Prepositions are like glue linking nouns and other words together.
They are among the most common words you will come across. In our frequency
list, de is the most frequent word, and à
the sixth. There are 17 Prepositions in the 200 most frequent words:
The two most common prepositions, à and de, combine with the articles le and les to form what are known as Contractions.
Prepositions often introduce Nouns, or Noun Phrases:
In the last example, en cas de is a Preposition in more than one word, usually called a Prepositional Phrase. In your dictionary, you would find it under cas, and it would be labelled as a loc. prép. (locution prépositive = Prepositional Phrase). For all practical purposes, there is no difference between a prep. and a loc. prep., except the number of words that make it up.
Prepositions are also frequently used with Pronouns:
The most common prepositions (and especially à and de) are used in all sorts of expressions and a great variety of ways to link other words together. In many of these cases, they have a diminished meaning: they are links first and words with meanings second.
1. Probably the commonest case of diminished meaning is when de or à are used to join two Nouns together. French nearly always uses Prepositions to join Nouns, while English has two other ways, as the first two groups of examples show.
about Noun Phrases joined in this way.
Many little prepositions, especially à and de, can be used not only with their basic meaning and sometimes a diminished meaning, but in expressions they can take on a whole range of other meanings, or rather correspond to many different things in English, which you’ll have to use your dictionary to discover.
Consider just a few examples with the preposition à:
If you suspect that a Preposition is being used as part of an expression,
you can check your dictionary in two different places. First look under
the Preposition itself, scanning through the examples in search of the
expression. If that fails, look under one of the words in the expression,
such as deux, pêche, kilomètre,
in the examples given above. This may take some time, but it is worth
it. If the dictionary is your own, highlight the expression you find.
You will probably come across it again before too long and it will be
easier to find.
Here are the more common prepositions you should be familiar with.
If you are not sure of the meanings, do the exercises and if necessary
check your dictionary.