How do we express opposition in French? : “au lieu de” “malgré” “en dépit de” “par contre” “contrairement à”

expressing contrast and concession in french au lieu de malgré en dépit de par contre

Do your French sentences sound like they came from a textbook?

Expressions like “au lieu de”, “malgré”, “en dépit de”, “par contre”, ” contraire à “ will allow you to smoothly transition between opposing ideas.

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to make your French sentences sound more dramatic by adding more contrast.

Read along to learn what is the difference between expressing contrast and concession in French.

French Contrast in Use

Contrast is a comparison in which one thing is compared to another based on its differences.

The concept of opposition refers to the expression of two opposing ideas in the same sentence. It is clear that the opposition has different and opposing ideas.

To understand the use of concession in French read this article : How do we express restriction and concession in French? ( seulement, cependant, pourtant , bien que, même si )

These are some expressions you can use to compare and contrast situations or elements.

Au lieu de

English meaning : “instead of” and “rather than,” as well as its anglicized version “in lieu of.”

Au lieu de is a very useful French expression for mentioning an alternative.

“Au lieu de” must always be followed by an infinitive or noun.

  • Followed by a noun : Tu peux prendre ta jupe rouge au lieu de ta jupe verte.

We have our first idea: Tu peux prendre ton gilet rouge. The “Au lieu de” connector comes right after the first idea.

Our second idea is ta jupe vert, which is the opposite of the first.

Emilie va appeler au lieu de moi.

Emily is going to call instead of me.

Contrairement à

English meaning : contrary to

We will always have a noun or a tonic pronoun like “moi”, “toi”, “lui”, etc. after this connector. This connector can be placed at the beginning or at the end of a sentence.

With a tonic pronoun:

Contrairement à toi, j’aime bien ce livre.

Unlike you, I really like this book.

We have our connector: Contrairement à + the tonic pronoun “toi”

With the tonic pronoun, we have the opposite idea to the one we target: j’aime bien ce livre.

With a name :

J’ai déjà lu ce livre contrairement à ton amie.

I already read this book contrary to your friend.

Par contre

English Meaning : however, contrary

“Par contre” is used more orally as an oppositional connector.

Je serai là lundi, par contre je ne pourrai pas venir samedi.

I will be there on Monday, however I will not be able to come on Saturday.

We have our first idea:  “Je serai là lundi” followed by comma and “Par contre” connector. Then we have our second idea opposite to the first:  “je ne pourrai pas venir samedi”.

Les hommes par contre reviennent volontiers.

Men, however, were eager to return.

To learn more about the prepositions pour and contre, read this article : French Prepositions You Need to Vote : Are you Pour or Contre ?


English meaning : in spite of, despite

Atterrissage parfait malgré les petites turbulences.

The landing was perfect, despite a small amount of turbulence.

Je suis sorti malgré la pluie.

I got out despite the rain.

To talk about people,  use malgré with stress pronouns.

malgré + moi/toi/elle/lui/nous/vous/elles/eux

Je le fais malgré toi.

I’m doing it in spite of you.

Sometimes, the expression malgré tout (lit. “despite everything”) can also mean anyway.

Nous le le ferons malgré tout.

We will do it anyway.

En dépit de

English meaning : against all, in spite of.

La reprise a continué en dépit de quelques épidémies.

The recovery continued in spite of a few more epidemics.

To Sum Up

Similar to cause, consequence, and objective, opposition expressions are extremely useful in French. Our goal for today was to help you express opposing ideas accurately and convincingly in French.

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