Remember last week’s video on the French préposition DE? I told you that a preposition was a liaison word that was invariable, this means it has no feminine, no masculine, no singular, no plural, it never changes. That’s one good thing.
Today we’ll only focus on the other French prépositions that is used all the time: À
Prepositions are seen as hard because they are a reminder that languages are original! They are not translations of one another. So you can’t just say À means one thing in English and that’s it. Non. À typically means to, at, or in.
We also learned last week that the preposition DE could change slightly depending on how it was used. Guess what? The same exact logic applies to today’s preposition À. Let me explain this with examples.
I’m going to show you the various meanings of À and what it looks like when it is combined with the definite article. By the way, the definite article in English is THE.
All French definite articles LE, LA, L’, LES mean only THE.
1- Definite article masculine singular = LE
À + LE = AU
Tu veux aller AU cinéma? = do you want to go to the cinema?
Cinéma is masculine singular so the cinema is le cinéma.
Tu veux aller à le cinéma? Since à and le fuse into au the correct question is Tu veux aller AU cinéma?
2- Definite article feminine singular = LA
À + LA = À LA
Je suis À LA banque = I’m at the bank
Banque is feminine singular so the bank is la banque: Je suis à la banque. No contraction here.
3- Definite article singular starting with a vowel = L’
Now remember that when you see L’ you do not know if the word attached to it is masculine or feminine, you just know that it starts with a vowel. Originally L’ was either LE or LA. Both letters E & A are vowels so both are replaced by an apostrophe.
À + L’ = À L’
Ce soir nous dormons À L’hôtel = Tonight we’re sleeping at the hotel
Hôtel starts with a vowel sound – h is not pronounced so we pretend hôtel starts with the vowel o – so the hotel is l’hôtel.
The correct sentence is Ce soir nous dormons À L’hôtel. Again, no contraction needed here.
Now you might tell me, so it’s only with masculine, with LE, that it is complicated because we need to remember the contraction resulting in AU?
Non. There’s another one. But it’s the last one, I promise.
4- Definite article plural = LES
À + LES = AUX
J’habite AUX États-Unis = I live in the United States – États-Unis is plural so the problems is les États-Unis which would give you J’habite à les États-Unis and since à and les fuse into aux the correct sentence is J’habite AUX États-Unis.
Did you notice that we covered all the meanings I gave you at the beginning of the video? À can mean to, at, in. Not quite. À can also mean of. Let me show you now.
The sentences we just went through do not mean À will always be used with the definite article. It can be used by itself in sentences like:
Je pense À toi = I think of you
J’habite À Seattle = I live in Seattle
Je vais À Londres = I’m going to London
Le train arrive À 8 heures = the train arrives at 8 o’clock
Does this help? You just need to practice to get used to À. And, as I told you in the previous video about the preposition DE, it all follows a logic. Understanding the logic will help you gain a lot of ease.