When buying things at the self-checkout machine (at a well-known store named Wal-Mart), the self-checkout machine might say the following to me:

Votre total est de dix dollars.

(It says this verbally; that is, without text on the screen. This is my best guess about what it is saying).

My question is about the "de". No grammar understanding that I currently have lets me know what the "de" is for.

On wordreference, the webpage for "être de" does not seem to help. The closest thing is that there is an entry for "être à (prix)".


1) What is causing the "de" to be there? Are there similar sentences that can exist, that also have a "de" for a similar reason, or is it only for "Votre total est de"?

2) Would it be correct French to say "Votre total est dix dollars"?

  • I believe it's this phenomenon, which might help identify triggering contexts. I think there might be (near-)duplicate questions that explain it better, though. I'll look for one if someone doesn't get to it first.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jun 3 '18 at 12:28

You will find the same turn of phrase for many other nouns that introduce a measured quantity with "être":

Le poids de ce camion est de 10 tonnes.

La longueur de notre piscine est de 20 mètres.

Le volume des échanges commerciaux est de 200 millions de dollars.

La taille du fichier est de 20 mégaoctets.

Son prix est de 50 euro.

If you omit the de, French native speakers will understand you, but it will stand out as an error.

  • But only with être, correct? That is, "J'ai de dix bonbons" would never be correct? But, "Le nombre de bonbons que je dois acheter est de dix bonbons" might be correct? Or "Le nombre de dollars que je dois te donner est de dix dollars" is correct? (e.g. is it "prix" that is the noun that that causes être de to be used? or is it "dollars"?)
    – silph
    Jun 4 '18 at 19:52
  • 1
    You are right: "j'ai de dix bonbons" would be wrong, it should be "j'ai dix bonbons". Also correct for "le nombre de bonbons que je dois acheter est de dix bonbons" and "le nombre de dollars que je te dois te donner est de dix dollars". The "driver" for it is indeed any noun (at least that I can think of) that refers to something that can be measured or quantified (so "prix"), not the unit you use for it (the "dollars"). You can even omit repeating the "unit" if it has been mentioned first: "le nombre de bonbons que je te dois te donner est de dix" would sound more natural.
    – Greg
    Jun 4 '18 at 20:09
  • This isn't about this question, but i'm surprised at "Je te dois te donner". I would have expected that first te to not be there, for "I have to give to you"?
    – silph
    Jun 5 '18 at 3:19
  • Ooops... sorry, that is indeed a typo: que je dois te donner is correct.
    – Greg
    Jun 5 '18 at 4:00

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