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Simple Prepositions – Literal & Idiomatic Uses Part 5

Part 5 in this series.

en – in

Note that en is almost followed by a noun without an article. En is used to translate “in” before the year, the names of months, or the seasons of summer, autumn, and winter – but spring is au printemps.

  • “Le projet de loi fut voté en 2010.” | “The bill was passed in 2010.”
  • “Il faut visiter la Provence en automne, en octobre par exemple.” | “Provence should be visited in autumn, in October, for example.”

En is used to translate “in” or “to” in references to a feminine country (but use au for a masculine country).

  • “Vous allez en Espagne cet été ?” | “Are you going to Spain this summer?”
  • “Nous avons des succursales en Italie.” | “We have branches in Spain.”

En is used to translate “in” meaning the time needed to do something.

  • “Le garage pourra tout faire en deux heures.” | “The garage will be able to do everything in two hours.” (i.e.: will take two hours)

En is used to translate “as/like” after such verbs as:

  • se comporter en adulte | to behave like an adult
  • se déguiser en cowboy | to dress up as a cowboy
  • traiter quelqu’un en ami | to treat someone as a friend

En is used to translate “into” after verbs denoting “changing into”, “dividing into”.

  • “Ce bureau sera réaménagé en salle de conférence.” | “This office will be turned into a conference room.”
  • “Mon grand-père répartit ses terres en cinq lotissements.” | “My grandfather divided his land up into five plots.”

En can be used to translate the idea of “made of” or “in” for colors.

  • une bouteille en plastique | a plastic bottle
  • une chope en étain | a pewter mug
  • être habillé en noir et blanc | to be dressed in black and white

En is used to translate “by” in references to most mechanized forms of transport.

  • “Vous allez faire le voyage en avion ou en voiture ?” | “Are you going to travel by plane or by car?”

entre – between

“Le courrier arrive entre huit et neuf heures.” | “The mail/post arrives between eight and nine o’clock.”

“Nous habitons entre Bergerac et Castillon-la-Bataille.” | “We live between Bergerac and Castillon-la-Bataille.”

Entre is used to translate “between/from” with verbs of selecting or choosing.

  • “J’ai dû faire le choix entre les deux modèles.” | “I had to choose between the two models.”

Entre is used to translate “among”.

  • “Nous parlons souvent entre amis.” | “We often speak of it among friends.”

D’entre is used instead of entre to translate “of/among” before a disjunctive pronoun.

  • “Nous avons consulté plusieurs d’entre eux.” | “We consulted several of them.”

envers – towards

Envers is used to translate “towards” in the sense of attitudes or emotions towards people (not literal movement towards – that would be à and vers).

  • “Le juge se montra sévère envers les malfaiteurs.” | “The judge was harsh towards the offenders.”

So I’ve calculated that there should be about three more posts in this series. Thanks for your patience, I know this has been quite long!

Have a great week, everyone!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

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Simple Prepositions – Literal & Idiomatic Uses Part 4

Part 4 in this series.

depuis – from/since

“Je n’ai pas revisité Paris depuis 2010.” | “I haven’t been back to Paris since 2010.”

Depuis son enfance, il rêvait de devenir pilote.” | “From his childhood, he dreamed of becoming a pilot.”

Depuis is used to translate “for” with reference to an action which has/had been continuing for a certain period of time. French requires different tenses from English in this structure. The English form “I have been doing ___ for ___” is rendered by the present tense in French + depuis. The English form “I had been doing ___ for ___” is rendered by the imperfect tense in French + depuis.

  • “Nous travaillons avec cette compagnie depuis l’année dernière.” | “We have been working with that company since last year.”
  • “Le gouvernement menait des négociations avec ses partenaires depuis trois mois.” | “The government had been negotiating with its partners for three months.”

The structure “depuis ___ jusqu’à” translates “from ___ to” in reference to place or time.

  • “Il y aura des embouteillages depuis les Alpes jusqu’à la côte d’Azur.” | “There will be traffic jams from the Alps to Côte d’Azur.”
  • “Ils s’étaient absentés depuis le matin jusqu’au soir.” | “They had stayed away from morning to evening.”

derrière – behind

“Notre agence se trouve derrière l’Hôtel de Ville.” | “Our branch is located behind Town Hall.”


dès – from/from the time of

“Pour la braderie nous ouvrirons dès huit heures.” | “For the annual sales we shall be open from eight o’clock.”

Dès notre première rencontre nous nous sommes très bien.” | “From the time of our first meeting we got on very well.”

Dès can also be used to translate “from” + place name, when the implication is “from this place onwards”.

  • Dès la région nantaise la production viticole devient importante.” | “From the region of Nantes onwards, wine production becomes significant.”

devant – in front of

“J’ai garé ma voiture devant la tienne.” | “I’ve parked my car in front of yours.”


It looks like this series will end up being about 6 or 7 posts long. Please bear with me, this was bigger than I had initially anticipated, and I don’t want these posts to be too long. Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Simple Prepositions – Literal & Idiomatic Uses Part 3

Part 3 in this series.

de – from/of

“Ces oranges viennent d’Espagne.” | “These oranges come from Spain.”

Du jour au lendemain la situation politique s’est transformée.” | “From one day to the next, the political situation has been transformed.”

“Tu as vu la photo de notre équipe ?” | “Have you seen the photo of our team?”

“Paris est la capitale de la France.” | “Paris is the capital of France.”

De can express the way in which something is done, especially with the following nouns:

  • d’un seul coup | with a single blow
  • d’une façon surprenante | in a surprising way
  • d’une manière aimable | in a friendly way
  • d’un pas rapide | walking fast/at a fast pace
  • d’un ton irrité | in an irritated tone/voice
  • d’une voix douce | in a soft voice

De can be used to translate the English “with” to express the means or cause:

  • accablé de terreur | overcome with terror
  • chargé de fruits | loaded with fruit
  • plein d’espoir | full of hope

De expresses the substance something is made of, or what it contains:

  • un mur de briques | a brick wall
  • une boule de cristal | cristal/crystal ball
  • une assiette de charcuterie | a plate of cold cuts (cold meats)
  • une tasse de thé | a cup of tea

De is used to translate “more/less than” when plus or moins is followed by a number or quantity:

  • “Il y a plus de 500 délégués.” | “There are more than 500 delegates.”
  • “Ils nous reste moins d’un litre de lait.” | “We have less than a liter of milk left.”

De is used after adjectives expressing measurements:

  • un trou large de deux mètres | a hole two meters wide

De is used after the verb être when prices, numbers, and quantities are given:

  • “Le prix de la pension complète est de 1.000 Euros.” | “The full board costs 1,000 Euros.”
  • “Le nombre des manifestants était de 5.000.” | “The number of protesters was 5,000.” | “There were 5,000 protesters.”
  • “La consommation moyenne est de deux litre d’eau par jour.” | “On average, two liters of water are drunk a day.”

De is used after a superlative adjective to translate the English “in/of”:

  • “C’est le plus beau pays du monde.” | “It’s the most beautiful country in the world.”
  • “C’est le modèle le plus économique de toutes les petites voitures.” | “It’s the most economical of all the small cars.”

Stay tuned in for the next part in this series! Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Simple Prepositions – Literal & Idiomatic Uses Part 2

Part 2 in this series.

chez – at (the house of)/to (the house of)

Chez may be used before a noun or pronoun referring to a person or group of people.

  • “J’achèterai le sucre chez l’épicier.” | “I’ll buy the sugar at the grocer’s.”
  • “Ce soir nous sommes invités chez Anne et Thierry.” | “This evening we’re going to Anne and Thierry’s.”

Chez means “in the case of/with” when it refers to a person’s or group of people’s characteristics.

  • Chez Jean, l’énervement est un signe d’anxiété.” | “With Jean, being irritable is a sign of anxiety.”
  • “Il y a un certain optimisme chez les médecins.” | There is a mood of some optimism among/in the case of doctors.”

The use of chez meaning “in the case of” extends to geographical groups.

  • Chez nous on boit beaucoup de thé.” | In our country, we drink a lot of tea.

Chez is used to translate “in (the work of)” with reference to writings or artistic work.

  • Chez Sartre, la notion de la liberté est remise en question.” | “In Sartre’s work/writings, the concept of freedom is called into question.”

contre – against

“L’équipe hollandaise a remporté une victoire contre les Américains.” | “The Dutch team scored a win against the Americans.”

Contre is used to translate the English “with” in “to be angry with”.

  • “J’espère que vous n’êtes pas fâché contre moi ?” | “I hope you’re not angry with me?”

Contre is used to translate the English “for” in “to exchange one thing for another”.

  • “J’ai échangé ma moto contre un vélo de course.” | “I exchanged my motorcycle for a bicycle.”

Contre is used to translate the English “to” in records of scores, votes, etc.

  • “Le projet a été retenu, dix voix contre deux.” | “The proposal has been accepted by ten votes to two.”

dans – in/into

  • Dans le nord de l’Italie, on mange plus de riz.” | “In northern Italy, people eat more rice.”
  • “Je vais travailler dans le jardin.” | “I’m going to work in the garden.”
  • “Il est entré dans la boulangerie.” | “He’s gone into the bakery.”
  • Dans le cas des jeunes chômeurs, il faut une solution plus radicale.” | “In the case of young people who are unemployed, we need a more radical solution.”

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Simple Prepositions – Literal & Idiomatic Uses

I will be going through the alphabet for this, so I’ll be breaking this up into about 4 or 5 posts.

Main Literal & Idiomatic Uses of Simple Prepositions Before Nouns

à – at/to

Je t’attendrai à l’arrêt de bus. | I’ll wait for you at the bus stop.

Tu veux venir à la réception ? | Do you want to come to the reception?

  • à denotes position in phrases.
    • à la campagne | in the country
    • à droite/à gauche | on the right/left
    • au deuxième étage | on the second floor
    • à l’extérieur/à l’intérieur | on the outside/inside
    • au lit – in bed
    • au mur/au plafond | on the wall/ceiling
  • à denotes position with reference to parts of the body.
    • avoir mal à tête | to have a headache
    • avoir mal à la jambe | to have leg pain
    • se blesser au pied | to hurt/injure one’s foot
    • “Ça te fait mal au genou ?” | “Does that hurt your knee?”
    • “Ce produit fait du bien aux yeux.” | “This product is good for your eyes.”
  • à introduces a distinguishing physical feature.
    • un immeuble à six étages | a six-story/storey building
    • un trèfle à quatre feuilles | a four-leaved clover
    • la maison à la grille rouge | the house with the red gate
    • l’homme aux cheveux noirs | the man with black hair
  • à indicates the purpose an object serves.
    • une boîte à lettres | a letterbox
    • une tasse à café | a coffee cup
  • à can be used either after a noun or in the structure être à quelqu’un to denote ownership.
    • “Voici les documents à Jean.” | “Here are Jean’s documents.”
    • “Le sac est à Philippe.” | “The bag is Philippe’s.”
    • “Il cherche une maison à lui.” | “He’s looking for a house of his own.”
  • à denotes the manner in which an action is preferred, especially with verbs of speech and movement.
    • crier à tue-tête | to shout at the top of one’s voice
    • lire à haute voix | to read out loud
    • marcher à grandes enjambées | to stride along
    • rentrer à pas de loup | to return on tiptoe/stealthily
    • s’habiller à la mode française | to dress in a French style
  • à denotes the means by which an action is performed, including references to non-mechanized forms of transport.
    • aller à pied | to walk
    • fait à la main | handmade
    • enforcer la porte à coups de pied | to kick the door down

après – after

“Il s’est installé à Paris après la guerre.” | “He moved to Paris after the war.”

“Je suis arrivé(e) après les autres.” | “I arrived after the others.”

  • après conveys the idea “next to/second to” in terms of a preference.
    • Après Lyon, je préférerais habiter Toulouse.” | “Next to/Second to Lyon, I’d rather live in Toulouse.”

avant – before (of time)

“Téléphone-moi si tu arrives avant neuf heures.”  | “Call me if you arrive before nine o’clock.”

“Il a occupé ce poste avant mon frère.” | “He held that position before my brother.

  • avant conveys the idea “more than” in terms of a preference.
    • “J’aime les randonnées en montagne avant tout.” | “I like mountain hikes more than anything.”

avec – with*

“Me mère viendra avec ma sœur.” | “My mother will come with my sister.”

“Il m’a regardé avec un certain mépris.” | “He looked at me with some scorn.”

Avec ce petit dictionnaire tu risques de ne pas comprendre le texte.” | “With using that little dictionary, you’re not likely to understand the text.”

*There are idiomatic uses of à and chez to translate some uses of “with” in English.


Enjoy your week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Simple Prepositions Before Nouns

Simple prepositions consist of a single word (à, dans, par, etc.), as opposed to compound prepositions, which consist of preposition + noun + preposition (à côté de, en dehors de, etc.).

Prepositions Governing Two or More Nouns

When one preposition governs (stands before) two or more nouns, it should be repeated before each noun in the case of the prepositions à, de, en. Note that this rule is observed in formal written French, but not always in informal speech.

  • J’ai montré les photos à ma mère et à ma sœur.
  • I showed the photos to my mother and sister.

In the case of other prepositions governing two or more nouns, there is no need to repeat the prepositions if the nouns are similar in meaning.

  • Il est parti avec une valise et un sac à dos.
  • He went off with a suitcase and a backpack.

However, if the preposition should be repeated before each noun if the nouns have distinct or opposing meanings.

  • On se marie pour le pire et pour le meilleur.
  • Marriage is for better or worse.

As a general rule, it is more common, and usually good manners to repeat prepositions in formal written French.


Hello, everyone! This topic will be broken up into 5 or 6 parts as I’ll be going into the literal and idiomatic uses of these prepositions, and there are a lot. Just a head’s up. Have a great week!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

Practice Set : Prepositions Avec & Sans

Lessons: Prepositions Avec & Sans

Sans or Avec? Complete each phrase with either avec or sans.

  1. He’s an unimaginative man. C’est un homme ____ imagination.
  2. She answered bitterly. Elle a répondu ____ amertume.
  3. They write effortlessly. Ils écrivent ____ effort.
  4. Come eat with us! I really mean it! Viens manger avec nous ! ____ façons !
  5. If it weren’t for her, we wouldn’t have finished the job. ____ elle, nous n’aurions pas fini le travail.
  6. With the ice on the road, driving is difficult. ____ le verglas, il est difficile de conduire.
  7. You have to handle him carefully. Il faut le prendre ____ des gants.
  8. Don’t go out barefoot. Ne sors pas ____ chaussures.
  9. You have to speak sweetly to her. Il faut lui parler ____ douceur.
  10. He threw himself into the fray unflinchingly. Il s’est lancé au combat ____ broncher.

Give the French equivalent to each each expression using avec or sans in each case.

  1. doubtless
  2. otherwise
  3. heartless
  4. unemployed
  5. lovingly
  6. kindly
  7. anything else?
  8. unhesitatingly

The answers to this practice set will be posted as a comment in the next few days.

See you Thursday!

Courtney