Préférez-vous du thé ou du café, monsieur?

This is a sentence from French for Reading Knowledge. As I can see from the dictionary, "Préférer" is a transitive verb. "du" is the contraction "de+le".

Here are my questions:

  • Is "Préférez-vous le thé ou le café, monsieur?" grammatically correct?
  • If so, what is the difference between this sentence and the one above?
  • Would anybody explain what "du" literally means in the quoted sentence? If "du" is "de+le" and it means "of the", then the sentence would be "Do you prefer of the tea or of the coffee, sir", which does not make sense to me.
  • You can't translate de as of everytime, this little word is more complex than that. De la or du means some in this case. I insist, I'm talking about this case only. Sometimes you want to translate it as from, of, some, any, or nothing. And probably more.
    – Destal
    Sep 13, 2016 at 21:43

1 Answer 1


Here it is a question of situation.

If you ask about what this "monsieur" prefer at this moment, like you're offering him some tee or coffee you'll use "du". "Préférez-vous de ça ou de ça" (You're not giving him all the coffee on earth but just some of it)

If you ask him about his taste, you would use "Préférez-vous le thé ou le café, monsieur?".

If I didn't made myself clear enough. "du" is because you're offering him some of it. "le" is more about the 'concept' or taste.

With some context, I bet someone is offering him some. If not, this is not correct or there is no context at all and you found this in an exercise.

  • 1
    Your answer is very helpful, thanks! I edited my question a little bit to reflect what I'm really asking.
    – user6106
    Sep 13, 2016 at 12:43
  • 1
    To your edit : Yes using "le" is grammatically correct. The difference should be explained in my answer, if unclear, tell me. And for the third point, "de", here, stand for something like "a bit of"/"a cup of"/"a portion of" I'd say. Like if you want some meet: "Je veux de la viande". If you say "Je veux la viande", you are asking for the whole plate of meet. But I'm not really giving any rule here, this is just my mother tongue so maybe hold on for someone knowing the rules better than me.
    – T.Nel
    Sep 13, 2016 at 13:06
  • Some other precision should probably be given to you but if I'm the one who do it, this will be confusing more than helpful.
    – T.Nel
    Sep 13, 2016 at 13:07
  • 2
    There is another case where "le thé ou le café" might be used. If a waiter hold a tray with a cup of tea and a cup of coffee already prepared, he might ask "Préférez-vous le thé ou le café ?".
    – jlliagre
    Sep 13, 2016 at 13:40
  • 1
    Well if you are sure, probably but when I have a doubt about this I use a feminine word : "Préférez vous de la margarine ou du beurre" It's still the contraction. But found out this french.about.com/od/grammar/a/articles_4.htm Yes it is a partitive article but still a contraction. Even if "du" is referred as a contraction of "de le", you never use the second form. It's just not correct. This is kind of a way to understand what it stands for.
    – T.Nel
    Sep 13, 2016 at 14:24

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