In phrase Il y a du champagne why there is 'de le' instead of un, especially if, as I learned, in sentence with *Il y a' subject should be with undefined article une (maybe I write some terms wrong, but I think you understand)

  • The partitive, even though it can be followed by le la les, is considered indefinite.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Dec 11, 2018 at 22:09

2 Answers 2


« Il y a un champagne. » ne peut être utilisé que dans un contexte très rare et encore pas en une forme si concise, tout au moins la plupart du temps.

En ce concerne le cas courant (du champagne), il faut d'abord comprendre un concept élémentaire à propos des nom de masse (« mass nouns » en anglais). Il en est pour le champagne comme pour l'eau et le pain et toute autre chose qui a la nature d'une masse ; les noms de cette sorte sont utilisés avec un partitif qui est « de » ; pour les nom féminins on dit « de la » : de la bière, de l'eau minérale, de la tisane, … Pour les noms masculins on devrait dire « de le » mais au lieu de cela on dit « du », qui est une contraction (plus ou moins) : du champagne, du vin blanc, du whisky, du cognac,… Tout cela signifie « une certaine quantité de la chose donnée ».

l'usage de l'article indéfini (un, une) avec les noms de masse est possible dans beaucoup de cas, mais pas dans tous ; la raison pour cela est que l'usage de l'article indéfini sert à singulariser un élément particulier à partir de la catégorie que constitue la chose citée, un élément d'une certaine qualité, marque ou autre caractéristique ; si la chose citée est le champagne, « un champagne » est utilisé pour dire que l'on ne considère pas n'importe quelle sorte ni n'importe quelle qualité de champagne mais parmi toutes les offres que l'on trouve sur le marché, un article particulier, par exemple un champagne rose de telle ou telle année et de telle ou telle provenance. On n'a donc l'occasion de dire cela pratiquement que lorsqu'on parle « champagne ».

Par exemple, si vous avez un ami qui n'est pas un enthousiaste de champagne et que cela vous surprend, vous qui ne comprenez pas comment quelqu'un peut ne pas aimer le champagne et qui connaissez un champagne qui vous ravit, en pensant lui faire partager ce que vous pensez être un gout exceptionnel vous pouvez lui dire « Il y a un champagne que je suis sûr tu aimeras. »

Comme autre exemple prenons le cas d'une discussion entre deux amis au sujet d'une party à laquelle ils sont invités ; comme la première des deux personnes, qui est un habitué des parties de cette sorte, veut informer la seconde, qui ne connait pas si bien, de ce que l'on trouve à cette party, il peut dire « Il y a bien un champagne, mais il n'est pas très bon. »

« Il y a un champagne. » can only be used in rare contexts and at that in a form which most of the time won't be as concise. As pertains to the common case (du champagne), it is first necessary to understand something elementary about what is called "mass nouns" in grammar. It is for champagne as for water and bread and any other thing which by nature is found as a mass ; nouns of that kind are used with what is called in grammar a partitive, that is a word that shows that the thing that is being talked about is considered as a part of the whole mass that the noun represents. The partitive used here is basically « de » ; in French, for feminin nouns you say "de la": de la bière, de l'eau minérale, de la tisane… For masculine nouns one should say "de le" but instead you use what is more or less a contraction of "de le" is used: "du": "du champagne", "du vin blanc", "du whisky", du cognac",… All of these forms are used to mean a certain quantity of the given thing (that remains undefined and that the listener/reader evaluates on the basis of his/her own knowlege about the context).

The use of the indefinite article (un, une) with mass nouns is possible in many cases; the reason for that is that the use of the indefinite article is meant to single out a given element in the category constituted by the thing we are talking about; it is singled out according to quality, make or another characteristic; to make that clearer consider the word "steam"; it is a mass noun, but there are not several elements in the category called steam, just one that is the same everywhere; let's now see about the word "beer"; it is also a mass noun, however, there is Belgian beer, German beer, Beer from the Netherlands, and so on, and then there is Heineken beer and so on; therefore there are several elements in the category; so "a beer" makes sense according to that point of view but "a steam" is not defined.

If the thing in question is champagne "un champagne" is used so as to say that we do not consider any sort of champagne (of course you have to know first that there is not one unique sort of champagne) nor a champagne of any quality, but among all the items proposed for sale, that we consider a particular one, for example a pink champagne (un champagne rose) or a champagne of such and such a year or a champagne from such and such origin. About the only occasions for using "un champagne" is therefore when we talk about champagne and not merely for mentionning a sort of drink rather than another.

Here is an example; if you have a friend who is not very keen on champagne and that you find this a surprising thing, as you do not understand how someone should not like champagne and as you know a champagne (un champagne) that's delightful to you, out of a desire to share with him what you think is an outstanding taste you might say to him "Il y a un champagne que tu aimeras, j'en suis sur".

Here is another example; two friends are talking about a party to which they've been invited; as the first of those two persons, who usually goes to this sort of party, wants to tell the other about what to expect, he/she might say "Il y a bien un champagne, mais il n'est pas très bon."

To a third example; speaking among friends someone says "Maintenant je boirais bien un champagne bien frais comme ils en servent ici, qu'est-ce que vous en pensez?". Instead of that this person could have said "du champagne bien frais" but this would not have been as specific, the idea in saying "un champagne" being that he/she is talking about something select, not just any champagne.

  • 1
    It seems I'm too stupid to understand what you wrote, sorry Dec 11, 2018 at 20:31
  • @АртурКлочко Come on! It can't be "stupid"! Not yet learned enough in French… I'll try to put my answer into English, although there is no garantie as to the result.
    – LPH
    Dec 11, 2018 at 20:46
  • I.e., I should say "J'ai du paix?" Or "As-tu du paix?" ? Dec 12, 2018 at 15:52
  • @АртурКлочко No: "Ai-je la paix?", "As-tu la paix?"; "avoir la paix" is an idiom; here is a definition : to have some peace and quiet.
    – LPH
    Dec 12, 2018 at 18:31

When someone say "Il y a du something" it's expressing the existence of an uncountable noun. Saying "Il y a un champagne" would be equivalent to saying "There is one champagne" in english.

When you say "There is champagne", champagne is uncountable in this phrase (to be countable you would have to say "one bottle", "one liter", etc...), so we use "Il y a du champagne".

  • But du means de le? Dec 11, 2018 at 20:28
  • Yes, "du" is the contraction of "de le" Dec 11, 2018 at 20:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.