Guide To How To Use The Preposition “À” In French

What is the preposition “À” in French?

The preposition à in French has several common translations including “at”, “to” and “in”. The French preposition à has a very long list of meanings and has an extremely versatile list of usages. This page will examine the many ways to use à in French and provide examples.

À In French: How to use this extremely versatile French preposition.

Use à to express to or at

The most common usage of the preposition à is to mean “to” or “at” when following the verb aller (to go). When a is followed by le, la, les (the), a contraction must occur. For example, “Je vais au (à + le) magasin” (I go to the store).

This page covering the French articles covers these contractions in detail.

  • Je vais à la plage. I’m going to the beach.
  • Je vais au (à + le) marché. I’m going to the market.
  • Je vais aux (à + les) États-Unis. I’m going to the United States.

Expressing distances

Use the preposition à for expressing distances. The grammatical structure is: à + distance + place.

  • Nous habitons à trois heures de Paris. We live three hours from Paris.
  • Elle habite à vingt-cinq kilomètres de Marseille. She lives 25 kilometers from Marseille.

In certain style or manner

The construction “à la” is used to express in a certain style or manner.

  • Il cuisine à la francaise. He’s cooking French-style.
  • Elle cuisine à l’anglais. She’s cooking English-style.
  • Nous cuisinons à l’italienne. We’re cooking Italian-style.

See you at a certain future time

When preceding a time word such as demain (tomorrow), à translates to “see you”. À can also come before an hour of the day. For example, “À quinze heures!” means “See you at 3.00pm!”.

  • à demain see you tomorrow
  • à plus tard see you later
  • à tout à l’heure see you later
  • à lundi see you Monday
  • à bientôt see you soon
  • à la semaine prochaine see you next week

Ingredients in food items

When preceding a food or flavor, à indicates “having this ingredient”. This page covers food vocabulary in detail.

  • La glace au chocolat Chocolate ice cream
  • Un gateau à la vanille Vanilla cake
  • Une tarte a la framboise Raspberry pie

Wearing clothes or accessories

When à precedes a item of clothing or accessory it means “wearing”, “in the” or “with”. This page covers French clothing vocabulary in detail.

  • L’homme au chapeau noir the man wearing the black hat
  • La femme à la chemise bleue The lady in the blue shirt
  • La fille à la jupe rose. The girl with the pink skirt.

Measurement expressions

When expressing speed, “à l’heure” means per hour.

  • faire du 50 à l’heure To drive 50km per hour
  • acheter au kilo to buy by the kilo

How an item is used

When following crockery or kitchen utensils, à + usage target means “used for”. For example, un couteau (knife) à pain means a “bread knife”.

  • une tasse à thé teacup
  • un bol à soupe soup bowl
  • une assiette à dessert a dessert plate
  • une cuillère à soupe a soup spoon
  • une fourchette à viande a fork for eating meat

Possession

When à precedes a person or stressed pronoun (me, you, him, her, etc.), the meaning is “belongs to”. This page covers stressed pronouns.

  • La voiture est à Marc. Marc’s car
  • La maison est à David. David’s house
  • Le livre est à moi. The book is mine.
  • Les skis sont à lui. The skis are his.

Modes of transportation

The preposition à is used for modes of transportation which you don’t climb into. For example, “Je vais à pied” means I’m going by foot. The preposition “en” is used for vehicles. For example, “Je vais en voiture” (I go by car).

  • aller à bicyclette to go by bike
  • aller à pied to go by foot
  • aller à moto to go by motorbike
  • aller à cheval to go by horse

How something is made or done

À + noun is used to indicate how something is done or made.

  • fait à la main handmade
  • écrire au stylo to write in pen

Nouns derived from verbs

À + time word can me “When I _”.

  • à mon retour when I get back
  • à mon arrivée when I return

Giving directions

Use à + right or left when giving directions in a taxi. For example, “Tournez à droite” (Take a right). This page covers taxi phrases. This page covers giving and asking directions.

  • à droite to the right
  • à gauche to the left

Many verbs are followed by à

French has many verbs which are followed by the preposition à. The structure is: “verb + à + infinitive”. For example, “Je continue à étudier” (I continue studying). This page offers a complete list of French verbs followed by à.

  • chercher à comprendre to try to understand
  • aider à to help
  • arriver à to manage to
  • continuer à to continue
  • réussir à to succeed in

Common phrases

The French preposition à can also be found in countless phrases and expressions. While there’s no way to compile a master list, here’s a list of common phrases and expressions with à.

  • à un moment donné at some point
  • à tout prix at all costs
  • à propos de regarding
  • à la fois at the same time
  • à distance remotely
  • à haute voix aloud
  • à emporter take away (meal)
  • à côté next to
  • à travers through
  • à cause de because of
  • à mon avis in my opinion
  • à mon tour it’s my turn
  • à partir de starting from
  • à ce moment-là at that moment
  • à ce propos in this respect
  • à cette époque at that time period

Common expressions

  • à la tienne Cheers!
  • à votre santé to your health!
  • à tes souhaits bless you!
  • à la poubelle get rid of it!
  • à suivre to be continued
  • au feu! Fire!
  • au fait by the way
  • à propos by the way

Conclusion

As you have see, the preposition à in French a very wide variety of meanings and usages. We hope you’ve found this page helpful!

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