I don't understand why in some cases, nouns have to add the word “le/la/l'” in front of them (e.g: in the structure “avoir l'intention de...” or “avoir l'air de”). However in some other cases, there is no “le/la/l'” going with nouns (e.g.: in the structure “avoir besoin de” or “avoir envie de”). Why?

  • What examples do you have in mind with NPs following avoir l'intention de or avoir l'air de? It would help describing the contrast with avoir besoin de la clé or avoir envie de la bonne tarte de maman.
    – GAM PUB
    Sep 27, 2015 at 19:03

2 Answers 2


I don't think you'll be able to find a satisfactory answer to this, because when it comes down to it, language isn't always logical. In fact, these expressions have English equivalents with the same article or lack thereof.

  1. avoir besoin de = to have need of

  2. avoir l'intention de = to have the intention to

  3. avoir l'air de = to have the look of

Why do 2 and 3 have "the" but 1 doesn't? If you can find the answer to that, it's exactly the same for French.


The examples you give where there is no article are "Locutions verbales", i.e. frozen expressions that have the same value as a simple verb.

There are no rules to sort out locutions verbales. Some of them include an article, some don't, that's the way they are.

You simply have to know them, just like there is no logical way for a non English speaker to guess "to give up" even if he already knows both "to give" and "up".

  • Thank you, Jilliagre :) but the ones having article also indicate the same meaning as its simple verb. I still dont get the difference :(
    – tramie
    Sep 27, 2015 at 13:39

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