Consider the following sentence:

Il n'est pas difficile de comprendre pourquoi le samedi est ma journée favorite.

According to me if one removes the de before comprendre the sentence should still read properly. It would still be grammatically correct, I think, if written as:

Il n'est pas difficile comprendre pourquoi le samedi est ma journée favorite.

Is there some rule governing this? I've come across several such sentences. As far my knowledge is concerned, I have only come across using the partitive article for talking about countries and food.

  • « Le chat de Lucas », there is another case for "de". In our case, it's "Il est difficile de" vs "Il est difficile à", which depends on the following sentence (abstract ou person). – Larme Apr 11 '16 at 13:43
  • Add-on question: Why is it okay to use Il est... here? Should it not be C'est... when using être and an adjective like in this sentence ? – Aerovistae Apr 12 '16 at 2:25
  • @Aerovistae: I remember answering this in the comments here: french.stackexchange.com/questions/279/…. In such cases il is used as an impersonal pronoun. – Stéphane Gimenez Apr 14 '16 at 11:26

The word "de" in French is used for many different things that have nothing in common most of the time -- you should not try to look for a common sense between these usages. In particular it "de" can be used to introduce a description.

Here your problem seems to be the difference between these two sentences for example:

Il est bon d'être chez soi. (It is good being at home)

Être chez soi est bon. (Being at home is good)

In one case you have "de" ("d'" here) and in another you have nothing. In the first sentence "bon" is a vague notion that is detailed by a description: "d'être chez soi", whereas in the second we use "Être chez soi" as the subject so "bon" doesn't need more details.

In your example, "difficile" is detailed by a long description: "de comprendre (...)", it is the same mechanics. It works even when you infinitive is used for describing something that is not an adjective:

J'enrage de m'être trompé -> I am angry I made a mistake

Some differents examples that work the same way (translations are done fast, I don't guarantee they are good):

Tu essaies d'être à l'heure -> You try to be on time

Nous sommes remplis de l'espoir de gagner -> We are filled with the hope to win

Vous êtes déçus d'avoir perdu -> You are disappointed to have lost

  • I don't think this answered the question. See my edit to the question for clarity and perhaps you can help me see if I'm wrong. – Aerovistae Apr 12 '16 at 2:22
  • edited so the answer is more clear. – Anne Aunyme Apr 14 '16 at 8:26

By the way, your sentence:

Il n'est pas difficile de comprendre pourquoi le samedi est ma journée favorite.

is translated this way in English:

It's not hard to understand why Saturday is my favourite day.

In this case, removing de would be exactly the same mistake as removing to in the English version:

It's not hard understand why Saturday is my favourite day.

  • 2
    I don't think this adequately answers the question. Clearly the OP has noticed that there are cases where the infinitive can be used without de, where the English equivalent would still include the word to. You're making it appear like the French de and English to are used in precisely the same types of sentence, which is not the case. E.g. je veux être vs I want to be. If it were exactly the same mistake, then the former would be incorrect. – JBentley Apr 11 '16 at 18:21
  • All right, I didn't mean precisely that "de" means "to" in all cases, I just meant that removing "de" in that sentence was just like removing "to" in the english translation: adjective+to+verb in English is translated by adjective+de+verbe in French, that's just what I meant... – BBBreiz Apr 11 '16 at 21:39
  • By the way, if you really want to remove "de", you can, but you have to "shuffle" the words a bit: – BBBreiz Apr 11 '16 at 22:25
  • Comprendre pourquoi le samedi est ma journée favorite n'est pas difficle. – BBBreiz Apr 11 '16 at 22:26
  • @BBBreiz "to be" is a bad example actually, it's not "I want to be", but "I want to be" - "to" is actually part of the verb "to be" / "être" (infinitive). – Mathieu Guindon Apr 11 '16 at 23:18

"de" followed by an infinitive usually just means "to + verb". Of course, "de" has other purposes (e.g. property "le chat de ma tante"), but they're usually not followed by an infinitive.

As other posters have mentioned, there are many different uses of "de" in French. To address your question specifically:

"de" is used in an impersonal form : Il est facile de + infinitif

Il est facile de se perdre = It's easy to get lost.

Il est facile de comprendre l'anglais = It's easy to understand English.

There is also "à":

"à" is used when it introduces a complement to facile

Quelque chose/ Quelqu'un est facile à + infinitif

L'anglais est facile à comprendre -> English is easy to understand.

John est facile à comprendre -> John is easy to understand.

Source: WordReference thread (I've adapted the answer a bit to better fit your question. The answer refers to facile (simple, easy) but it works exactly the same as difficile (difficult))

So if you're talking about impersonal and general things (It is...), you would use difficile + de.

If you're talking about specific things or want to emphasize something, you use Thing/Person est difficile à...

  • Welcome to stack exchange! – Aerovistae Apr 12 '16 at 2:24

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