If want to speak French fluently, you have to learn how to use French prepositions.
A preposition is a linking word used to connect with nouns and pronouns. In English, common prepositions like: to, by, in, out, of, off, up, over, etc. are used in phrases like: on the table, to the office, by the phone, etc. Similarly, French has many prepositions, and their proper usage can be quite tricky because of subtle differences between French and English prepositions. Even people who speak French quite fluently can be tripped up by these little words.
One of the most common prepositions in French: à
A very common preposition in French is à that can have different forms and uses. This à is generally translated as at, with or to. But that just scratches the surface. Here I would like to look at a particular use, but keep in mind that there are others that I plan to revisit at a later date.
Saying goodbye in French with à
When you are taking leave of someone, à is often used to say goodbye and then “see you…” or “until” some point in time. For example, à lundi means “see you Monday” or “until Monday.”
Here is how this construction would be used at the end of a typical telephone conversation:
– Bien, je te laisse parce que j’ai d’autres appels à faire. On se voit demain?
– D’accord, à demain.
– À demain.
– I have to let you go; I have some other calls to make. I’ll see you tomorrow?
– O.K. See you tomorrow.
– See you tomorrow.
Here is a list of common forms with à that can be expanded with a bit of imagination.
à demain ( tomorrow)
à demain matin ( tomorrow morning)
à cet après-midi ( this afernoon)
à ce soir (this evening)
à dimanche (or any day of the week) (Sunday)
à plus tard (later)
à bientôt (soon)
à la prochaine (next time)
à la semaine prochaine (next week)
à l’année prochaine (next year)
à tout à l’heure (soon)
à tout de suite (right away)
à tantôt (soon)
à plus tard (later)
à plus (later)
A + (an abbreviation of à plus used a lot in text messages and e-mails)
Note that in Quebec French there are some colloquial dialect forms:
à la revoyure (till we meet again),
à la prochaine chicane (till the next argument)
à soir (this form means “this evening” and not “see you this evening”)
à matin (this form means “this morning” and not “see you in the morning”)
Also be aware that the following forms are used when referring to past events and have nothing to do with the above uses:
à ce moment-la (at that moment, then)
J’ai décidé à ce moment-là d’acheter la voiture. (I decided then to buy the car.)
à cette époque-la (at that time)
À cette époque-là, j’habitais Paris. (At that time, I was living in Paris.)
As you can see, that simple letter à is a powerful little tool. And there’s a lot more to it. You will hear it very often in French conversations and with many different meanings. If you want to speak French fluently and accurately, pay close attention to à.