When to use the partitive article?

TalinaC1Kwiziq community member

When to use the partitive article?

Quand j'ai envie de la viande— This was my answer to one of the writing exercises.  I wrote de la, the correct answer omitted the la.  The prompt was—When I want meat...Despite reading the other items in the the discussion, it still is not clear to me whether or not to use the article.  It is my understanding that de la or du are partitive articles and one is required if you’re not using a definite article in most cases.    I can see a relationship to the the negation pattern.  I have no bread—Je n’ai pas de pain.  This usage is merely something I think that I have memorized.  I can’t actually explain the grammar points involved. Please clarify.  Thank you!
Asked 2 years ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

There are verbal phrases which require de, such as avoir envie de, or avoir besoin de qqc. Your question looks like a case of the partitive article but it is treated a bit differently. The things that follow avoir envie de (and similar phrases) often refer to the general class and not a particular item. In the general case, you omit the definite article.

J'ai envie de viande. -- I want meat. (General case; note that there's no article in English as well.)
J'ai envie de la viande qui se trouve sur ton assiette.  -- I want the meat that is on your plate. (Specific case, also with definite article in English.)

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Maybe you'll find the discussion in this related question useful:

https://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/questions/view/j-ai-besoin-de-lait-is-de-lait-actually-the-contraction-of-de-du-de-du-de

The partitive article is omitted after the preposition "de", to avoid the awkward sounding "de de". This rule is known as "la règle de cacophonie".

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

But Chris's explanation does not work with "avoir peur de" or "avoir horreur de", etc. The point is that it's never the definite article that is omitted, only the partitive. So in the "general class" case you have to decide whether the definite article is appropriate.

"J’ai horreur de la viande." I hate meat. (in general)

When to use the partitive article?

Quand j'ai envie de la viande— This was my answer to one of the writing exercises.  I wrote de la, the correct answer omitted the la.  The prompt was—When I want meat...Despite reading the other items in the the discussion, it still is not clear to me whether or not to use the article.  It is my understanding that de la or du are partitive articles and one is required if you’re not using a definite article in most cases.    I can see a relationship to the the negation pattern.  I have no bread—Je n’ai pas de pain.  This usage is merely something I think that I have memorized.  I can’t actually explain the grammar points involved. Please clarify.  Thank you!

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