If I were to say "I like red tables", as in, tables that were red in general without referring to any specific ones, I would first think to say "J'aime des tables rouges". But according to several online translators I found, "J'aime les tables rouges" is the correct one. I'd think that the latter implies there are some tables on display, and I like the red ones in particular, whereas the prior is just making a general statement. Unfortunately, translators can't explain this, so could someone explain if this is correct or if I'm making some mistake?

To me both options work for the above, but when it comes to uncountables, this sounds really weird to my ear. "J'aime l'eau" is preferable by the translator, but wouldn't that be "I like THE water" as opposed to "I like water"? J'aime d'eau sounds way better to me, but could a native French speaker or someone with a higher knowledge of this confirm or explain how this works? Thanks in advance :)

1 Answer 1


J'aime des tables rouges would be weird. That would mean there are red tables somewhere and you happen to like some of them.

"I like red tables" means you like red tables in general. In French, the article to use in such case is les. It follows this definition from the TLFi:

B. − Au pluriel [S'emploie pour parler de tout l'ensemble des choses, des personnes que dénote le substantif]

As pointed out by @Luke, the sentence j'aime les tables rouges might also mean, depending on the context, that there are red tables and non-red tables, and you like the red ones.

Unlike English, French requires an article before water when you translate "I like water", you can't say j'aime eau.

The definite article le is the one to use, like with les tables rouges, because you are talking about water in general. J'aime une eau would be also unexpected unless you want to specify which one you like: J'aime une eau, l'eau de Vichy.

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    Indeed... of course, les could also mean that you have specific ones in mind. For crystal clarity, we might say that j'aime des chevaux means ∃x(horse(x) ∧ like(me, x)), while j'aime les chevaux could mean either ∀x(horse(x) ⇒ like(me, x)) or horse(A) ∧ like(me, A).
    – Luke Sawczak
    Aug 9, 2022 at 16:33

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