The French Preposition 'Contre': How to Use It

Six Ways to Use 'Contre,' from 'Hugging Friends' to 'Getting Angry at' Them

Young businessman leaning against wall texting on smartphone
'S'appuyer contre le mur' means 'to lean against the wall'. Daniel Ingold/Getty Images

Contre is a French preposition that usually means "against," while its antonym, pour, means "for." Contre is used often alone or as part of common idiomatic expressions, such as par contrewhich means, on the other hand, whereas and but. Contre is required after certain French verbs and phrases that need an indirect object. The term contre also has other English equivalents, depending on the context.

Common Uses of 'Contre'

1. Contact or Juxtaposition

   s'appuyer contre le mur
   to lean against the wall

   la face contre terre
   face down (face the ground)

2. Opposition

   Nous sommes contre la guerre.
   We're against war.

   être en colère contre quelqu'un
   to be angry with someone

3. Defense or Protection

   un abri contre le vent
   a shelter from the wind

   une médecine contre la grippe
   medicine against the flu

4. Exchange

   échanger un stylo contre un crayon
   to trade a pen for a pencil

   Il m'a donné un livre contre trois magazines
   He gave me a book (in exchange) for three magazines

5. Relationship / Rapport

   deux voix contre une
   two (votes) to one

   un étudiant contre trois profs
   one student vs three teachers

6. After Certain Verbs, Phrases That Need an Indirect Object 

  •    s'abriter contre (le vent) > to take shelter against (the wind)
  •    s'appuyer contre (un arbre) > to lean against (a tree)
  •    s'asseoir contre (son ami) > to sit next to (one's friend)
  •    s'assurer contre (l'incendie) > to insure against (fire)
  •    se battre contre > to fight against
  •    se blottir contre (sa mère, son chien) > to cuddle up next to (one's mother, dog)
  •    donner quelque chose contre > to give something in exchange for
  •    échanger quelque chose contre quelque chose > to exchange something for
  •    something else
  •    être en colère contre > to be angry at
  •    se fâcher contre > to get mad at
  •    se mettre contre le mur > to stand against the wall
  •    serrer quelqu'un contre sa poitrine/son cœur > to hug someone
  •    troquer quelque chose contre quelque chose > to swap something for
  •    something else
  •    voter contre > to vote against
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Lawless, Laura K. "The French Preposition 'Contre': How to Use It." ThoughtCo, Sep. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/contre-french-preposition-1368913. Lawless, Laura K. (2017, September 3). The French Preposition 'Contre': How to Use It. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/contre-french-preposition-1368913 Lawless, Laura K. "The French Preposition 'Contre': How to Use It." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/contre-french-preposition-1368913 (accessed January 22, 2018).