The sentences are taken from Duolingo and their translations are given below:

  1. Je préfère cuisiner avec de l'huile. I prefer cooking with oil.
  1. Il cuisine avec cinq huiles différentes. He cooks with five different oils.
  1. Le chef ajoute beaucoup d'huile. The chef adds a lot of oil.

Question 1: Why is there 'la' in the first sentence while there is no 'les' in the second? Second sentence sounds natural to me as well the first one but shouldnt they have been constructed with the same grammatical logic? Is the true meaning in the first sentence that "I prefer cooking with 'some' oil."?

Question 2: Is this sentence valid in any case?: Je préfère cuisiner avec d'huile

Question 3: Why there is no 'la' with beaucoup but with avec?

  • 1
    On peut dire aussi "Je préfère cuisiner à l'huile". On parle aussi de "la cuisine à l'huile/au beurre". – XouDo May 25 at 21:15
  1. Je préfère cuisiner avec de l'huile. I prefer cooking with oil.

Here de l' is a partitive article. It may be conveyed by 'some' (or 'any'). Nevertheless,'some' is often omitted.

The partitive article refers to an unspecified quantity of food, liquid, or some other uncountable noun. English has no equivalent article – the partitive is usually translated by the adjectives “some” or “any,” or may be left out entirely.

  1. No, the sentence is not correct.

  2. In certain constructions, the partitive reverts to simply de (or its contraction d’). One such is expressions of quantity. Cf.

Edouard: Rien de plus facile! Tu mélanges de la farine et des oeufs. Tu ajoutes ensuite du lait, du sel et de l'huile. Tu verses cette pâte dans une poêle. Quand la pâte est cuite, tu garnis la crêpe avec du fromage râpé, du jambon, ou des cèpes. Mais n'oublie pas Tammy, avec des crêpes, on ne boit pas de vin. Il faut boire du cidre et porter une coiffe bretonne!

Edouard: No problem! Mix some flour and eggs. Add some milk, some salt and some oil. Pour this batter in a pan. When the batter is cooked, fill the crêpe with some grated cheese, some ham, or cepes (mushrooms). But don't forget Tammy, with crêpes, you don't drink wine. You have to drink cider and wear a Breton hat!

Source: https://www.laits.utexas.edu/tex/gr/det5.html#:~:text=Partitive%20articles%20are%20used%20both,that%20are%20indivisible%20or%20uncountable.

  • Thank you. It is possible to use 'beaucoup de la' with specific nouns. Otherwise it is 'beaucoup de'. But why the same logic not applied to 'avec'? – Xfce4 May 26 at 7:25
  • No, it's not possible to use *beaucoup de la or *beaucoup de l'. That is not grammatically correct. – iNyar May 28 at 8:16
  • 1
    It is possible but still rare and only if you talk about a part of a whole: Il nous reste beaucoup des fraises que tu as apportées but the last part (que tu as...) is not optional here. – jlliagre May 28 at 19:45
  • 1
    Exactly. As @jlliagre is saying, it is very rare. Plus it does not sound very nice to my native ears. And it is not the same grammatical structure: it can (and very often will) be broken apart: "Des fraises que tu as apportées, il nous en reste beaucoup". Here, des is an equivalent of parmi les (among those...). But I see absolutely no need for beaucoup des. I would never use it myself. I'd rather use la majorité des [fraises que tu...] or une grande parties des. In summary, as a learner, you should always use "beaucoup de". – iNyar May 28 at 21:03
  • 1
    It is not technically impossible — Freedom of speech allows to try anything. ;-) — but it would be perceived as both ambiguous and terribly wrong by native ears. – jlliagre Jun 2 at 22:55

Dimitris answered very well questions 1 and 2. Here are some elements on question 3 (avec cinq huiles... vs. beaucoup d'huile).

  1. Actually, the difference between the two sentences — (2) «Il cuisine avec cinq huiles différentes.» vs. (3) «Le chef ajoute beaucoup d'huile.» — has nothing to do with avec, as it is a preposition and does not change anything. You could very well use avec with beaucoup: «Il cuisine avec beaucoup d'huile».

    In both sentences, the reason why there is no article (la/l') is because the article is replaced by another quantifier, another determiner: cinq in (2) and beaucoup de in (3). Both replace the article entirely:

    Il cuisine avec une huile particulière. → Il cuisine avec cinq huiles différentes.

    Le chef ajoute de l' huile → Le chef ajoute un peu d'/beaucoup d' huile.

    You might have seen grammar explanations where beaucoup de is presented as an adverb + an article (because, of course, beaucoup is often an adverb, as in «Je t'aime beaucoup»), but it is much clearer to consider beaucoup de as a determiner (an indefinite determiner to be precise).

    Note that, as a determiner, beaucoup de should never be followed by an article: you should never say beaucoup des, beaucoup du, beaucoup de la/l'. (And ignore the extremely far-fetched cases proposed by some mediocre grammar websites: they refer to a different, and almost inexistent, grammatical construction.)

  • +1, Je suis tout à fait d'accord avec beaucoup des choses que tu as écrites, si ce n'est toutes ;-) – jlliagre May 28 at 9:08
  • @jlliagre Are you a native French speaker? Because you wrote 'beaucoup des'. Is this a correct usage or a mistake on purpose? – Xfce4 May 28 at 12:37
  • 2
    I'm a native French speaker. My comment was using on purpose and for fun a corner case iNyar mentioned but he is right telling it is a mistake in the usual case. – jlliagre May 28 at 13:19

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