Prepositions

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Prepositions

Prepositions -- With infinitives

When one verb is followed immediately by another in the infinitive, the preposition à or de may intervene, or there may be no preposition at all:

J'aime voyager. (I like to travel.)
Elle a décidé de partir. (She decided to leave.)
Hésitez-vous à vous inscrire? (Are you hesitating to sign up?)

These prepositions follow no particular logic and bear no meaning; their use must simply be memorized. Common forms are as follows:

verbs followed by no preposition: aimer, aimer mieux, aller, croire, désirer, devoir, faire, espérer, laisser.

verbs followed by à: aider à, s'amuser à, apprendre à, arriver à, parvenir à, continuer à, commencer à, s'habituer à, hésiter à, inviter à, se mettre à, réussir à.

verbs followed by de: avoir peur de, commencer de, continuer de, décider de, se dépêcher de, essayer de, finir de, oublier de, refuser de, regretter de, and the verbal phrases être content / triste / satisfait / heureux de.

Prepositions with verbs -- General

1. Certain verbs are followed by set prepositions when introducing noun phrases:

Je réponds au téléphone. (I am answering the phone.)
J'ai assisté à un spectacle merveilleux. (I attended a wonderful show.)

Some common examples are:

assister à (to attend)
jouer à (un jeu) (to play)
jouer de (un instrument de musique) (to play)
manquer à (to miss someone)
manquer de (to lack something)
obéir à (to obey)
plaire à (to please)
parler à (to speak to)
parler de (to speak about)
répondre à (to answer)
résister à (to resist)
ressembler à (to resemble)
s'approcher de (to approach)
se fier à (to rely on)
se marier avec (to marry)
se méfier de (to mistrust)
se moquer de (to make fun of)
se souvenir de (to remember)

2. Some verbs which take prepositions in English do not take them in French:

Elle attend le bus. (She is waiting for the bus.)
Regarde cette affiche! (Look at that poster!)

3. Some verbs take a double preposition, à and de:

demander à quelqu'un de faire quelque chose. (to ask someone to do something)
permettre à quelqu'un de faire quelque chose. (to allow someone to do something)
ordonner à quelqu'un de faire quelque chose. (to order someone to do something)
commander à quelqu'un de faire quelque chose. (to order someone to do something)
suggérer à quelqu'un de faire quelque chose. (to suggest to someone to do something)
dire à quelqu'un de faire quelque chose. (to tell someone to do something)

Prepositions -- With position, relation, and places

Prepositions are first and foremost words used to indicate position and placement: they describe when one thing is beneath another, or on top of it, or next to it, etc. In addition, they describe relations between things, as well as movement to and from places.

Position and motion.

The common prepositions of position and motion are as follows:

à (to)
à côté de (next to)
au-dessous (beneath, below)
au-dessus (above)
autour de (around)
de (from)
derrière (behind)
devant (in front of)
en face de (in front of)
loin de (far from)
sous (under)
sur (on)
vers (toward)

Prepositions precede the nouns upon which they act. In French, prepositions of position and motion are used in much the same way they are used in English:

J'ai posé les clés sur la table. (I left the keys on the table.)
Sa maison se trouve derrière l'église. (Her house is located behind the church.)
Nous allons à la bibliothèque. (We're going to the library.)
La pharmacie est à côté du supermarché. (The drugstore is next to the supermarket.)

See also Objects of the preposition de.

Prepositions of relation

Many prepositions (pour, à, avec, ensemble, parmi, grâce à, etc.) indicate relations between things or people, often indicating intent or causality:

Elle a fini son diplôme pour faire plaisir à ses parents. (She finished her degree to please her parents.)
Nous sommes sortis avec nos amis. (We went out with our friends.)
Parmi les étudiants, celle-ci est la plus intelligente. (Among all the students, this one is the sharpest.)

Prepositions of place

The use of prepositions with geographical entities is quite precise, and usually adheres to the following patterns:

A. Before names of cities, à or de is used to indicate movement toward or away. The definite article is not used, unless it is a part of the name of the city:

Paris: Nous allons à Paris l'été prochain. (We're going to Paris next summer.)
New York: J'ai déménagé à New York à l'âge de treize ans. (I moved to New York when I was thirteen.)
Dakar: Ousmane vient de Dakar. (Ousmane comes from Dakar.)

BUT:

Le Havre: Demain, nous allons au Havre. (Tomorrow we're going to Le Havre.)

B. Before feminine country or state names, en indicates movement toward or within, de movement from (see Gender of countries). In both cases the definite article is omitted:

Ils voyagent en Espagne. (They are traveling in Spain.)
Elle va passer une année en Colombie. (She's going to spend a year in Colombia.)
Mon frère est né en Californie. (My brother was born in California.)
Mon père vient de rentrer d'Algérie. (My father just returned from Algeria.)

C. Before masculine country or state names, au (or à l', or aux) is used to indicate movement toward or within, du (or de le, or des) movement from (see Gender of countries). (For masculine states, dans le is also used to indicate movement toward or within.)

Il est parti au Japon. (He left for Japan.)
Elle a passé dix ans au (dans le) Texas. (She spent ten years in Texas.)
Ce monsieur nous vient des États-Unis -- de l'Illinois plus précisément. (This fellow comes to us from the United States -- from Illinois, to be precise.)

Remember: visiter and quitter are generally not followed by prepositions:

J'ai visité Denver. (I visited Denver.)

Elle n'a jamais visité la Chine. (She has never visited China.)

J'ai quitté la France à l'âge de seize ans. (I left France at the age of sixteen.)

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