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THE FRENCH SYNTAX.
Q. I. IN what does the French differ from the English syntax, with respect to nouns taken in a general sense, and how do you know when nouns are taken in that sense?
4. I. Nouns taken in a general sense are used without any article in English; as, MAN was born for SOCIETY. French, provided they are not preceded by the preposition en, they require the article definite. L'HOMME (the man) est né pour LA SOCIÉTÉ (the society). The words man, society, in the above instances, are said to be taken in a general sense, because they do not mean any particular man or society, but man and society at large*. When they are preceded by the preposition en, they have no article; the new discoveries IN ASTRONOMY, les nouvelles découvertes EN ASTRONOMIE. The article is also omitted before nouns taken in a general sense in some proverbial sentences; PAUVRETÉ n'est pas vice, PoVERTY is not a vice; on sait bien que RELIGION n'est pas phi
* Note. Some nouns in the singular cannot be used in this manner. Thus, though you say, MAN seems to be born to suffer, yet, it would not sound well to use the word child instead of man. The same irregularity will happen in French. Sometimes, in order to convey a general sense in the latter language, it will be better to use the article indefinite.-Ex. THE KING ought to be the father of his people; UN ROI doit être le père de son peuple.
losophie. RELIGION is well known to be a different thing from philosophy.
4. II. In general propositions the article indefinite is often rendered by the definite. Ex. A MAN who could behave in that manner must have a depraved heart; L'HOMME qui a pu se comporter de cette manière doit avoir le cœur corrompu. But this manner of using the article definite is not to be considered as an absolute rule, because, in many instances, the article indefinite must be retained; as the definite chiefly suits an elevated style. It will sometimes be difficult to make the proper distinction*.
A. III. Plural nouns before which such, and those in the sense of such, or such people, such beings, as, are either expressed or may be understood, and not governed by the preposition de, are generally preceded by the article partitive des.-Ex. MEN who dare assert such a falsehood are capable of the greatest crimes; DES HOMMES qui osent soutenir une pareille fausseté sont capables des plus grands crimes. Sometimes it will be better to give the proposition a general sense, by using the article definite les. In some instances, it may be indifferent to use one or the other; as in the foregoing sentence, which might have been rendered thus: LES HOMMES qui osent, &c.
A. IV. The article definite is also left out in English before some nouns which are taken in a determinate, more than in a general sense.-Ex. To go to COURT; PARLIAMENT will meet; DINNER, SUPPER, is on the table. It must be expressed in French, Aller À LA COUR; LE PARLEMENT s'assemblera; LE DINER, LE SOUPER, est servi.
Q. II. What article is used in French before nouns taken
*Note. The article definite is generally preferred, after the verb avoir, before substantives which name something belonging to the body, and are followed by an adjective.-Ex. She has AN OVAL FACE, Elle a LA FIGURE OVALE; but the indefinite is retained, when the adjective precedes: She has A SMALL MOUTH, Elle a UNE PETITE BOUCHE. When the adjective expresses a quality which belongs to the mind as well as to the body, both articles are used according to the substantive it modifies.-Ex. She has A SMILING COUNTENANCE, A SORROWFUL FACE; Elle a UN VISAGE RIANT, UN VISAGE TRISTE: He has A HARD HEART, A NARROW SOUL; Il a LE CŒUR DUR, L'ÂME BASSE; a distinction which cannot be made dependent on rules.
in a partitive sense, that is, before which the words some or any are either expressed or understood?—Ex. I have MONEY of SOME MONEY; A kingdom torn by intestine COMMOTIONS, or by SOME INTESTINE COMMOTIONS.
A. One of the partitive articles, du, de la, de l', des, according to the gender and number of the substantive.-Ex. J'ai DE L'ARGENT; Un royaume déchiré par DES TROUBLES CIVILS. Q. III. Are the articles, du, de la, de l', des, always used before nouns taken in a partitive sense?
4. I. Nouns taken in a partitive sense, if they are modified by an adjective, which precedes them in French, will have de before that adjective, instead of du, de la, de l', des.—Ex. There are HANDSOME WOMEN, Il y a DE BELLES FEMMES (instead of des belles femmes). It is GOOD WINE, C'est DE BON VIN, instead of du bon vin. With respect to substantives plural which serve to name a part of the body, the same observation must be attended to, when they come after a tense of the verb avoir, as has been made for the same nouns, when singular, in note, p. 4.-Ex. Il a LES YEUX NOIRS, rather than des yeux noirs, though the article partitive is used in some instances. If the adjective precedes, they take de only.-Ex.. Ila DE GRANDS YEUX NOIRS.
A. II. Substantives governed by an adjective or a verb, with the preposition de, are also used without an article, when they are not absolutely taken in a general sense, and the words, some or any, may be understood before them.-Ex. Avide De GLOIRE, thirsting AFTER GLORY; combler DE FAVEURS, to load WITH FAVOURS. It would be absurd to express of some by de du, de de la, de de, l', &c. We say, avide DE GLOIRE, and avide DE LA MORT, because one may have a part of the former, and not of the latter.
Q. IV. Are the partitive articles, du, de la, de l', des, never used before an adjective?
4. They must be used, when the substantive and adjective form an indivisible sense, that is, when the adjective does not serve to qualify the noun to which it is joined, but makes part of it; as in these sentences: De la petite bière, small beer; Des petits maîtres, beaus. Authors differ sometimes about those nouns which form an indivisible sense; as for example, the words, jeunes gens, young men ; bonne terre, good mould ;. grosse cannelle, coarse cinnamon; with which the article par titive is used by some, and de only by others..