6

I'm writing some French notes but I don't know if I should be including articles in the headings and if so which to use. For example, if I want the title to say 'Verbs', could I just write 'Verbes' or would I need to write 'des Verbes' or 'les Verbes'?

My next question is about capitalising titles. Is it the same in English, where you capitalise the significant words? If I do need to include an article for Verbs would this be capitalised? The same goes for 'French', it it be ok to just write Français?

When I've read various things, some titles appear to include articles and others not, so what I'm really asking is, is it grammatically incorrect to not include an article? Any input would be much appreciated.

2 Answers 2

8

Articles are not always mandatory in titles (e.g. Guerre et Paix) but are not always optional either. For example Belle et Bête would be an awful title compared to La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast).

Both Verbes and Les Verbes can be used to translate "Verbs". The former would be more used if the content is about a list of verbs (e.g. Verbes irréguliers) while the latter would more describe the characteristics of some or all verbs (e.g. Les verbes espagnols), but the distinction is not clear-cut.

Des verbes is a very unlikely title although des, as a preposition (de + les), was a possible literary title start:

TLFi: I.− B.− 5. c)
− Par ellipse De + contenu d'un ouvrage (dans l'énoncé du titre, elliptiquement pour chapitre, livre qui traite de...). De l'Allemagne (Staël); De l'Amour (Stendhal).

(See @LPH answer).

Capitalizing rules are not the same between French and English.

See Title Case in French — Majuscules Dans Les Titres

7
  • 3
    Bien vu pour belle et bête (beatiful and stupid). Dans un registre un peu différent, je serais curieux de savoir pourquoi un film nommé "The Fast and the Furious" en anglais s'appelle "Fast and Furious" en français.
    – XouDo
    Sep 12, 2022 at 7:42
  • 1
    @XouDo D'abord, "Fast and Furious"est aussi utilisé en anglais, et c'est le nom couramment utilisé pour la saga. Ensuite, je pense que ça peut être lié au "plural the" ("the old" = "les vieux", contrairement à ce qu'on a en français) qui est probablement pas couramment connu chez le public général, qui comprendrait plutôt "Le rapide et le furieux" (et pas les). Après, vu la diversité et les choix parfois douteux des traductions françaises de titres de films, il peut y avoir tout un tas de raisons... Sep 12, 2022 at 8:40
  • Des verbes is quite old-fashioned but “De + topic” was actually a common way to form book or chapter titles.
    – Relaxed
    Sep 13, 2022 at 0:03
  • @Relaxed It was indeed. It is very unlikely to be used today.
    – jlliagre
    Sep 13, 2022 at 6:15
  • 1
    @Relaxed Well, I do it anyway... :-)
    – jlliagre
    Sep 13, 2022 at 8:40
7

As concerns the title "Verbs", if what you have to consign to paper as relates to verbs is a systematic recording of some of their features that you are interested in, then "Les verbes" is a good title, but it is not precise: it means "My (personal) notes about verbs" (but you only will know that when you read the title, if that doesn't happen 40 years after the last note, when you might barely remember); if you intend to avail yourself of a comprehensive record, then it is a perfect title.

"Des verbes" can be ambiguous. First, it must be understood that in ages gone by, writers used to write titles of that sort, in which "de" is not the partitive article but instead the preposition meaning "about, on". It would be rendered by "on" in English (On verbs). Whether in French or in English this usage has gone mostly "out of fashion" and it is reserved preferably, in any case, for works of a certain importance, even if their aim is far from exhausting the subject; however, there are still writers keeping this usage alive. So, if you have a mind to use such traditional forms and that you intend to couch your particular thoughts and remarks about verbs you do have a perfect title. Unfortuately, it is ambiguous because "des" can be interpreted as the partitive article, and, taken as such, it says that you are merely collecting some ideas about certain verbs. You have to be more specific in order to avoid this incertitude, which will be cleared out in the reader's mind only after an investigation of the content. For instance, then, you can use the title "De la grammaire des verbes" (recalling usage: important, not used much nowadays).

1
  • Thank you for this
    – Alice 1905
    Sep 17, 2022 at 14:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.