I've got a simple but still tricky question about the word 'des', which is both the plural of the 'l'article indéfini' and one l'article partitif. My question is how to say which is which given a sentence.

For example.

  1. J'ai des oranges.

Here, is 'des' used as the plural of the 'l'article indéfini' or 'l'article partitif'?

Thanks for any explantations with examples.

  • un contre exemple serait : "Est-ce je t'ai parlé des oranges que j'ai achetées ce matin ?", au singulier "Est-ce que je t'ai parlé de l'orange que j'ai achetée ce matin
    – XouDo
    Feb 15 at 8:57
  • ici il s'agit de l'article contracté, n'est pas? car on utilise le verbe 'parler' suivi de la préposition 'de'.
    – mysterium
    Feb 15 at 9:39
  • Effectivement, mon exemple concerne l'article défini contracté des.
    – XouDo
    Feb 15 at 10:29
  • 2
    As far as I can tell, in French the partitive article and the indefinite article behave exactly the same way grammatically, so it's not actually necessary to distinguish them to get the grammar right (unlike the contracted definite article des). Feb 15 at 13:38
  • Indeed @PeterShor the distinction seems pointless from a native speakers point of view. I've never felt that difference personally. Some sources mention though the partitve plural exists only for noun that are always plural. (rillettes, cendres, ténèbres) see here : fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_partitif. So I guess It wouldn't apply to oranges.
    – XouDo
    Feb 16 at 13:57

2 Answers 2


In this sentence des is l'article indéfini, because we know that you have oranges, but we don't know nothing about them.

The partitif article is used with nouns that denote food, drink, materials, fruit, vegetables and usually with verbs like manger, prendre, boire, acheter... The partitive article actually means a part of something, some indefinite quantity, so you can eat or buy some quantity of oranges (des oranges) and not all of them. Par exemple:

  • Je mange des oranges. (article partitif - some quantity, we dont know esxactly how many)
  • J'achète de la viande, du vin, du pain, des pommes....

The indefinite article is used with countable nouns (which may or may not be edible): oranges, pommes, livres.

The partitive article is used with uncountable nouns (which may or may not be edible): pâtes, épinards, progrès.

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