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À vs De

French prepositions

The French prepositions à and de cause constant problems for French students. Generally speaking, à means to, at, or in, while de means of or from. Both prepositions have numerous uses - this summary table compares them.

À   vs  De
Location or destination vs Starting point or origin  (Learn more)
Je vais à Rome I'm going to Rome partir de Nice to leave from (out of) Nice
Je suis à la banque  I'm at the bank Je suis de Bruxelles I'm from Brussels
Distance in time or space (note that à is used in front of the distance, while de indicates the starting point/origin)
Il habite à 10 mètres... He lives 10 meters...   ...d'ici ...from here
C'est à 5 minutes... It's 5 minutes... ...de moi ...from me
Possession vs Possession / belonging  (Learn more)
un ami à moi a friend of mine le livre de Paul Paul's book
Ce livre est à Jean This is Jean's book le café de l'université the university café
Purpose or use vs Contents / description
une tasse à thé teacup (cup for tea) une tasse de thé cup of tea
une boîte à allumettes matchbox (box for matches)   une boîte d'allumettes box (full) of matches
un sac à dos backpack (pack for the back) un roman d'amour love story (story about love)
Manner, style, or characteristic vs Defining feature
fait à la main made by hand le marché de gros wholesale market
Il habite à la française He lives in the French style une salle de classe classroom
un enfant aux yeux bleus blue-eyed child un livre d'histoire history book
Defining ingredient   Indispensible ingredient
Use à when the food is made with something that can be taken away without destroying it - as a general rule, you can translate it as "with." If you take out the ham or onion, you still have a sandwich or soup.   Use de when the food is made primarily of something - generally speaking, you can translate it as "of" or "from." If you take away the blackcurrants or tomatoes, you're left with not much at all.
un sandwich au jambon ham sandwich   la crème de cassis blackcurrant liqueur
la soupe à l'oignon onion soup   la soupe de tomates tomato soup
une tarte aux pommes apple pie   le jus d'orange orange juice
Impersonal expressions: Real subject   Impersonal expressions: Dummy subject
C'est bon à savoir. That's good to know.   Il est bon d'étudier. It's good to study. (Studying is good)
C'est facile à faire. That's easy to do.   Il est facile de le trouver. It's easy to find it. (Finding it is easy)



Additional uses of à Additional uses of de
Measurement Cause
acheter au kilo to buy by the kilogram mourir de faim to die of / from hunger
payer à la semaine to pay by the week fatigué du voyage tired from the trip
Point in time Means / manner of doing something
Nous arrivons à 5h00 We arrive at 5:00 écrire de la main gauche to write with the left hand
Il est mort à 92 ans He died at the age of 92 répéter de mémoire to recite from memory


Summary of à    Summary of de

À and de with verbs     C'est and Il est + à or de

Verbs w/ prepositions    

More prepositions     French grammar


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