Archive | November 2016

Prepositions ‘Dessus’ and ‘Dessous’

Continuing along with prepositions from last post, we will be going over ‘dessus’, ‘dessous’, and related prepositions as requested by a reader.

Sur and Sous have corresponding adverbs: dessus (over it, on top of it, upstairs, over), and dessous (beneath it, underneath).

  • La chaise boîte. Ne mets pas ta valise dessus.
  • The chair is uneven. Don’t put your suitcase on top of it.
  • Tu vois tous ces papiers? La lettre est dessous.
  • Do you see all those papers? The letter is underneath them.

These adverbs have the compound forms au-dessus and  au-dessous.

  • habiter au-dessus/au-dessous
  • to live upstairs/downstairs

Au-dessus de and au-dessous de are compound prepositions:

  • les enfants au-dessus de dix ans – children over ten years old
  • il fait dix  degrés au-dessus de zéro – it’s ten degrees above zero
  • rien au dessus de 100 euros – nothing over 100 Euros
  • c’est au-dessus de mes forces – it’s too much for me
  • les jeunes au-dessous de dix-huit ans – young people under eighteen years old
  • être au-dessous de sa tâche – to be not up to one’s task
  • il croit que c’est au-dessous de lui de faire le ménage – he thinks that it’s beneath him to do housework

I hope this post will help clarify any confusion with these prepositions. 🙂 As always, you may leave any requests in the comments. Have a great week! And to those celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

A la prochaine !


Prepositions ‘Sur’ and ‘Sous’

Here are the prepositions ‘sur’ and ‘sous’ explained.

Sur usually corresponds to English ‘on’ and sous corresponds to English ‘under’. However, there are cases where the two French prepositions have unexpected English equivalents.

  • Sous – at, in
    • sous l’équateur – at the Equator
    • sous la tente – in the tent
    • sous la pluie – in the rain
    • sous le soleil – in the sunshine
    • avoir quelque chose sous les yeux – to have something before one’s eyes
    • avoir quelque chose sous la main – to have something at hand

Sous may express location in time, usually within a period or historical event.

  • Sous la Révolution – at the time of the Revolution
  • Sous la règne de Napoléon – in Napoleon’s reign
  • Sous peu – shortly

Sur may correspond to English ‘at’ or ‘in’ in an expression of position.

  • Sur le stade – at the stadium
  • Sur la place (du marché) – at the market place
  • Sur la chaussée – in the roadway
  • Sur le journal – in the newspaper
  • Acheter quelque chose sur le marché – To buy something at the market
  • Il pleut sur toute la France – It’s raining all over France

Sur expresses approximate time:

  • Arriver sur les 2 heures – To arrive at around 2 o’clock
  • Elle va sur ses dix-huit ans – She’s going on eighteen

Sur expresses English ‘out of’ in statements of proportion and measure.

  • deux fois sur trois – two times out of three
  • une femme sur dix – one woman in ten
  • un jour sur trois – every third day
  • un lundi sur deux – every other Monday

Sur labels the subject of a piece of writing or conversation (English ‘about’).

  • Un article sur la santé – An article about health
  • Interroger le soldat sur son régiment – To question the soldier about his regiment

What a whirlwind of a week this has been. I hope you all have been well. Until next week, everyone.

A la prochaine,


Prepositions in Expressions of Time

Here are some simple prepositions used to express time.

Expressions of Time

To translate the English preposition “in”, French uses dans or en, or sometimes au bout de or d’ici.

  • Dans refers to the time in the future, “from now”, at which the action will be performed.
    • Je commencerais à vider la chambre dans une semaine.
    • I’ll start to clear out the room in a week. (in a week from now)
  • En refers to the length of time taken to complete an action.
    • Nous avons fait le trajet en une heure.
    • We did the journey in an hour. (it took an hour)
  • Au bout de is used in formal written style for the narration of actions in the past. It translates to “in ( _ minutes/hours)” meaning ” _ minutes/hours later”.
    • Jacques quitta son petite amie. Au bout d’une heure il revint.
    • Jacques left his girlfriend. In an hour (an hour later) he came back.
  • D’ici is used to refer to a point in the future and means “in…from now”.
    • D’ici cinq jours notre bureau aura déménagé.
    • In five days our office will be moved. (in five days from now)

To translate the English preposition “for”, French uses pour, pendant, or depuis.

  • Pour is normally used with reference to a period of time in the future (relative to the speaker) and conveys an idea of purpose.
    • Je vais m’inscrire à la faculté pour l’année prochaine.
    • I’m going to register at the university for next year.
  • Pendant is used to express the duration of an action, and must be used to translate “for” when it refers to an action in the past.
    • Le boulanger a fermé son magasin pendant trois semaines.
    • The baker closed his shop for three weeks.
  • Depuis is used to refer to an action which “has been __-ing / had been __-ing” for a certain period of time.
    • J’enseigne dans ce lycée depuis trois ans.
    • I’ve been teaching in this school for three years.

“From” can be translated by dedèsdepuis, or à partir de.

  • De is commonly used in conjunction with à (from…to)
    • Ils ont travaillé du matin au soir.
    • They worked from morning to evening.
  • Dès conveys the idea “right from…”.
    • Dès sa nomination, elle sa renseigna sur la ville.
    • From the time of her appointment (as soon as she was appointed), she found out about the town.
  • Depuis conveys the idea “from…onwards”.
    • Depuis sa maladie, ma grand-mère n’aimait pas habiter toute seule.
    • From the time of her illness (onwards), my grandmother did not like living alone.
  • A partir de also conveys “from…on”, but usually refers only to the future, and emphasizes the time at which the new situation starts.
    • A partir de demain vous serez responsable de la section du marketing.
    • From tomorrow you will be responsible for the marketing section.

Hello, readers. I hope you are having a good week. To be honest I wasn’t feeling up to posting. The news of the US presidential election (where I live) has shattered me, but I didn’t want to let you guys down by missing a weekly posting. Keeping busy helps. I sincerely hope you all are well.

Merci à vous,


Relative Pronoun ‘dont’

Leçon 34 – Relative Pronoun ‘dont’

The relative pronoun dont replaces the preposition de plus a relative pronoun. Dont immediately follows its antecedent and can refer to either people or things.

Dont is used when the verb or expression in the relative clause requires the preposition de before an object.

  • un professeur dont je me souviens.
  • a professor (whom) I remember (se souvenir de)
  • les affaires dont il s’occupe
  • the business that he’s taking care of (s’occuper de)
  • les employés dont j’ai besoin
  • the employees that I need (avoir besoin de)

Dont is used when de introduces a phrase that modifies another noun. The English equivalent is usually whose or of which.

  • un étudiant dont je connais les parents
  • a student whose parents I know (les parents de l’étudiant)
  • une idée dont on comprend l’importance
  • an idea whose importance/the importance of which we understand (l’importance de l’idée)
  • un auteur dont j’ai lu tous les livres
  • an author, all of whose books I have read (tous les livres de l’auteur)

Notice the word order in the clause introduced by dont. Also notice that when dont is used to express possession, the definite article is used in place of a possessive adjective.

Dont is used with numbers and expressions of quantity.

  • des articles dont j’ai lu quelques-uns
  • articles, some of which I’ve read (quelques-unes des articles)
  • des étudiants dont une dizaine sont français
  • some students, about ten of whom are French (une dizaine des étudiants)
  • trois hommes dont deux médecins
  • three men, of whom two are doctors (deux des trois hommes)

Have an amazing week, everyone!

A la prochaine !