1

The question is on de la as highlighted in this passage from chapter 5 of La porte étroite by André Gide. The passage is from a letter by Alissa.

Voici ma dernière lettre, mon ami. Si peu fixé que tu sois encore sur la date de ton retour, elle ne peut beaucoup tarder ; je ne pourrais plus rien t’écrire. C’est à Fongueusemare que j’aurais désiré te revoir, mais la saison est devenue mauvaise, il fait très froid et père ne parle plus que de rentrer en ville. À présent que Juliette ni Robert ne sont plus avec nous, nous pourrions aisément te loger, mais il vaut mieux que tu descendes chez tante Félicie, qui sera heureuse elle aussi de te recevoir.
      À mesure que le jour de notre revoir se rapproche, mon attente devient plus anxieuse ; c’est presque de l’appréhension ; ta venue tant souhaitée, il me semble, à présent, que je la redoute ; je m’efforce de n’y plus penser ; j’imagine ton coup de sonnette, ton pas dans l’escalier, et mon cœur cesse de battre ou me fait mal… Surtout ne t’attends pas à ce que je puisse te parler… Je sens s’achever là mon passé ; au-delà je ne vois rien ; ma vie s’arrête…

QUESTION

  1. Would this too have been grammatical in place of the actual sentence?

c’est presque appréhension

  1. If yes to 1, how does it change the meaning?

BACKGROUND

From the context, I am guessing that Alissa wants to characterize the nature of her anxious waiting. It is almost apprehension.

I understand the partitive article to designate an indefinite quantity. E.g. some butter--though in English some is often suppressed.

But for Alissa's purposes it would have seemed that the quantity, definite or indefinite, of the apprehension did not matter.

As an analogy if you were saying in French that your jacket was swede, corduroy, etc. do you have to say that it was du or de la (as the case may be) swede, corduroy, leather etc.?

Or may be de la is not a partitive article in the sentence, but presque de is a phrase taking a noun with a definite article?

  • 1
    Yes, you always need an article for du or de la words. "Ta veste, c'est du cuir ?". Presque doesn't change anything. – Teleporting Goat Jan 10 '17 at 0:36
3

It's a question of comparative lingusitics and I think could be asked on linguistics. The question would not be asked by a native speaker of a language that uses determiners in a way similar to French.

In English or in German in that sentence the noun would have been used without a determiner (apprehension / Besorgnis) but in French, a determiner is always required with an abstract noun even if it is unspecified. That's the rule, so no article would not have been grammatical.

Here the partitive article is used because the type of apprehension is unspecified, as you say we could use "some" in English.

If the feeling was specified, we would have a definite or indefinite article.

Specified by a noun phrase:

Tout le reste du monde, les chaînes de leur vie, les tristesses du passé, l'appréhension de l'avenir, l'orage qui s'amassait en eux, tout avait disparu. (R. Rolland, Jean-Christophe)

Specified by an adjective:

J'avais une certaine appréhension avant mon premier jour de travail.

The end of your question shifts to concrete nouns, more precisely about materials. It's a different question altogether, but still different from English.

-C'est quoi ton pantalon ?
-C'est du coton.

Partitive article. No article in English & German (it's cotton/ es ist Baumwolle)

But with a material French can also use the preposition "en" and no article.

Ce pantalon est en coton.

(made of cotton / aus Baumwolle)

2

This has nothing to do with "presque". You can say:

  • "j'ai de l'appréhension" (I'm afraid for no specific reason): "j'ai de l'appréhension avant mes examens"
  • "j'ai une appréhension" (I'm afraid of something specific): "j'ai une appréhension, c'est d'oublier mon stylo le jour de l'examen".

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