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Recently I've been dealing more with forming sentences, and, while they're mostly straightforward, I'm having trouble knowing with absolute certainty when to use a definite or indefinite article.

Let's consider the phrase:

Après le dîner

I understand that this literally translates to 'After the dinner', but it's my understanding that it's able to be used to convey the phrase "After dinner."

This is where I become confused, because I'm not sure if I can validly construct:

Après dîner

Does it mean the same thing? am I able to say Après dîner without grammatical consequence or does it just sound like gibberish? Taking a note from that, does this pattern of `avant/après {NOUN}' apply? or do I always have to stick a definite/indefinite article in front of it?

Merci!

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    I'm going to put this as a comment because I don't know for sure. As a native french speaker, both sound fine written as well as orally but I have a feeling that "Après dîner" is not grammatically correct. – ApplePie Sep 29 '14 at 23:45
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Après le dîner and après dîner are both correct. The Trésor de la langue française informatisé (TLFi) gives usage « Sans prédéterminant » ("Without determiner") as a special case of the sense « Après + subst. d'action, subst. à valeur verbale » ("Après + action noun, noun with the sense of a verb"). [link]

Later in the same entry, it also explicitly clarifies that dîner is to be interpreted as the noun ("dinner"), not the infinitive ("to eat dinner"). (Of course, "after eating dinner" would normally be après avoir dîné, but the TLFi gives a few citations with après plus a plain infinitive — one with après causer instead of après avoir causé, one with après boire instead of après avoir bu — hence the clarification.)

  • This was incredibly helpful, especially with the reference of the TLFi. Thank you so much! – Morklympious Sep 30 '14 at 3:01
  • @Morklympious: You're welcome! – ruakh Sep 30 '14 at 12:25

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