How to Use the French Preposition 'de':

Panorama of Menton at night. Henryk Sadura / Getty Images

De is an essential and versatile preposition that allows you to say "of" in French, "some," or simply an unspecified quantity. But that's not all; de has many different meanings and uses in French. As a preposition, it lets you construct a number of noun and verb phrases. 

The French preposition de is required after certain verbs and phrases when they are followed by an infinitive.

And de is required after many French verbs and phrases that need an indirect object, Keep in mind that de plus a noun can be replaced by the adverbial pronoun en. For example, J'en ai besoin. > I need it.

Common Uses of 'de'

1. Possession or belonging

    le livre de Paul > Paul's book
    la bibliothèque de l'université > the university library

2. Starting point or origin

    partir de Nice > to leave from Nice
   Je suis de Bruxelles. > I'm from Brussels.

3. Contents / description of something

    une tasse de thé > cup of tea
    un roman d'amour > love story (story of/about love)

4. Defining feature

   le marché de gros > wholesale market
    une salle de classe > classroom
    le jus d'orange > orange juice

5. Cause

     fatigué du voyage > tired from the trip

6. Means/manner of doing something

     écrire de la main gauche > to write with one's left hand
     répéter de mémoire > to recite from memory

When followed by the definite articles le and lesde contracts with them into a single word. But de does not contract with la or l'. In addition, de does not contract with le and les when they are direct objects

For example,
de + le = du du salon
de + les = des des villes
de + la = de la de la femme
de + l' = de l' de l'homme

7. After Certain Verbs, Phrases Followed by an Infinitive

The French preposition de is required after certain verbs and phrases when they are followed by an infinitive. Note that the English translation may take an infinitive (to agree to do something) or a gerund (to be afraid of flying).

  •    accepter de > to accept, agree to
  •    achever de > to finish ___-ing
  •    accuser (quelqu'un) de > tto accuse (someone) of
  •    s'agir de > to be a question of ___-ing
  •    (s')arrêter de > to stop ___-ing
  •    avertir (qqun) de (ne pas) > to warn (someone) (not) to
  •    avoir peur de > to be afraid of ___-ing
  •    blâmer (qqun) de > to blame (someone) for ___-ing
  •    cesser de > to stop, cease ___-ing
  •    choisir de > to choose to
  •    commander (à qqun) de > to order (someone) to
  •    conseiller de > to advise to
  •    se contenter de > to be happy ___-ing
  •    continuer de > to continue ___-ing
  •    convenir de > to agree to
  •    craindre de > to fear ___-ing
  •    décider de > to decide to
  •    défendre (à quelqu'un) de > to forbid (someone) to do (something)
  •    demander (à quelqu'un) de > to ask (someone) to do something
  •    se dépêcher de  > to hurry to
  •    déranger quelqu'un de > to bother someone to
  •    dire (à quelqu'un) de > to tell (someone) to do something
  •    s'efforcer de > to endeavor to
  •    empêcher de > to prevent, keep from ___-ing
  •    s'empresser de > to hurry to
  •    ennuyer quelqu'un de > to bother/upset someone to
  •    essayer de > to try to
  •    s'excuser de > to apologize for ___-ing
  •    féliciter de > to congratulate for ___-ing
  •    finir de > to finish ___-ing
  •    gronder de > to scold for ___-ing
  •    se hâter de > to hurry to
  •    manquer de > to neglect, fail to
  •    mériter de > to deserve to
  •    offrir de > to offer to
  •    oublier de  > to forget to
  •    (se) permettre de > to allow (oneself) to
  •    persuader de > to persuade to
  •    prendre garde de > to be careful not to
  •    prendre le parti de > to decide to
  •    se presser de > to hurry to
  •    prier de > to beg to
  •    promettre de > to promise to
  •    proposer de > to suggest ___-ing
  •    refuser de > to refuse to
  •    regretter de > to regret ___-ing
  •    remercier de > to thank for ___-ing
  •    rêver de > to dream of ___-ing
  •    risquer de > to risk ___-ing
  •    se soucier de > to care about ___-ing
  •    se souvenir de > to remember ___-ing
  •    supplier de > to be / beseech
  •    tâcher de > to try to
  •    venir de (faire quelque chose) > to have just (done something)

8. After Verbs, Phrases That Need an Indirect Object

The French preposition de is required after many French verbs and phrases that need an indirect object, but there is often a completely different preposition in English or none at all.

  •    s'agir de > to be a question of
  •    s'approcher de > to approach
  •    s'apercevoir de > to notice
  •    arriver de (Paris, Canada) > to arrive from (Paris, Canada)
  •    avoir besoin de > to need
  •    avoir envie de > to want
  •    changer de (train) > to change (trains)
  •    dépendre de > to depend on
  •    douter de > to doubt
  •    s'emparer de > to grab
  •    s'étonner de > to be amazed by
  •    féliciter de > to congratulate
  •    hériter de > to inherit
  •    jouer de > to play (an instrument)
  •    jouir de > to enjoy
  •    manquer de > to lack
  •    se méfier de > to distrust, beware of
  •    se moquer de > to make fun of
  •    s'occuper de > to be busy with
  •    partir de > to leave
  •    se passer de > to do without
  •    penser de > to have an opinion about
  •    se plaindre de > to complain about
  •    profiter de > to make the most of
  •    punir de > to punish for
  •    recompenser de > to reward for
  •    remercier de > to thank
  •    se rendre compte de > to realize
  •    rire de > to laugh at
  •    servir de > to put to use as
  •    se servir de > to use
  •    se soucier de > to care about
  •    se souvenir de > to remember
  •    tenir de > to take after, resemble
  •    se tromper de > to mistake
  •    vivre de > to live on

Additional Resource

Verbs with de plus a verb 

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Team, ThoughtCo. "How to Use the French Preposition 'de':." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). How to Use the French Preposition 'de':. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "How to Use the French Preposition 'de':." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 27, 2023).