Apprendre la Langue Française (Part 54): le préposition – à (les usages)


À is a very important French preposition, despite its tiny size. Its many different meanings and uses in French include all of the following:

1. location or destination

J’habite à Paris. I live in Paris.
Je vais à Rome. I’m going to Rome.
Je suis à la banque. I’m at the bank.

2. distance in time or space

J’habite à 10 mètres de lui. I live 10 meters from him.
Il est à 5 minutes de moi. He is 5 minutes from me.

3. point in time

Nous arrivons à 5h00. We arrive at 5:00.
Il est mort à 92 ans. He died at the age of 92.

4. manner, style, or characteristic

Il habite à la française. He lives in the French style.
un enfant aux yeux bleus – blue-eyed child/child with blue eyes
fait à la main – made by hand
aller à pied – to go on/by foot

5. possession

un ami à moi – a friend of mine
Ce livre est à Jean. This is Jean’s book.

6. measurement

acheter au kilo – to buy by the kilogram
payer à la semaine – to pay by the week

7. purpose or use

une tasse à thé – teacup/a cup for tea
un sac à dos – backpack/pack for the back

8. in the passive infinitive

À louer – for rent
Je n’ai rien à lire. I have nothing to read.

When followed by the definite articles le and les, à contracts with them into a single word, for example:

à + le = au

au magasin

à + les = aux

aux maisons

But à does not contract with la or l’, for example:

à + la = à la

a la banque

à + l’ = à l’

à l’hôpital

In addition, à does not contract with le and les when they are direct objects.


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