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The Essential Guide to French Prepositions

Prepositions are an important part of learning any language. They link two elements of a sentence together. In English, we use prepositions such as on, with, and to very frequently. These little words serve a big purpose in making sentences more meaningful and thoughts more complete.

When learning French, prepositions are essential to your fluency. Without them, you can’t express many coherent thoughts. You could go, Je vais (I go), but not à la plage (to the beach) or en France (to France) without the help of prepositions.

French prepositions can be intimidating to language learners. Students ask questions like, “How do you say “inen français?” Unfortunately, there is no easy, one-to-one translation for this:

Robert est dans la classe de maths. (Robert is in math class.)
Sa mère est en France. (His mom is in France.)
Nous resterons à Paris. (We will stay in Paris.)

How can dans, en, and à all mean in? What is this crazy French language trying to do to our brains? No worries! We will help sort it all out.

Many people struggle to understand how to properly use prepositions in French. But Ne paniquez pas! (Don’t panic!) This essential guide will help lead you through some of the most common French prepositions. It will also clear up some of the questions French language learners often have when learning prepositions.

Is there a list of all French prepositions? And what do they mean?

Yes! If you want to see most of the common French prepositions and their meanings, here is a list for you.

Keep in mind that some of the prepositions have flexible meanings; the meaning can change depending on the context. We will clarify the more common prepositions later in this article.

French Preposition English Meaning Example of Use
à to, at, in Nous arriverons à Paris à huit heures.
We will arrive in Paris at 8:00.
à côté de next to La banque est à côté de la bibliothèque.
The bank is next to the library.
à droite de to the right of Le marché est à droite de l’école.
The market is to the right of the school.
à gauche de to the left of Notre maison est à gauche de votre maison.
Our house is to the left of your house.
après after Je rentre à la maison après l’école.
I return to the house after school.
au-dessous de below Les papiers sont au-dessous de la table.
The papers are below the table.
au-dessus above J’ai mis le tableau au-dessus de mon lit.
I put the painting above my bed.
au sujet de on the subject of Le professeur est très intelligent au sujet de l’économie.
The professor is very intelligent on the subject of the economy.
avant before J’arriverai avant vous.
I will arrive before you.
avec with Je vais à Paris avec mon ami.
I am going to Paris with my friend.
chez at the home of Chez moi, nous avons deux chiens et deux chats.
At my house, we have two dogs and two cats.
contre against Nous avons joué contre une équipe forte.
We played against a strong team.
dans in Elle est dans la salle de séjour.
She is in the living room.
d’après according to D’après ma mère, mon grand-père était sympa.
According to my mom, my grandfather was nice.
de from, of, about Je viens de Chicago.
I am coming from Chicago.
depuis since J’apprends le francais depuis 2005.
I have been learning French since 2005.
derrière behind La chaise est derrière le bureau.
The chair is behind the desk.
devant in front of Paul est devant le guichet.
Paul is in front of the ticket booth.
en in, on, to Je suis allé en Italie en 2016.
I went to Italy in 2016.
en face de facing La pharmacie est en face de la boulangerie.
The pharmacy is facing the bread store.
entre between Entre les deux actes, il y a un entracte.
Between the two acts, there is an intermission.
envers toward Il était gentil envers nous.
He was nice toward us.
environ approximately Elle a environ 50 montres.
She has approximately 50 watches.
loin de far from Le supermarché est loin de mon appartement.
The supermarket is far from my apartment.
malgré despite Le match de foot a continué, malgré la pluie.
The soccer game continued despite the rain.
par by J’ai lu le livre par Victor Hugo.
I read the book by Victor Hugo.
parmi among Jean est respecté parmi ses copains.
Jean is respected among his friends.
pendant during Sophie a regardé le film pendant ses vacances.
Sophie watched the film during her vacation.
pour for Pierre m’a donné un cadeau pour mon anniversaire.
Pierre gave me a gift for my birthday.
près de near Bordeaux n’est pas près de Paris.
Bordeaux is not near Paris.
sans without Il est perdu sans son chien.
He is lost without his dog.
sauf except Tous les élèves ont étudié pour l’examen sauf Marc.
All the students studied for the test except Marc.
selon according to Selon le prof, l’examen sera vendredi.
According to the teacher, the test will be Friday.
sous under Le chat aime dormir sous le lit.
The cat loves to sleep under the bed.
sur on Le livre est sur l’étagère.
The book is on the shelf.
vers toward, around (time) Nous arriverons vers neuf heures.
We will arrive around 9:00.

Curious about how to pronounce these prepositions? Check out this helpful video: Pronouncing Common French Prepositions.

Which French prepositions are the MOST common? Which ones will I use the most?

The list of all French prepositions can be a bit overwhelming, but it is a good place to begin if you’re looking for a simple definition to get you started. However, you might not use all of those prepositions on a frequent basis. The most common prepositions you will encounter will probably be à and de.

How do I use the French prepositions à and de?

Let’s start with à:

À is a crucial preposition. It can mean to, in, or at. Mastering à is pretty simple.

Je vais à l’école. (I am going to school.)
Je suis à l’école. (I am at school.)

The meaning of à changes with the context of the situation. In these examples, it makes sense to go to school, and it is logical to be at school.

À can be put into a contraction form, meaning “to the.” Take a look at this chart:

à + la à la Elle va à la poissonnerie.
She goes to the fish store.
à + l’ à l’ Il est à l’université.
He is at the university.
à + le au Nous allons au musée.
We are going to the museum.
à + les aux Ils aiment aller aux concerts.
They like to go to the concerts.

This important preposition is often used with common French verbs such as aller (to go) and être (to be.) For a review of these important verbs, check out The Conjugation of aller and The Conjugation of être.

Let’s talk about de:

De is a very common French preposition. It means from or of.

De can be used to express from when explaining your travel plans or your heritage:

Je viens de Chicago. (I am coming from Chicago.)
Je suis de New York City. (I am from New York City.)

Because the French don’t use apostrophes to show possession, they use de to show ownership. It translates to of:

C’est le chien de Sylvie. (It’s the dog of Sylvie. It’s Sylvie’s dog.)

De can be put into a contraction form, meaning “from the.” Take a look at this chart:

de + la de la Elle vient de la charcuterie.
She is coming from the deli.
de + l’ de l’ Nous venons de l’école.
We are coming from school.
de + le du C’est la voiture du médecin.
It’s the car of the doctor. It’s the doctor’s car.
de + les des C’est le cadeau des professeurs.
It’s the gift from the teachers.

De is often used with the French verb venir (to come). To review this important verb, check out: The Verb Venir.

How do I use French prepositions correctly when talking about geographical places?

This question overwhelms many French language learners, but it is actually quite simple.

First, let’s discuss going to a specific place.

If you are going to or if you are in a city, use à:

Je vais à Paris. (I am going to Paris.)
Je suis à New York. (I am in New York.)

If you are going to or if you are in a country, use en if the country ends in “e” or starts with a vowel:

Elle va en France. (She is going to France.)
Il voyage en Iran. (He is traveling in/to Iran.)

If you are going to or if you are in a country, use au if the country does NOT end in “e” or start with a vowel:

Nous irons au Canada. (We will go to Canada.)
Nathalie est au Japon. (Nathalie is in Japan.)

There are a few exceptions. Some popular exceptions are Mexique and Cambodge. These end in an “e,” but they use au:

Tu aimes aller au Mexique? (Do you like to go to Mexico?)
J’aime aller au Cambodge. (I like to go to Cambodia.)

If you are going to or if you are in a country that is plural, use aux:

J’habite aux États-Unis. (I live in the United States.)
Il va aux Pays-Bas. (He is going to the Netherlands.)

Now, let’s focus on coming from a specific place.

If you are coming from any city or a country that ends in “e” or starts with a vowel, use de (or d’ in front of a vowel):

Je viens de Lyon. (I am coming from Lyon.)
Je suis venu de France. (I came from France.)
Elle est d’Iran. (She is from Iran.)

If you are talking about a country that does NOT end in “e” or start with a vowel, use du:

Robert vient du Luxembourg. (Robert comes from Luxembourg.)

Once again, there are the same few exceptions, including Mexique and Cambodge. These end in an “e,” but they use du:

Elle est venue du Mexique. (She came from Mexico.)

If you are coming from a country that is plural, use des:

Nous venons des États-Unis. (We are coming from the United States.)

Here is a simple chart to summarize:

to/in from Examples
Any city à de à New York
de Strasbourg
Countries that end with “e” OR start with a vowel en de/d’ en Suisse
Countries that do NOT end with “e” OR start with a vowel** au du au Canada
du Luxembourg**Exceptions:au Mexique
du Cambodge
Countries that are plural aux des aux Pays-Bas
des États-Unis

Looking to learn country names in French? Check out this link: Country Names in French.

What prepositions are used with modes of transportation? What do I use to explain how to get somewhere?

If you want to say you travel by train or plane or bike, it is easy in French. You use either à or en to mean “bywhen speaking about modes of transportation.

Generally, use à for types of transportation that do not use a motor:

Je vais à l’école à bicyclette. (I go to school by bike.)
Mon grand-père est allé à cheval. (My grandfather went by horse.)
Quelquefois, je vais à pied. (Sometimes, I go by foot.)

In general, use en for types of transportation that use a motor:

Elle va en France en avion. (She goes to France by plane.)
Moussa aime voyager en voiture. (Moussa likes to travel by car.)

Can I quiz myself about these French prepositions?

Of course! Now that you have more information about how to properly use French prepositions, check out Clozemaster for some grammar practice! Try out your new knowledge and see what you’ve learned.

Challenge yourself with Clozemaster

Test your skills and see what you’ve learned from this article by playing a selection of sentences with French prepositions:

Sign up here to save your progress and start getting fluent with thousands of French sentences at Clozemaster.

Clozemaster has been designed to help you learn the language in context by filling in the gaps in authentic sentences. With features such as Grammar Challenges, Cloze-Listening, and Cloze-Reading, the app will let you emphasize all the competencies necessary to become fluent in French.

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4 thoughts on “The Essential Guide to French Prepositions”

  1. Thanks for making what is difficult a little more organized and more simple to understand.
    Now I am looking for more preposition of time in French.

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