French Prepositions

Understanding Prepositions

  • A preposition is a word that links nouns, pronouns, or phrases to other words within a sentence.
  • Critical in expressing time, place, and various other circumstances in sentences. Useful examples include ‘à’, ‘en’, ‘sur’, and ‘avec’.
  • Unlike in English, French prepositions do not always follow a set rule, which means learning their associations with other words is often necessary.

Common French Prepositions

  • ‘À’ is generally used to indicate a location or destination: ‘Je vais à Paris(I’m going to Paris).
  • ‘Pour’ is often used to indicate purpose or in order to: ‘C’est un cadeau pour toi(This is a gift for you).
  • ‘Avec’ is used to express ‘with’: ‘Je suis avec mes amis(I am with my friends).
  • ‘En’ is used for being ‘in’ a country or ‘in’ a method of travel among other things: ‘Je suis en France(I am in France), ‘J’y vais en train(I’m going there by train).
  • Use ‘dans’ to signify ‘in’ in terms of location: ‘Je suis dans la cuisine(I am in the kitchen).
  • To express ‘on’ as a preposition, use ‘sur’: ‘Le livre est sur la table(The book is on the table).
  • Use ‘depuis’ to express ‘since’ or ‘for’: ‘Je l’attends depuis une heure(I’ve been waiting for him for an hour).

Prepositions with Places

  • When referring to a continent, country, region, or province, use ‘à’ for a city and ‘en’ for a feminine or plural place name. Use ‘au’ for a masculine place that begins with a consonant, and ‘aux’ for a plural: ‘à Paris’, ‘en France’, ‘au Canada’, ‘aux États-Unis’.
  • However, there are exceptions such as ‘à Cuba’, so prepositions with place names should be learned individually.

Prepositions with Verbs

  • Some French verbs require particular prepositions in order to make sense. This includes verbs such as ‘penser à’ (to think of), ‘avoir peur de’ (to be afraid of), and ‘partir en’ (to leave for).
  • It’s important to memorise these verbs and their associated prepositions, as incorrect usage can change the intended meaning of the sentence.

Prepositions of Time

  • En’ represents in or during when referring to months, seasons or years: ‘en avril’ (in April), ‘en hiver’ (in winter), ‘en 2020’ (in 2020).
  • À’ is used when referring to a time of day, excluding ‘at midnight’ (à minuit) and ‘at noon’ (à midi).