Prepositions: Small and Mighty Words That Drive French Sentences

The Small and Mighty Words That Drive French Sentences

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Prepositions are words that link two related parts of a sentence. They are usually placed in front of nouns or pronouns to indicate a relationship between that noun/pronoun and a verb, adjective, or noun that precedes it.

  • I'm talking to Jean. > Je parle à Jean.
  • She is from Paris. > Elle est de Paris.
  • The book is for you. > Le livre est pour toi.

These small but mighty words not only show relationships between words, they also refine the meanings of place (change variously with cities, countries, islands, regions and U.S. states) and time (as with pendant and durant), can follow adjectives and link them to the remainder of a sentence, can never end a sentence (as they can in English), can be difficult to translate into English and idiomatic, and can exist as a prepositional phrase such as au-dessus de (above), au-dessous de (below) and au milieu de (in the middle of).

Some are also used after certain verbs to complete their meaning such as croire en (to believe in), parler à (to talk to) and parler de (to talk about). Plus, preposition phrases can be replaced by the adverbial pronouns y and en.

The following is a comprehensive list of the most common French prepositions and their English equivalents, with links to detailed explanations and examples. 

à     to, at, in
à côté de next to, beside
après after
au sujet de about, on the subject of
avant before
avec with
chez at the home/office of, among
contre against
dans in
d'après according to
de from, of, about
depuis since, for
derrière in back of, behind
devant in front of
durant during, while
en in, on, to
en dehors de outside of
en face de facing, across from
entre between
envers toward
environ approximately
hors de outside of
jusque until, up to, even
loin de far from
malgré despite
par by, through
parmi among
pendant during
pour for
près de near
quant à as for, regarding
sans without
selon according to
sous under
suivant according to
sur on
vers toward