I keep tripping up on this and it's super frustrating, just when I think I get it, I seemingly don't get it.

Some examples:

  • Une tasse de sagesse
  • Une tasse de vin
  • Le blanc de la sagesse
  • La tasse de vin

So these are all compound nouns as far as I'm aware, why does 1 need 'de la' and the rest all have just 'de' to make the compound?

So confused!

  • Une tasse de sagesse

Here, we are talking about "sagesse" as a resource, something that can be figuratively consumed. No articles are to be used when you are taking "an amount" of something.

  • Une tasse de vin

Same reasoning. Something you can take an amount of → article.

  • Le blanc de la sagesse

Here we are talking about "sagesse" as an idea, thus an article is needed.

  • La tasse de vin

Same as for "une tasse".


With "X de la Y", X is contained in Y, so to speak. X is a property or a part of Y.

le blanc de la sagesse

la couleur de la voiture

le bouchon de la bouteille

With "X de Y", Y is contained in X.

Une tasse de vin

It might not be the most rigorous explanation though.

  • hmmm, but "le blanc de la sagesse" is general - the white of wisdom (in general). Whereas your examples are specific, e.g. the colour of THE car, the cork of THE bottle. – Dave May 20 '19 at 22:51
  • “Wisdom” is being referred to as a specific thing here, and it’s not an amount you can take stock of, like wine. – tssmith2425 May 20 '19 at 23:32

When you use "la", it mean you talk about "this". When you dont use "la", you talk about "one of these".

Like :

This cup = La tasse. One of these cup = Une tasse.

It's not literally the translation but it help to understand.

  • thanks but that's nothing to do with the question asked. – Dave May 21 '19 at 18:05

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