Easy Learning French

Prepositions after verbs - Easy Learning Grammar French

  • Some French verbs can be followed by an infinitive (the to form of the verb) and linked to it by either de or à, or no preposition at all. This is also true of verbs and their objects: the person or thing that the verb ‘happens’ to.
TipThe preposition that is used in French is not always the same as the one that is used in English. Whenever you learn a new verb, try to learn which preposition can be used after it too.
  • The lists in this section concentrate on those French verbs that involve a different construction from the one that is used in English.

1 Verbs that are followed by à + object

  • à is often the equivalent of the English word to when it is used with an indirect object after verbs like send, give and say.
dire quelque chose à quelqu’unto say something to someone
donner quelque chose à quelqu’unto give something to someone
écrire quelque chose à quelqu’unto write something to someone
envoyer quelque chose à quelqu’unto send something to someone
montrer quelque chose à quelqu’unto show something to someone
TipThere is an important difference between French and English with this type of verb. In English, you can say either to give something to someone or to give someone something; to show something to someone or to show someone something.
You can NEVER miss out à in French in the way that you can sometimes miss out to in English.
  • Here are some verbs taking à in French that have a different construction in English.
croire à quelque choseto believe in something
s’intéresser à quelqu’un/quelque choseto be interested in someone/something
jouer à quelque choseto play something (sports, games)
obéir à quelqu’unto obey someone
penser à quelqu’un/quelque choseto think about someone/something
répondre à quelqu’unto answer someone
téléphoner à quelqu’unto phone someone
TipWhen you are using jouer to talk about sports and games, you use à. When you are using jouer to talk about musical instruments, you use de.
jouer au tennisto play tennis
jouer aux échecsto play chess
jouer de la guitareto play the guitar
jouer du pianoto play the piano
  • plaire followed by à is a common way of saying you like something.
plaire à quelqu’unto please someone (literally)
Ton cadeau me plaît beaucoup.I like your present a lot.
Ce film plaît beaucoup aux jeunes.This film is very popular with young people.
Grammar Extra!manquer à works quite differently from its English equivalent, to miss. The English object is the French subject, and the English subject is the French object.
manquer à quelqu’unto be missed by someone (literally)
Tu (subject) me (object) manques.I (subject) miss you (object).
Mon pays (subject) me (object) manque beaucoup.I (subject) miss my country (object) very much.
  • There are also some verbs where you can put a direct object before à. The verb demander is the most common.
demander quelque chose à quelqu’unto ask someone something, to ask someone for something
  • Note that demander in French does NOT mean to demand. It means to ask something or to ask for something. If you want to say demand in French, use exiger.
Nous avons demandé notre chemin à un chauffeur de taxi.We asked a taxi driver the way.
J’exige des excuses!I demand an apology!

2 Verbs that are followed by de + object

  • Here are some verbs taking de in French that have a different construction in English.
changer de quelque choseto change something (one’s shoes and so on)
dépendre de quelqu’un/quelque choseto depend on someone/something
s’excuser de quelque choseto apologize for something
jouer de quelque choseto play something
parler de quelque choseto talk about something
se servir de quelque choseto use something
se souvenir de quelqu’un/quelque choseto remember someone/something
TipWhen you are using jouer to talk about sports and games, you use à. When you are using jouer to talk about musical instruments, you use de.
jouer au tennisto play tennis
jouer aux échecsto play chess
jouer de la guitareto play the guitar
jouer du pianoto play the piano
  • Some common phrases using avoir also contain de.
avoir besoin de quelque choseto need something
avoir envie de quelque choseto want something
avoir peur de quelque choseto be afraid of something
  • There are also some verbs where you can put a direct object before de. remercier is the most common.

    remercier quelqu’un de quelque chose to thank someone for something
Grammar Extra!The verb se tromper de quelque chose is often the equivalent of to get the wrong
Je me suis trompé de numéro.I got the wrong number.
Je me suis trompé de maison.I got the wrong house.

3 Verbs taking a direct object in French but not in English

  • In English there are a few verbs that are followed by for, on, in, to or at which, in French, are not followed by a preposition such as à or de. Here are the most common:
attendre quelqu’un/quelque choseto wait for sb/sth
chercher quelqu’un/quelque choseto look for sb/sth
demander quelqu’un/quelque choseto ask for sb/sth
écouter quelqu’un/quelque choseto listen to sb/sth
espérer quelque choseto hope for sth
payer quelque choseto pay for sth
regarder quelqu’un/quelque choseto look at sb/sth
  • Note that attendre does NOT mean to attend in English. It means to wait for. If you want to say that you attend something, use assister à quelque chose.
Je t’attends devant la gare.I’ll wait for you in front of the station.
Vous allez assister au concert?Are you going to attend the concert?
  • habiter can be used with or without a preposition:
  • habiter is mostly used without a preposition when you are talking about living in a house, a flat and so on
Nous habitons un petit appartement en ville.We live in a small flat in town.
  • use habiter with à when you are talking about a town or city, and au (singular) or aux (plural) with the names of countries that are masculine in French
Nous habitons à Liverpool.We live in Liverpool.
Nous habitons aux États-Unis.We live in the United States.
  • use habiter with en when you are talking about feminine countries
Nous habitons en Espagne.We live in Spain.
Key points
  • French prepositions after verbs are often not the ones that are used in English. French verbs often have a different construction from English verbs.
  • French verbs are usually linked to their objects by de, à or nothing at all.
  • You can never miss out à in French in the way that you can miss out to in English constructions like to give someone something.

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