Not sure when to use le/la/les in French? You’re not alone!
One of the difficult things students of French have to learn is how and when to use the articles le, la, and les. Learning whether a noun is masculine (le) or feminine (la) is one thing, but then you quickly figure out that French uses those articles in a lot of places where English doesn’t.
I like the cheese: J’aime le fromage.
If you say that in English, you’re talking about some specific cheese, not cheese in general. But in French, you use le or la with verbs that express liking or appreciation, for example aimer (to like, to love.)
- J’aime le fromage. Et toi ? (I like cheese. And you?)
- Est-ce que tu aimes le chocolat ? (Do you like chocolate?)
No naked nouns in French
English is fine with “naked” nouns, singulars like cheese and also plurals like macarons. But French doesn’t like either. If you like plural things, you still have to say the: les.
- Aimez-vous les macarons ? (Do you like macarons?)
- Est-ce tu aimes les escargots ? (Do you like snails?)
- Tu aimes les chats ? (You like cats ?)
Don’t like something? You still need le, la, or les
The same rule applies in the negative.
- Je n’aime pas les escargots ! (I don’t like snails!)
- Tu n’aimes pas les chats ? (You don’t like cats?)
It’s not just aimer
The same applies for all verbs related to (not) liking or (not) appreciating things. Here are some common ones:
- adorer (to love, to adore)
- préférer (to prefer)
- apprécier (to appreciate)
- détester (to detest)
- hair (to hate)
- mépriser (to despise)
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