À vs de

French prepositions

As if the myriad possible translations of à and de aren’t enough, these two French prepositions also have complementary and contrasting uses.

À De

Place

current location, destination origin, starting point
Il est à Lille. He’s in Lille. Il est de Lille. He’s from Lille.
Il va à Nantes. He’s going to Nantes. Il part de Nantes. He’s leaving (from) Nantes.

Distance

in time or space point of reference
Le café est à 10 minutes … The café is 10 minutes … … du magasin. … from the store.
J’habite à 2 km … I live 2 kilometers… … d’ici. … from here.

Description

style purpose, defining feature
sac à main hand bag sac de couchage sleeping bag
cousu à la machine machine-sewn cousu de paillettes sequinned

Object

function, "for" contents, "of, with"
verre à vin wine glass verre de vin glass of wine
salle à manger dining room salle de bains bathroom

Ingredient

one of several, "made with" primary, "made of"
salade au chèvre salad with chèvre salade de fruits fruit salad
thé au citron tea with lemon jus de citron lemon juice

Possession

emphasis on owner general ownership
Cette voiture est à moi. This car is mine. la voiture de Lise Lise’s car
un ami à ma mère a friend of my mother’s un ami de ma mère my mother’s friend

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À vs de - French prepositions

 

À vs de - French prepositions

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4 Responses

  1. Carole 19 January 2018 / 0:34

    i’m very confused about the à vs de usage with ingredients. do you have any more examples? a chocolate chip cookie, for example… bisquit aux pepites de chocolat? chicken broth: bouillon au poulet?

    • lkl 19 January 2018 / 10:09

      Chocolate chip cookie = un biscuit aux pepites de chocolat, because chocolate chips are only one of many ingredients.

      Chicken stock = bouillon de poulet, because you basically make it by boiling a chicken, that is the sole or primary ingredient.

  2. soheyl.moheb 4 January 2017 / 21:11

    hello miss lawless.

    thanks so much for this post.
    I had some troubles understanding why they use ‘à’ for ‘salle à manger’ and I asked it in duolingo and my friend there linked me to your post. so great that you had the exact example here.

    so great and convincing as always.