Prepositions are short words which usually link main words of a sentence together like ‘at’, ‘to’, ‘from’, ‘of’, ‘in’ , near’, ‘in front’, ‘towards’ etc… There is a big difference in the use of prepositions between French and English. In English, they are added to verbs and change their meaning, i.e to get in, to get out, to get by, to get away etc…. French rarely use prepositions in that way and tends to have a verb for each meaning.
I’m going out tonight – Je sors ce soir (no preposition)
He’s getting away this weekend – Il part ce weekend (no preposition)
To a certain extend it makes French easier than English once the difference is accepted and we are not automatically looking to translate the prepositions in prepositional verbs literally.
French prepositions are usually classified in categories according to what they relate to. These are:
Location/direction, manner, cause and time. At this stage and level we will only be using a limited number of prepositions in examples. Keep in mind that the following lists are not exhaustive. Many prepositions belong to more than one category.
The following prepositions belong to this category: ‘à’, ‘au’, ‘en’, ‘dans’, ‘sur’, ‘sous’, ‘chez’…etc Here are some examples with translations.
J’habite à Londres, en Angleterre – I live in London, in England
Elle vit au Canada – She lives in Canada.
La soupe est dans les bols – The soupe is in the bowls.
Le chat est sur la chaise – The cat is on the chair.
Le chien est sous la table – The dog is under the table.
Les enfants viennent chez nous – The children are coming to ours.
Il y a un café vers la gare – There is a café near the station.
The following prepositions belong to this category: ‘avec’,’ de’, ‘à’, ‘sans’, ‘en’, ‘par’.
Elle va en ville à pied avec sa fille – She goes to town by foot with her daughter.
Par chance, il n’était pas sans argent – By chance, he wasn’t without money.
The following prepositions belong to this category: ‘pour’, ‘grâce à’, ‘à cause de’.
Nous sommes en retard à cause de lui – We are late because of him.
Vous êtes arrivés ici grâce à moi – You got here thanks to me.
Ils vont au marché pour faire leurs courses – They go to the market to shop.
The following prepositions belong to this category: ‘avant’, ‘après’, ‘jusqu’à’, ‘depuis’, ‘pendant’, ‘en’. Here are some examples with translations:
Paul est venu avant 20.00, Sophie, après – Paul has arrived before 8pm, Sophie, after.
Il a fait beau jusqu’à midi – The weather was nice until midday.
Je fais de la natation depuis que j’ai 5 ans – I have been swimming since I was 5.
Ell a vécu à Paris pendant 10 ans – She has lived in Paris for 10 years.
Note: prepositions in French and English do not always match.