À vs De with Verbs

À vs de
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French prepositions

The prepositions à and de are found in many verbal constructions that look very similar, but the choice of preposition makes all the difference.

À and de with verbs

The prepositions à and de can be particularly challenging when it comes to using them with verbs.

1) à ≠ de

These eight verbs have different meanings depending on which preposition follows.

décider qqun àto persuade, convince décider deto decide (to do)
demander à qqun to ask (for permission) demander deto ask (to do)
jouer àto play a game or sport jouer deto play an instrument
manquer à qqunto miss (someone) manquer deto neglect (to do)
parler à qqunto talk to parler deto talk about
penser àto think about (imagine) penser deto think about (opinion)
profiter àto benefit profiter deto make the most of
venir àto happen to venir deto have just (done)

Par exemple…

J’ai décidé de voyager. I decided to travel.
J’ai décidé ma sœur à me rejoindre. I convinced my sister to join me.

2) à + de

Nine verbs can use à and de together in the following construction:

verb + à + quelqu’un + de + infinitive

For eight of these verbs, à indicates who is to do something, while de precedes whatever that something is.

   à qqunde faire
commander to ordersomeoneto dosomething
conseiller to advise"    "
défendre to forbid" "
demander to ask" "
dire to tell" "
interdire to forbid" "
ordonner to order" "
permettre to allow" "

So for the above verbs, the "someone" after à (or replaced by an indirect object pronoun) is the person who is supposed to perform the action after de.

Il a conseillé à Ana de partir immédiatement. He advised Ana to leave immediately.
Je te dis de manger les épinards. I’m telling you to eat the spinach.

The ninth verb, promettre, is a little different: the person doing the action after de is the same as the subject. À precedes the person who is promised that action.

Elle a promis à Paul de dire la vérité. She promised Paul that she’d tell the truth.
Je te promets de finir mes devoirs. I promise you I’ll finish my homework.

3) à = de

After these verbs, either preposition can be used with no real difference in meaning.

commencer à
commencer de
 to start (doing)
continuer à
continuer de
 to continue (doing)
prendre garde à
prendre garde de
 to be careful to
rêver à
rêver de
 to dream of, about

À and de in phrases

A few phrases look similar but have different meanings depending on the preposition.

à côténearby, next to de côtésideways
à côté denext to, beside du côté defrom (direction)
à la hauteurat the level [un mètre] de hauteur[one meter] tall

 À vs de Quizzes

Think you’ve got it? Test yourself on verbs with à and de with these fill-in-the-blanks exercises:

Note: You must be logged into your Progress with Lawless French account to take these tests. If you don’t have one, sign up – it’s free!

 Related lessons

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French prepositions

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