Simple Prepositions – Literal & Idiomatic Uses Part 8

Part 8 in this series.

sans – without

“Il est parti sans parapluie.” | “He left without his umbrella.”

Note that when “without” is followed by “a/any” in English, no article is required after sans in French.

  • “Vous ne pouvez pas voir le médecin sans rendez-vous.” | “You cannot see the doctor without an appointment.”
  • “C’est une ville sans divertissements.” | “It’s a town without any leisure activities.”

Sans can also be used to translate “but for”.

  • “Je me serais perdu sans la carte.” | “I would have got lost but for the map.”

sauf – except

“Tout le monde est présent sauf Sophie.” | “Everyone is here except Sophie.”

Sauf is used in a few formal phrases to mean “save”.

  • “Les comptes sont bons, sauf erreur de ma part.” | “The accounts are in order, save for any error on my part.”

selon – according to

Selon le porte-parole du gouvernement, la décision sera annoncée demain.” | “According to the government spokesperson, the decision will be announced tomorrow.”

“C’est un produit bien adapté au marché européen selon lui.” | “It’s a product which is well suited to the European market according to him/in his opinion.”


sous – under

“Les enfants se sont arrêtés sous mon balcon.” | “The children stopped under my balcony.”

Sous is used in formal French to express “within” + time.

  • “Nous espérons obtenir son accord sous peu.” | “We hope to obtain his/her agreement within a short time.”

Sous is used to translate “in/from” with reference to perspective or viewpoint.

  • “Il faut envisager le problème sous un autre angle.” | “We need to look at the problem from another angle.”
  • “L’avocat a représenté leur demande sous un jour favorable.” | “The lawyer presented their request in a favorable light.”

Sous is also used in the following common idioms where English uses a different preposition.

  • sous forme de | in the form/shape of
  • sous main | at hand
  • sous prétexte de | under the pretext of
  • sous le règne de | in the reign of

sur – on/upon

“Les clés sont sur la table.” | “The keys are on the table.”

“Votre jugement est basé sur quels critères ?” | “What criteria is your judgement based upon?”

Sur is used to translate “in/out of” for fractions or statistics.

  • “Un mariage sur trois va aboutir au divorce.” | “One marriage in three will end in divorce.”
  • “Le professeur lui a donné treize sur vingt pour sa dissertation.” | “The professor gave him/her thirteen out of twenty for his/her essay.”

Sur is used in the construction noun + sur + same noun, to mean “after/upon”.

  • “Ce pays a reçu coup sur coup.” | “This country has received blow after/upon blow.”

Sur is used in the following common idioms where English uses a different preposition.

  • sur le champ | at the time/on the spot
  • sur les (deux) heures | towards (two) o’clock
  • sur le moment | at the time
  • sur un ton (+ adjective) | in a (adjective) voice

vers – towards

“L’agent se dirigea vers les Champs Elysées.” | “The policeman headed towards the Champs Elysées.”

Vers la fin de sa vie, il se rapprocha de l’église.” | “Towards the end of his life, he grew close to the church again.”

Vers is used to translate “at about” with references to times.

  • “Le concert va commencer vers huit heures.” | “The concert will start at about eight o’clock.”

The last post in this really long series! Have a great week, everyone, and I’ll get back to posting normal things next week!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

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