Master Prepositions in French in 10 Minutes


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A French teacher in her twenties, based in the South of France, where palm trees and beaches are part of her daily life.

What Are Prepositions in French? 

In French, prepositions play an important part in speech. We use prepositions in our daily lives, without even noticing them (unless you actually teach French). But first, let’s answer the question that you should really be asking yourself: what are prepositions in French?

Well, prepositions are short words that are invariable and used to link two elements together in a sentence.

The most typical prepositions in French are “à” and “en”.

  • Je viens de France.
  • Il va à la plage.

However, there are many, many more of them. Let me guide you through the world of prepositions in French. Allons-y!

Comparison of Prepositions in French and English 

Prepositions are not easy to translate from French to English (or vice versa). As a matter of fact, most of them do not have a word per word translation and French prepositions do not have a one-to-one correspondence with the English ones. It is important to always check the good use of each preposition. For example:

French English
À to, in, at
De of, from
Chez at (a person´s place
or a professional´s)

Although we may find some equivalents in English, keep in mind that French is a completely different language with different sentence structures.

Prepositions in French of Time 

First things first, prepositions in French have different categories. One of those categories is prepositions of time. These prepositions will express a temporal indication. The most common French prepositions of time are en, depuis, pendant, à…

But, to help you find out how and when to use them, here is a list of temporal prepositions in French:

Preposition To express… Examples
en The duration of an action, the season (except for spring),

or a date.
Il est arrivé en janvier 2020. (date)
He arrived in January 2020.

Nous sommes allés à la mer en été. (season)
We went to the sea in summer.

Marie a fait le trajet en deux heures. (duration)
Marie did the trip in two hours.
dans When an action will start. Le film commence dans quinze minutes.
The movie will start in five minutes.
depuis The beginning of an action that is still ongoing. Il est boulanger dequis 1996.
He has been a baker since 1996.

Le magasin est ouvert dequis 9h.
The store is open from 9 AM.

J´attends depuis deux heures.
I have been waiting for two hours.
pendant The duration of an action that is now over. Il a attendu pendant trente minutes.
He waited for thirty minutes.

Nous y avons habité pendant trois ans.
We have lived there for three years.
à The time at which the action will take place. Le magasin ouvre à huit heures.
The store opens at eight o´clock.
de…à… The exact time/date an action will start and end. Le magasin ouvre de 8h à 19h.
The store is open from 8AM to 7PM.
pour The duration of an action is still ongoing, the duration of
an action that will take place in the future.
Le directeur part en vacances pour trois semaines.
The manager is going on holiday for three weeks.

Nous sommes à Paris pour dix jours encore.
We´re still in Paris for ten days.
jusque Until a precise temporal indication. Becomes jusqu´ before a vowel. Nous avons cours jusqu´ à vendredi.
We´re having classes until Friday.
dès The precise start of an action/event. Les nouvelles recommandations prennent effet dès lundi.
The new recommendations are starting this Monday.

 

Prepositions in French of Position and Direction 

Another category that you need to learn is the prepositions of position and direction. They are used to describe conditions in space. Here’s a list of those prepositions in French.

Preposition To express… Examples
à A location, before a city, a masculine country,
building.
Il habite à Paris.
He lives in Paris.
en A location, before a feminine country. Nous allons voyager en Chine.
We´re going to travel in China.
dans A location, before a country, a city, a building,
a street, a room.
Il est entré dans la chambre.
He entered the room.

Vous faites quoi dans Paris?
What do you do inside Paris?

Elle est dans la cuisine.
She´s in the kitchen.
chez A location, before a person or a professional´s
Place.
Je vais chez le médicin.
I´m going to the doctor´s.

Il est chez son père.
He is at his father´s.
sur A location “on” something. Le chat est sur la table.
The cat is on the table.
sous A location “under” something. Le chien est sous le lit.
The dog is under the bed.
contre A location “against” something. La chaise est contre le mur.
The chair is against the wall.
entre A location, “between”. Le bureau est entre le lit et l´armoire.
The desk is between the bed and the
wardrobe.


As a bonus, here are how we can mix those prepositions and use them as adverbs of place:

à côté (beside, next to) à gauche (to the left) à droite (to the right)
ailleurs (elsewhere) autour (around) au-dessus (above)
dedans (inside) dehors (outside) derrière (behind)
dessous (below) dessus (above) devant (in front)
en bas (down, downstairs) en haut (up above) en dessous (down below)
ici (here) là (there) là-bas (over there)
loin (fair) partout (everywhere) près (near)
quelque part (somewhere) nulle part (nowhere) n´importe où (anywhere)
par là (around there, there) ci-dessus (above) ci-dessous (below)
ci-joint (attached) à l´ intérieur (indoors, inside) à l´extérieur (outdoors, outside)

 

prepositions in French Prepositions of direction

 Take note: the preposition “à” can change depending on the gender of what follows it. Yes, genders in French nouns…

For example:

  • Je vais à la plage. (I’m going to the beach) à “La plage” is feminine singular, therefore, we will use “la” after it.
  • Nous allons au centre commercial. (We’re going to the mall) à “Le centre commercial” is masculine singular. We will use “le” after it. However, “à le” is forbidden, which is why we use “au” (à + le = au).
  • Ma mère aime aller aux puces. (My mother likes to go to the flea market) à “Puces” (everyday term for “flea market) is feminine plural. Since “à + les” is also forbidden in French, we will use “aux” for masculine and feminine plural nouns.

Other Prepositions in French

Preposition Use Examples
à Before an ingredient or a flavor. Une tarte à la fraise.
A strawberry tart.
Travelling by foot or something you can ride on. Je vais à l´école à vélo.
I bike to school.

Moi j´y vais à pied.
I go there by foot.
de To express where something comes from or to whom
it belongs.
J´aime les livres de Jane Austen.
I like Jane Austens´books.

C´est le chat de mon frère.
It´s my brother´s cat.
en To express how something is done, the materials, the
transportation mode.
Il fait le ménage en chantant.
He cleans the house while singing.

C´est un pull en coton.
It´s a cotton jumper.

Il va au travail en voiture.
He goes to work by car.


The same prepositions can also be used to express other things. In this list of prepositions in French below, you will find other uses for them.

 

Tips and Tricks about Prepositions in French

One last thing, before you go, keep in mind these most common mistakes that you can make when using prepositions in French:

  1. Learning directly with the English translation: most prepositions in French will not have the exact equivalent in English.
  2. Learning verbs without prepositions: some verbs in French require a preposition in order to be used. For example, “dire à” (to say to) and “s’intéresser à” (to be interested in). The verb “jouer” is also particularly tricky, as we use it with both “de” and “à”, depending on the context of the sentence. 
    • Je joue du violon. (I play the violin) de Musical instrument
    • Je joue au football. (I play football) à Sports / Games
  3. Forgetting prepositions in French: sometimes, in French, a preposition is needed in a sentence, when there are none in English. Prepositions have an especially important place in the French language, therefore, learn to use them systematically.

Here you go! You have finally wrapped up this article about French preposition, and kudos to you, it was a tough one. To learn more about French and the many different grammar points of this language, feel free to take a look at LingoDeer’s blog.

Or, you can learn French directly with us on LingoDeer, the fun way!

 


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