Using DE or DU in French?

Copie de MONTREAL?-18

Do you have some doubts when using DU or DE in French ? You won’t after reading this explanation.

There are many ways to use DE and DU. But if we were to simplify it, we could say that usually:

DE means OF (yeah yeah, and sometimes FROM and a bunch of other things)

while DU is the contraction of DE + LE, meaning OF THE. In it’s feminine form, it is DE LA.

Here’s some examples to help you see the difference.



C’était le maire de Paris

He was the mayor of Paris

C’est le maire de le du village

He was the mayor of the village

Il est à côté de moi

He is next to me

Il est à côté de le du parc

He is next to the parc

J’ai besoin de toi

[lit. I have a need of you] = I need you

J’ai besoin de le du dictionnaire

[I have a need of the dictionary] = I need the dictionary

Je parle de football

I talk about football

Je parle de le du match de football

I talk about the football game

C’est le chat de Marla

This is [the cat of Marla] = This is Marla’s cat

C’est le chat de le du voisin

It is the cat [of the neighbour]= It is the neighbour’s cat

However, there are some times when only DE can be used:

when introducing a complement (usually to add precision to a noun):

  • Une tranche de pain
  • Un match de football
  • Un verre de bière
  • Une tasse de café

or when expressing certain quantities such as:

  • Je ne veux pas de café
  • Je veux un peu de beurre
  • J’ai beaucoup de problèmes

More often than not, DU is the contraction of DE LE, meaning « of the », but it can also be a partitive adjective meaning “some”, or “some quantity you cannot count”.

  • Je mets du beurre sur mon pain
  • Veux-tu du café? (meaning Do you want some coffee, as opposed to Veux-tu un café = Do you want a coffee?)
  • J’ai du travail (meaning I have work, as opposed to “J’ai un travail” = I have a job)

Once again, remember that the same sentences would use DE if they were to use the quantity expressions mentioned earlier.

  • Non, je ne veux pas de café
  • Je n’ai pas de travail


** One quick trick would be to mentally replace the mystery word by DES. If your sentence still makes sense, there are good chances that you need DU.

Le maire du village     Le maire des villages = OK = DU

Le maire de Paris     Le maire des Paris = Bizarre (because there is only one Paris) = DE


I hope that helps! Don’t forget to send your suggestions for the next Ask Marie!

See also:

Using Y in French

Using EN in French

Qui or Que?

Je suis sorti or J’ai sorti?

Pour, pendant, depuis?

C’est ou Il est?

À, en, au?



  1. Très clair et pourtant on sait quel point ce n’est pas évident à expliquer simplement!
    Il manque un petit “le” dans “c’était le maire de Paris” et c’est parfait 🙂


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