French Preposition : au, à la, à l’, aux

preposition a in french grammar

Even though à is a relatively small word, it is an extremely significant French preposition and one of the most important.

There are many meanings and uses of à in French, but at its most basic level, it usually means ‘to,’ ‘at’ or ‘in.’

Today, we’ll help you discover all uses of this preposition.

What are Prepositions?

The prepositions appear before nouns and pronouns to indicate the relationship between the nouns and the rest of the sentence.

For instance, without a preposition, we couldn’t establish the relationship between the verb aller and the noun cinema. It would stay unclear whether someone is coming or going somewhere.

Elle va au cinéma.

She is going to the cinema.

The most common French prepositions are de and à.

Today, we’ll cover the preposition à.

French Preposition à

The preposition à is generally summarized as “to, at, or in,” but it has quite a few more meanings and uses than that.

Since a preposition precedes the noun, and articles (masculine or feminine) usually precede the noun, it looks as though it is an article and a preposition come as a pair.

They keep so close, that sometimes they even collide. These are known as contracted articles.

To express ‘to the’ or ‘at the’ in French, use: à + the correct article le/la/l’/les.

– Use à la before a feminine word (la maison):

Il est resté à la maison.

He stayed at home.

– Use à l’ before a singular word beginning with a vowel or silent -h, eg:

Tu as parlé à l’ami de Emilie ? 

Did you speak to Emilie’s friend?

Contracted Articles

When preceded by the prepositions à the definite articles le and les must contract with them. That’s how we get contracted articles.

à + le / au

– Use au before a masculine word (le supermarché):

Je vais au supermarché.

I’m going to the supermarket.

à + les / aux

Use aux before a word in the plural form, eg:

Vous allez aux États-Unis ? 

Are you going to the USA?

Contracted articles happen also with the preposition de.

de + le / du

de + les / des

To learn more about preposition de and its usage, read the article Partitive article de.

When to Use The Preposition à 

To talk about Locations or dDestination

The preposition à expresses English prepositions to/ina place.

  • To express destination

Je vais au cinéma. 

I’m going to the cinema.

  • To express location

Je suis à Paris pour le moment.

I am in Paris for now.

To learn more about Using à with locations.

Preposition de, is also used to express moving or coming from a place.

Je viens de Provence.

l come from Provence.

  • Distance in Time or sSpace

Remember that à is used in front of the distance.

Il habite à 10 mètres.

He lives 10 meters d’ici.

  • Possession

To express belonging, to emphasize possession.

Ce livre est à Lilla.

This is Lilla’s book.

un ami à moi

A friend of mine.

  • Purpose or use

To express the use of something.

une tasse à thé

A cup of tea.

  • Manner, style, or characteristic

To express the way something is made, the style or a characteristic.

Fait à la main..

Made by hand.

Il habite à la française.

He lives french styles.

  • Point in time

To express a precise moment in time.

Elle va arriver à midi.

She’ll arrive at noon.

  • Until

To express until some point in the future.

à demain

until tomorrow

If you wish to get more practice, visit this link.

A vs DE

The French prepositions à and de are a constant source of difficulty for French students. A is generally used to mean “to,” “at,” or “in,” while de is used to mean “from.” Both prepositions have many uses, and to understand them better, read this article.

Small Word, Big Meaning

The preposition à may be small but it is bursting with meanings and usages.

You will be able to cover a vast majority of sentences in French once you figure out its basic uses.

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