In my french book, there's a wedding photo and under it there's the title "Souvenirs de famille" and a paragraph describing the photo.

I don't understand why the article "la" was omitted after the preposition "de" . We don't omit it in a lot of other noun-of-noun combinations using the word "famille" in french. For instance, we say:

les membres de la famille.

So what does dropping the definite article change about the meaning?

Update: I also found another example where the article is omitted:

C'est sa femme, Sophie. Son âge? C'est un secret de famille.

Same question here, why is it "un secret de famille" and not "un secret de la famille"?

  • Can you rewrite membre?
    – user25798
    Dec 13, 2020 at 19:10
  • 2
    I think if you say : Souvenir de la famille , you should say which family you're talking about : Souvenir de la famille Adams , but if you're talking in a more general way you will only say Souvenir de famille ( about your own family also)
    – user25798
    Dec 13, 2020 at 19:14
  • But we don't follow the same argument with "les membres de la famille" even though we didn't specify which family we're talking about, we still used "la". Why is that?
    – Manar
    Dec 13, 2020 at 19:19

1 Answer 1


When a noun loses its substantive sense (as an object) and is rather used as a qualifier, articles can sometimes be omitted.

For example, "je suis étudiant" instead of "je suis un étudiant". The noun here is acting in a more adjective sense.

The same applies to "souvenirs de famille". It means more memories related to the family, rather than the memories belonging to the family exclusively.

You can also say "les membres de famille" for family members, usually used in relation of someone, e.g. "les membres de famille de travailleurs hautement qualifiés". The "famille" here is non-specific but rather attributive (like an adjective).

In English, similar qualifier nouns can usually be added as an adjective before a noun. Consider the nuances between "family members" and "members of the family", "family secret" and "secret of the family" and similar constructions.

  • I have a question : Can we say : C'est un secret de la famille ? Mais c'est comment dire un peu "lourd" a dire
    – user25798
    Dec 13, 2020 at 22:41
  • Well, I'm not an English native speaker. I can't really feel the difference between "family members" and "members of the family" The only thing I can think of is the fact that members is usually followed by family that it has become a commonly-used compound noun now. I guess maybe you meant to make a comparession between "family members" and "members of the family"? But I still get your idea— sth else, it's not grammatically wrong to say "de la famille", right?
    – Manar
    Dec 14, 2020 at 17:08
  • 2
    @SkyLand77 — Dire « C'est un secret de famille », c'est dire « C'est un secret de [type] familial » il y a quelque chose de tabou, il est interdit d'en parler, sinon l'honneur de la famille est en péril, « Cette recette est un secret de la Famille F… » tout le monde connaît la famille, mais pas la composition de la recette (c'est tabou mais concerne le secret des affaires') .
    – Personne
    Dec 15, 2020 at 20:09

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