I was reading a French magazine "Le Point" and I came up with certain phrases where I am confused as to the preposition/article des/de? Can you help me out please?

I know that if an adjective comes before the noun like belles choses - it becomes de belles choses.

But the below examples don't fit in that? Here are the examples:

Example 1)

Pas une semaine ne passe sans que des actes d’ espionnage ou d’infiltration informatique ne soient attribués à la Russie.

What is the difference between "des actes de l' espionnage" and the above?

Example 2)

La note de Jean Castex dit pourtant ceci :

la France grouille d’espions

Why is this not "grouille des espions"

Example 3)

La mise en œuvre de cette priorité exige aujourd’hui de renforcer l’encadrement des actions d’ influence ou d’ ingérence étrangères qui s’exercent de manière discrète..."

why is it not "des actions de l' influence or de l' ingerence?" what is the difference?

Example 4)

le vol d’ « informations stratégiques. »

Why is it not "le vol des informations stratégiques"

Example 5)

La crainte est alors la même : le vol d’« informations stratégiques. » Qu’il soit le fait d'États ou d’officines privées, le siphonnage de nos secrets est à l’œuvre. Et quiconque assiste au pillage de nos données, dans ce qui s’apparente à de la corruption, du trafic d’influence..."

Especially here, why is it "s'apparente à de la corruption". Is the "de la" here article partitif? So, does it mean something like "... pillaging of our data seems like (some?) corruption" etc.

Example 6)

This one is from "Le Parisien":

2021 en télé s’est distinguée par d’incroyables cartons, « HPI » et l’Euro de football en tête, mais aussi par des échecs retentissants tels « Une affaire française » ou la série « Influences ».

Here, it is "par des échecs retentissants". From what I see in "Le Point", this should also be "par d’ échecs retentissants", no?

  • You write: "I know that if an adjective comes before the noun like belles choses- it becomes "de belles choses": not necessarily. It is common but not compulsory in written language and in refined spoken language. Des has been used for long in spoken language and is gaining ground in written language.
    – None
    Dec 27, 2021 at 20:53
  • 3
    Does this answer your question? Tout savoir sur ces combinaisons de petits mots qui contiennent « de »
    – livresque
    Dec 27, 2021 at 21:11
  • 1
    You start off talking about articles de & des : "I know that if an adjective comes before the noun like belles choses- it becomes "de belles choses". But the below examples don't fit in that? Here are the examples:" The problem is your examples don't fit in with what you have just said. In grouille d’espions, d’ informations stratégiques, des actions d’influence, s'apparente à de la corruption d'*/*de are prepositions, not articles. In des échecs retentissants des in an article but the adjective is after the noun.
    – None
    Dec 27, 2021 at 21:16
  • 1
    Can you please edit (edit link under your post) your question and clarify that point. And please, be specific and ask only one question at a time.
    – None
    Dec 27, 2021 at 21:21
  • Does this answer your question? Leur absence de / du désir de communiquer avec moi est évidente
    – Lambie
    Dec 28, 2021 at 17:09

1 Answer 1


What you have here is classic mixing up of two similar, but distinct grammar words. De/Des has two distinct use in French, and these do not quite behave the same way

  1. It can be a preposition which will contract with a following definite article (de, but du and des when combining with le or les)
  2. It can be part of the indefinite article (un, une, des)
  3. it can be the partitive article (du/de l', de la/de l', des)

Now, the part that's getting you is that the articles are not allowed after the preposition. In that situation (not covered by Stéphane's otherwise excellent answer), they vanish, and the naked preposition may then elides as normal for French. Let's run through your cases.

Example 1)

In this construction (acte de), the de is a proposition, and thus the partitive article what would be de de l'espionnage vanishes, leaving de espionnage, which promptly elides to d'espionnage

Example 2)

Same thing: grouiller de is a construction with a preposition, so the des that would otherwise be there (cf. Je vois des espions) vanishes and the prepositions elides before a vowel. Des would only be allowed if these were specific spies (i.e. a contract of de les), and it's just not possible to construct it that way. You have to be more specific: La maison grouille des chiens de ma mère.

Example 3)

Same as example 1.

Example 4)

Exactly the same as example two, except that des can readily be dropped in this one and still be grammatical, but only if referring to specific, known information (de lesdes).

Example 5)

Yes: de la is just the normal singular feminine form of the partitive article. It only looks weird because English wouldn't use articles before non-definite mass nouns.

Example 6)

This is a classic contracted de les because the failures in questions are specific (and in fact explicitly listed!) thus requiring the definite article.

  • In example 2, is des in des espions an indefinite article?
    – silph
    Dec 28, 2021 at 4:21
  • In example 4, did you mean to say that des can be kept and still be grammatical? Ie saying that "le vol des informations strategiques" can be correct?
    – silph
    Dec 28, 2021 at 5:24
  • @silph In voir des espions, yes that is just a normal plural indefinite article. "Le vol des informations strategiques" is grammatical, but as noted, it has a different meaning. It's pretty much the nuance between "theft of strategic data" (de des turning into d' as explained above under example 2) and "theft of the strategic data". (de les turning into des, like in the contrastive sentence I gave).
    – Circeus
    Dec 28, 2021 at 6:29

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