that I love so much, and with it you can confirm your understanding.


Now let’s attack the negative aspect of articles partitifs. Simply, the partitive article changes to de, meaning "(not) any," but as usual try to keep only the French in mind to sustain a more natural pace.


Let’s use our previous example and transform it to the negative form using articles partitifs:


  • J'ai mangé de la soupe. >  _____________  ?


Yes, you got the right answer!


  • J'ai mangé de la salade. > Je n'ai pas mangé de salade.


Here is the English translation, as usual, for translation lovers:


  • I ate some salad. > I didn't eat any salad.


Easy, isn’t it? In this link you will find some examples about articles partitifs with a great exercise.


Situation: Chez l’épicier, in the grocery store


Person 1: Bonne après-midi! Comment ça va Monsieur Dupont?

Person 2: Excellent, merci! Et vous Monsieur Dumont?

Person 1: Parfait, je voudrais du sucre et du pain.

Person 2: Combien de sucre voulez-vous?

Person 1: 100 grammes s’il vous plait!

Person 2: Et pour le pain?

Person 1: Deux baguettes!

Person 2: Parfait, ça vous fait 3 dollars s’il vous plait

Person 1: Voilà! Merci, bonne journée Monsieur Dupont!

Person 2: Merci, au revoir Monsieur Dumont!


Prepositions Before Countries


Most French learners do find many difficulties with which preposition to use before a country name. In this section, we will build a solid knowledge that will be, hopefully, memorized forever.


First, we have three situations with this type of preposition:


  1. With the verb aller (to go)
  2. With the verb vivre / habiter (to live)
  3. With the verb venir (to come)


With aller and vivre / habiter we should use the following four prepositions depending on the gender:



Form #1: Je vais / vis au - with masculine

  • Je vais / vis au Japon.


Form #2: Je vais / vis en - with feminine

  • Je vais / vis en France.


Form #3: Je vais / vis à - generally used with cities

  • Je vais / vis à Madrid.


Form #4: Je vais / vis aux - with plural

  • Je vais / vis aux États-Unis.


With venir, we have a different situation:


Form #1: Je viens du - with masculine

  • Je viens du Japon.


Form #2: Je viens de la - with feminine

  • Je viens de la Tunisie.


Form #3: Je viens de - with cities

  • Je viens de Rio de Janeiro.


Form #4: Je viens des - with plural (countries, islands)

  • Je viens des iles Caraïbes.


Now we will use this in a concrete situation:


Situation #1: Getting to know each other


Person 1: Bonjour!

Person 2: Bonjour!

Person 1: Comment allez-vous?

Person 2: Je vais bien! Merci, et vous?

Person 1: Je suis un peu fatigué.

Person 2: Pourquoi?

Person 1: Je viens d’arriver du Canada et c’était un long voyage.

Person 2: Ah, je comprends! Et normalement vous habitez ici?

Person 1: Oui j’habite en Tunisie, plus précisément dans le sud de la Tunisie! Et vous?

Person 2: Je suis originaire de la Chine, mais je viens en Tunisie pour passer quelques jours de vacance!

Person 1: Est-ce que vous avez visitez la Chine récemment?

Person 2: Oui, j’ai voyage en Chine il y a 6 mois!

Person 1: Et c’était comment?

Person 2: Simplement, un voyage parfait!

Person 1: Ah, je suis content pour vous!

Person 2: Merci

Person 1: Allez, bonne journée Monsieur

Person 2: Merci, à vous aussi!


Situation #2: Dans l’aéroport, in the airport


Person 1: Bonsoir madame!

Person 2: Bonsoir.

Person 1: Est-ce que je peux vous aider?

Person 2: Oui, je veux un billet aller-retour pour aller à Las Vegas.

Person 1: D’accord, et vous souhaitez un billet pour quelles dates?

Person 2: Je souhaite partir le 15 octobre et retourner le 2 novembre.

Person 1: Parfait, c’est fait!

Person 2: Merci!

Person 1: Je vous en prie, bon voyage madame!


Let’s summarize it!


Prépositions + Pays


With the verbs aller / voyager / habiter:


Rule #1: en + pays féminin. Most countries ending in e are feminine. Some exceptions are: le Mexique, le Mozambique, le Cambodge, le Zaïre.

  • We say: En Mexique, En Mozambique


Rule #2: au + pays masculin

  • Au Japon


Rule #3: aux + pays pluriel

  • Aux États-Unis


With the verb venir:


Rule #1: de la/de l’ + feminin

  • Je viens de la France.


Rule #2: du + pays masculin

  • Je viens du Denmark.


Rule #3: des + islands/plural

  • Je viens des philippines.


Did you find it super easy? Let’s practice then! Here you can find a simple exercise to consolidate your understanding and to have fun.




After reading this, I am positive that you will find yourself more comfortable with partitive articles and prepositions that are used before countries and cities. I am open to any kind of questions (about French for sure! Haha). I welcome you to get more insight about French grammar and to eliminate any confusion. I hope this article demystified an important concept as mentioned in the title.


Image Sources

Hero Image by Moyan Brenn (CC BY 2.0)