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,



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