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On my Palmolive brand dishwashing soap, one of the warnings on the label is:

NE PAS MÉLANGER À DE L'EAU DE JAVEL.
DO NOT USE WITH CHLORINE BLEACH

I am trying to understand why the "de" is in there.

My attempt to parse this sentence is as follows:

  • I have learned that it is good to learn verbs as if the preposition after the verb is part of the verb. So, for example, parler de can be considered to be a different verb than parler à.

    So, I assume that "mélanger à" is a verb that means something like "to mix with [something].

  • That leavs "de l'eau". My guess, then, is that de l' is the partitive article.

However, I don't understand why a partitive article would be used. It sounds strange in English to use the partitive article:

Do not mix with some bleach.

and instead we would use the definite article:

Do not mix with bleach.

Questions:

  • Is my guess correct, that the partitive article is used?
  • If it is correct, why is the partitive article used instead of the definite article? Is there a rule, or some heuristic/story that can help me generally understand why English says it one way, and French says it the other way?
  • Can you give me other examples of sentences with "à de" (where "à" and "de" show up next to each other?)
  • 1
    There is no definite article in "Do not mix with bleach". A definite article would be there is you said "do not mix with the bleach". – Greg Jan 29 '18 at 13:44
  • @Greg sorry, you're right; but the no-article in English corresponds with one of the usages of the definite article in French. That is what I was trying to say. – silph Jan 29 '18 at 13:55
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    Question reminded of this other one – Danny Jan 29 '18 at 19:13
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Saying "Ne pas mélanger à l'eau de Javel" would imply that there is only one "eau de Javel", located somewhere on earth, and that this thing should not be put in contact with your soap.

I'm not sure what "Ne pas mélanger à eau de Javel" would mean but that's not correct for sure.

If eau de Javel was countable, you would say "Ne pas mélanger à une eau de Javel". But it's not countable, so you have to say "Ne pas mélanger à de l'eau de Javel", which means "do not mix with any amount of any eau de Javel".

By the way, you will often see "J'utilise Internet". There is only one Internet and Internet is a common noun, so we should say "J'utilise l'internet", but most people say "J'utilise Internet".

Examples with "à de":

  • J'ai réussi car je me suis fié à de bons conseils. I succeeded because I relied on good advice. It would also be correct to say "j'ai réussi car je me suis fié à des bons conseils".

  • Ces vêtements ressemblent à de vrais vêtements de marque, mais ce sont des contrefaçons. Those clothes look like genuine branded clothes, but they are counterfeits.

  • Il est arrivé à de meilleures conclusions. He came to better conclusions.

The above examples are tricky because they are about countable things, and you could also use "à des" instead of "à de" in those examples.

Other examples:

  • J'ai été condamné à de la prison avec sursis. I've been sentenced to suspended imprisonment.

  • Grâce à cette ONG, notre village a désormais accès à de l'eau potable. Thanks to this NGO, our village now has access to drinkable water.

  • Grâce à cette ONG, notre village a désormais accès à l'eau potable. I don't know if that's grammatically correct, but I know for sure that lots of people would say that ("accès à l'eau" instead of "accès à de l'eau"). In this case, access to drinking water is regarded as a general concept, as something that you either have or don't have. In a way, there is only one such thing, and you can have it or not.

10

Your understanding is correct, it is indeed "mélanger à" + partitive article used with "eau". The key difference between English and French is that in English, "some" or "any" are not always needed, depending on the context, whereas in French, if grammar requires a partitive article, it will be required in any case.

Compare:

Je bois toujours de l'eau - I always drink water

The partitive article is needed in French. In English, there is no need for "some", because there is no definite amount of water, it is a general statement.

Je suis actuellement dans un bar, et je bois de l'eau - I am currently sitting in a pub, and I am drinking some water.

In French, the partitive article is also needed, just like in the previous case. In English, you need to add "some" because the context is well defined and limited in time and space, and the amount of water is finite.

Another example:

Cela ressemble à de l'eau

  • 1
    I disagree that "some" is needed in the English example "I am drinking some water", so that example could be better -- but this is not English.SE. Otherwise, +1. – Law29 Jan 29 '18 at 15:45
  • @Law29: Point taken: would you have a better example ? I will edit the answer then. – Greg Jan 29 '18 at 16:17
  • It's not really "some", it's "of" ... I drink of the water. Without the de, you're saying you drank all of the water, everywhere, ever :o) – Will Crawford Jan 31 '18 at 3:28

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