Tag Archive | French Prepositions

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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Simple Prepositions – Literal & Idiomatic Uses Part 7

Part 7 in this series.

par – by/through

“L’enfant a été retrouvé par la police.” | “The child was found by the police.”

“Le budget sera voté par le Conseil Municipal.” | “The budget will be approved by the Town Council.”

“Pour venir chez toi, est-ce qu’il faut passer par Paris ?” | “Do we have to go through Paris to get to you?”

Par is used to translate “out of” before an abstract noun.

  • “Il a joué le rôle du grand mécène par vanité.” | “He played the part of the big patron out of vanity.”
  • Par pitié, il leur a payé le prix du voyage.” | “Out of pity, he paid for their trip.”

Pars used to translate the English “a” when expressing the frequency of something.

  • “Je travaille trois jours par semaine.” | “I work three days a week.”
  • “Il y a une réunion officielle deux fois par an.” | “There is an official meeting twice a year.”

Among the most common idiomatic uses of par are:

  • par conséquent | as a result
  • par contre | but on the other hand
  • par écrit | in writing
  • par exemple | for example
  • par la fenêtre | out of the window
  • par hasard | by chance
  • par ici | this way
  • par intervalles | at arrivals/intermittently
  • par terre | on the ground

parmi – among

“Le château était caché parmi les arbres.” | “The castle was hidden among the trees.”

Parmi can be used to translate “of” when you are speaking of “some of a group”.

  • Parmi mes amis, la plupart s’intéressent à l’art contemporain.” | “The majority of my friends are interested in modern art.”

Parmi can be used + plural disjunctive pronoun to translate “of us/you/them”.

  • “Il y en avait beaucoup parmi eux qui avaient travaillé aux Etats-Unis.” | “There were many of them who had worked in the United States.”

pendant – during

Pendant les vacances nous avons repeint la maison.” | “During the holidays we decorated the house.”

Pendant is used to translate “for”, especially with reference to duration of past time.

  • “Il était hospitalisé pendant quinze jours.” | “He was kept in the hospital for fifteen days.”

pour – for

“Il y a une lettre pour vous.” | “There’s a letter for you.”

“Les frites sont pour l’apéritif ce soir.” | “The fries are for the drinks party tonight.”

Pour can mean “for the sake of”.

  • “Il y a tout sacrifié pour ses principes politiques.” | “He sacrificed everything for his political principles.”

Pour can mean “in favour of”.

  • “Vous êtes pour l’union monétaire ?” | “Are you in favour of monetary union?”

Pour can be used to translate “as” in the sense “to use as”.

  • Pour toute lumière il ne nous restait que deux bougies.” | “We had only two candles left as our sole source of light.”

In expressions of time, pour can normally only be used to translate “for” with reference to the future.

  • “Je vais prendre un appartement à Rome pour trois mois.” | “I’m going to rent an apartment/flat in Rome for three months.”

Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !

Courtney

Simple Prepositions – Literal & Idiomatic Uses Part 6

Part 6 in this series.

hormis – except (archaic literary usage)

“Il les accusa tous hormis ses avocats.” | “He accused everyone except his lawyers.”


hors – outside/except

Hors is normally only used as a simple preposition in the following phrases:

  • hors commerce | not for sale to the public
  • hors jeu | offside
  • hors la loi | outlawed
  • hors série | out of production

malgré – despite/in spite of

Malgré la grève, l’usine a produit une centaine de voitures cette semaine.” | “Despite the strike, the factory has produced about a hundred cars this week.”


outre – besides/beyond (literary)

Outre deux tomes des Essais de Montaigne, il possédait les Confessions de Rousseau.” (literary) | “Besides two volumes of Montaigne’s Essays, he owned Rousseau’s Confessions.”

Outre also occurs in less literary registers in the following phrases:

  • outre-Atlantique | across the Atlantic (i.e. in America)
  • outre-cela | besides that
  • outre-Manche | across the Channel (i.e. in Britain)
  • outre-mer | overseas
  • outre-Rhin | on the other side of the Rhine (i.e. in Germany)
  • outre-tombe | beyond the grave

Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

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

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