French prepositions seem like a ten-brainer, don’t they?

Fret not, today we’re going to simplify them to make life a little easier! Some of you might already know a lot of prepositions, but this blog post will cover mostly all the prepositions for all levels and help you get answers to all your confusion.

But what is a preposition?

Prepositions are crucial components of English grammar, as they typically describe movement, detail relationships between objects, and provide descriptions based on location. Examples of common prepositions in English include to, at, in, of, from, for, with, into, between, beside, under, within, and many others. Prepositional phrases can be composed of multiple words, which function as a preposition. In general, prepositions answer questions like “where?” and “which one?”

Always Avoid Direct Translation!

Some French prepositions in usage feel really weird, especially for English speakers who tend to literally translate their sentences and make a mistake. Please avoid that! It will start seeming more natural as you are more exposed to the language but a lot of prepositions will be a matter of learning in terms of usage.

In my classes, I like to teach prepositions divided into 2 categories:

  1. Simple Prepositions (Des prépositions simples)
  2. Compound Prepositions (Des prépositions composées)

Any idea what might these mean and what might be the difference?

The difference is super easy! So simple Prepositions are the ones where only one word is used while compound prepositions are usually a combination of 2 or more simple prepositions.

So when I usually start teaching a complete beginner, I start with the following simple prepositions:
1. À– to/ at/ in
À can be used for:
● to + person(s) → Je parle à mon ami. (I’m speaking to my friend.)
● at + time → Il va au bureau à 16h/ midi. (He goes to the office at 4
pm/ noon.)
● in + city → J’habite à Toronto. (I live in Toronto.)
À is also a base preposition- It can be contracted as per the number and gender of places and countries.



Pour les pays (For countries),
À + le = Au → Je vais au Canada.
À + la = En → Je vais en France.

À + l’ = En → Je vais en Italie.
À + les = Aux → Je vais aux Pays Bas.

Pour les lieux/ les endroits (For places),
À + le = Au → Je vais au jardin.
À + la = À la → Je vais à la bibliothèque.
À + l’ = À l’ → Je vais à l’église.
À + les = Aux → Je vais aux montagnes.

2. De/ d’– of/ from/ about
De/ d’ can be used for:
● From + city → Je rentre de Paris. (I am coming back from Paris)./ Je rentre d’Annecy. (I’m coming back from Annecy.)
● Of + quantity of food/ drink → Un kilo de bananes. (One kilo of bananas).
● About + person(s) → Je parle de ton ami. (I am talking about your friend).

De/ d’ is also used as a base preposition- It can be contracted as per the number and gender of places and countries.



Pour les pays (For countries),
De + le = du → Je viens du Canada.

De + la = de → Je viens de France.
De + l’ = de l’/ d’→ Je viens d’Italie./ Je viens de l’Italie. (Both are correct)
De + les = des→ Je viens des Pays Bas. (Netherlands)

Pour les lieux/ les endroits (For places),
De + le = du → Je viens du jardin.
De + la = de la → Je viens de la bibliothèque.
De + l’ = de l’ → Je viens de l’église.
De + les = des→ → Je viens des montagnes.

3. En/ Dans– in- time/ location

When do you use ‘En’ in French?

“En” is used to express the length of time for which an action happens. Hence the verb is mostly in the present or past tense. Par exemple,
● Je fais mon lit en cinq minutes. (It takes me 5 minutes to make my bed.)
● Elle lit un roman en deux heures. (It takes her 2 hours to read a novel.)
● J’ai appris à nager en dix mois. (It took me 10 months to learn to swim.)
En is used to express when an action happens relating to the calendar: month/ year/ season. Exception: au printemps (In spring season).
● Je voyage en février. (I travel in February.)
● Mon frère voyage en été. (My brother is traveling in the summer.)

En also means “in”/ “to” when it is used with a feminine singular country or a vowel singular country, par exemple,
● J’habite en Inde. (I live in India.)
● Tu vas en France. (You are going to France.)

En is also used as “En” + enclosed vehicle.
● Je suis en train. (I am on the train.)
● Il est en voiture. (He’s in the car.)

NOTE: En is also used as a French adverbial pronoun (usually taught in B1) and in French Gerondif (taught in A2). However, these are two completely different concepts from prepositions.

When do you use ‘Dans’?

“Dans” is used to indicate the amount of time before action will take place. In this case, the verb is generally used in the present or the future form. Par exemple,
● Nous allons partir dans vingt minutes. (We’re going to leave in 20 minutes from now.)
● Mon père revient dans deux jours. (My father will come back in two days from now.)
● Ma sœur commence son stage dans trois semaines. (My sister is starting her internship in 3 weeks from now.)

“Dans” is used to refer to something that happens within or during a decade or duration of a similar kind. Par exemple,
Dans les années quarantaines… (In the forties…)

Dans les années cinquantaines… (During the fifties)

“Dans” refers to “in” a location when followed by an article followed by a noun, par exemple,
● Le chien est dans la maison. (The dog is in/ inside the house.)
● Il y a un chat dans la boîte. (There’s a cat inside the box.)

4. Avec– with
● Tu vas à la fête avec ton père. (You are going to the party with your father.)
● Il va au bureau avec son patron. (He is going to the office with his boss.)
● Je prends des biscuits avec du thé. (I take biscuits with tea.)

5. Pour– for
● J’ai un cadeau pour toi. (I have a gift for you.)
● Tu as des bonbons pour moi. (You have some candies for me.)

6. Après– after
● Je mange après le cours. (I eat after the class.)
● Tu répètes après moi. (You are repeating after me.)

7. Avant– Before
● Je mange avant le cours. (I eat before the class.)
● Tu visites la Tour Eiffel avant moi. (You are visiting the Eiffel Tower before me.)

8. Entre– between
● Il mange entre 9h et 10h. (He eats between 9 and 10.)
● Il y a une différence entre les deux phrases. (There’s a difference between the two sentences.)

9. Devant– in front of/ opposite to
● Il y a un jardin devant ma maison. (There’s a garden in front of my house.)
● Il y a une pharmacie devant l’école. (There’s a pharmacy in front of the school.)

10. Derrière– behind
● Il est juste derrière moi. (He is just behind me.)
● Il y a un rat derrière le canapé. (There’s a rat behind the sofa.)

11. Chez– at the place of
● Mon ami arrive chez lui aujourd’hui. (My friend is arriving at his place today.)
● Tu restes chez moi ce week- end. (You are staying at my place this weekend.)
● Je suis chez le médecin/ dentiste. (I’m at the doctor’s/ dentist’s clinic.)

12. Contre– against
● Il est contre moi sur cette opinion. (He is against me in this opinion.)
● Il y a une plainte contre vous. (There’s a complaint against you.)

13. Parmi– among
● Il y a un petit gîte parmi ces montagnes. (There’s a small cottage among these mountains.)

● Il est populaire parmi le public. (He is popular among the public.)
● Il y a certainement un traître parmi eux. (There’s surely a traitor among them.)

14. Vers– towards/ in the direction of/ around
● Cet homme va vers la gare. (This man is going towards the railway station.)
● Je mange des fruits vers 11h. (I eat some fruits around 11.)

15. Sur– on/ about
● Il y a un livre sur la table. (There’s a book on the table.)
● Je joue aux jeux vidéo sur Internet. (I play video games on the Internet.)
● Je cherche des renseignements sur ta ville. (I am searching for some details about your city.)

16. Sous– Under
● Le cahier est sous la chaise. (The notebook is under the chair.)
● Je vais dormir sous l’arbre. (I am going to sleep under the tree.)

17. Sans– Without
● La vie est vide sans toi. (Life is empty without you.)
● Je voudrais un café sans sucre. (I would like a coffee without sugar.)

18. Pendant– During/ for
● Il joue avec ses enfants pendant le week- end. (He plays with his kids during the weekend.)
● Il a parlé avec les étudiants pendant une heure. (He spoke to the students for 1 hour)

● Je vais regarder un film pendant une heure. (I am going to watch a film for 1 hour.)

19. Depuis– since/ for
● Elle regarde le film depuis ce matin. (She has been watching the film since this morning.)
● Tu continues tes cours de français depuis 1 mois. (You have been continuing your French classes for 1 month.)

  • Il continue ses cours d’espagnol depuis mai. (He’s been continuing his Spanish classes since May.) 

20. Par– by/ through/ per
● Je passe par Annecy. (I go through Annecy.)
● Je sors par la porte. (I exit through the door.)
● Il gagne cinquante euros par heure. (He earns 50 euros per hour.)
Par hasard, il a rencontré son ami au centre commercial. (By chance, he met his friend at the mall.)
● Ce roman est écrit par mon frère. (This novel has been written by my brother.)

21. Dedans/ Dehors– Inside/ Outside

● Le chat est dans la maison ? (Is the cat in the house?)
● Oui, il est dedans. (Yes, he’s inside.)
● Non, il est dehors. (No, he’s outside.)

Now if you’re wondering how you’re supposed to learn so many French prepositions, one super effective way is to understand them within the context of an imaginary story. This can be a short two to three-line story for beginners or a longer one for more advanced learners. By learning prepositions within a narrative, you’ll better understand their usage and be able to memorize them more easily. This technique can help you become more proficient and improve your overall language skills.

Check our blog on Compound Prepositions in French here.

If this article on Simple French Prepositions was helpful to you, you may request lifetime access to our recorded session on French Prepositions (Simple and Compound). To get access, write to us on WhatsApp at +91- 9056131830 or email us at lingorelic@gmail.com

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