Detailed Guide For Learning French Prepositions

Written byAmélie Pinon

Just like English, prépositions in French are words used to connect two parts of a sentence.

The preposition connects a main word to a dependent word, qualifying the main word in some way.


  • Le cheval à bascule / The rocking horse
  • La pièce en argent / The coin made of silver

Simple Prépositions:

French English
à to
après after
avant before
avec with
chez at or to
concernant regarding
contre against
dans or en in
de about, from, of
depuis since
derrière behind
dès as soon as
devant in front of
durant during
entre between
excepté excepted
hors except
malgré despite
par by, through
parmi among
pendant during
pour for
sans without
sauf except
selon according to
sous under
sur on
vers toward

More examples:

Le chat sur le toit (The cat on the roof)

Il faut passer par là (One must go though there)

A vaincre sans péril, on triomphe sans gloire (Vanquishing without peril, one wins without glory)

Complex prépositions

Complex prépositions in French are combinations of words (préposition + another word) that serve the same purpose as simple prépositions.

French English
À cause de because of
à dater de from a certain date
à force de by dint of, by force of
à l’abri de sheltered by
à l’exception de with the exception of
à l’insu de unbeknownst to
à moins de unless of
à partir de from
à raison de, à travers through
afin de so that
au-dedans de within of
au-delà de beyond of
au-dessous de below of
au-dessus de above of
au lieu de instead of
au moment de at the moment of
auprès de near of
autour de around of
avant de before of
d’après according to
de peur de from fear of
du côté de by the side of
en dehors de outside of
en dépit de in spite of
en faveur de in favor of
face à faced to
faute de for lack of
grâce à thanks to
hors de outside of
jusqu’à until
le long de along to
loin de far from
près de close to
tandis que even though


Nous avons raté le bus à cause du mauvais temps (We missed the bus because of bad weather)

Les magasins sont autour de la place (The stores are around the public square)

Avant de partir, il faut se préparer (Before leaving, one must be prepared)

More préposition rules:

a preposition + noun modifying another noun = adjective


Un jeu de cartes (A game of cards)

à (au, aux) + noun = function, characteristic of the main word


Une fille aux cheveux blonds (A girl with blond hair)

à + verb = function of main word


Une machine à coudre (A sewing machine)

de, en + noun = (made of, or for)


Une bague en or (A ring made of gold)

Un chien de chasse (A hunting dog)

préposition + noun modifying verb = adverb


Je suis parti en retard (I left late)

Whereas English is lax when it comes to the need for a preposition before an indirect object, French is stricter.

As a result, the following verbs take the à préposition before an indirect object:

French English
appartenir à belong to
apprendre à learn to
donner à give to
enseigner à teach to
obéir à obey
pardonner à forgive
penser à think about
répondre à answer
ressembler à resemble


Elle pense à lui (She thinks of him)

Nous apprenons à parler anglais (We are learning to speak English)

When two verbs follow each other, in French as in English, the second verb is an infinitive.


J’aide à faire la lessive (I’m helping to do the laundry)

Except of course for compound tenses.

Whereas in English, the preposition to is used to denote the infinitive, several prepositions serve the same function in French depending on the leading verb:

a) verb + à + verb:

French English
aider help
s’amuser have fun
apprendre learn to
commencer begin
consister consist
continuer continue
se décider decide
encourager encourage
enseigner teach to
s’habituer get used to
se mettre begin
persister persist
renoncer renounce
réussir succeed
servir serve
songer think about


Il se met à cuire le gâteau (He begins to bake the cake)

Le prince a renoncé au trone (The prince has renounced the throne)

b) verb + de + verb:

French English
décider decide
se dépêcher hurry
empêcher prevent
essayer try to
mériter deserve
s’occuper take care of
oublier forget to
parler speak about
persuader persuade
promettre promise
refuser refuse
regretter regret
rêver dream
se souvenir remember
*venir + de + verb have just

*venir + de + noun (come from)


Il nous empêche de finir nos devoirs (He’s preventing us from finishing our homework)

Il a refusé de confesser (He has refused to confess)

c) verb + à + (noun or pronoun) + de + verb:

French English
commander order
conseiller advise
défendre forbid
demander ask
dire tell
interdire forbid
ordonner order
permettre permit
promettre promise


Le général commande aux soldats d’attaquer (The general orders the soldiers to attack)

Les parents défendent à leurs enfants de dire des gros mots (The parents forbid their kids to swear)

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Detailed Guide For Learning French Prepositions
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