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I was under the impression that one used an article, e.g. un homme aux yeux bleus (or un homme au parapluie, for that matter). But I see that it's not always the case: as a somewhat random example, my dictionary defines a "satyre" as "une divinité de la terre, être à corps humain, à cornes et à pieds de bouc." As another example, CNRTL includes: "Cet enfant d'une extrême beauté, aux yeux bleu vif, aux cheveux blonds bouclés, à teint délicat..."

Is there a rule for when to include the definite article?

Edit: looks like this question is along the same lines.

  • Yes, but also aux yeux, aux cheveux, and yet à teint, even thought I've also seen au teint. – Alan O'Donnell Dec 26 '16 at 22:27
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    Yeah, I understand that--my point is, why is there an article (aux) for yeux and cheveux, but not for teint? Likewise, why is there no article for corps, cornes, and pieds? – Alan O'Donnell Dec 26 '16 at 23:39
  • Good point there, I see it now. I find à teint surprising personally, whereas I find everything else pretty normal. It's possible à adds a property to what precedes, whereas with the article would make it a composition of sorts? Interesting stuff, thanks! – user3177 Dec 27 '16 at 5:19
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The form with the article is more "intense", and is used to mark a distinction:

  • une couturière aux doigts de fées (an uncommon gifted seamstress)
  • une couturière à doigts de fée (one of many gifted seamstresses)

In the exemple above, I would think that the author emphasizes that the beauty comes more from the eyes and the hair than from the fair skin.

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