French Language Blog

French Compound Prepositions: Part 1 Posted by on Aug 22, 2016 in Grammar

In previous posts, the French team has explored different kinds of French prepositions, including a basic overview of prepositions and proper preposition use with different countries.


Prepositions (prépositions) are words or groups of words that show a relationship between one thing and another in a sentence. For example, a preposition might link the location of one object to another (the cat is on the table; le chat est sur la table) or link the time of one event to another event (She arrived after him; elle est arriveé après lui).

Compound prepositions are prepositions that use more than one word. Many compound prepositions are used in French to describe relative physical positions. Here is a list of the most commonly used of these compound prepositions in French:

 à coté de     next to

à l’arrière de    behind

à travers     through

au-delà de     beyond

au milieu de     in the middle of

au fond de    in the back of

au coin de     at the corner of

au dessus de     above

en bas de   at the bottom of; below

en dehors de     outside

en dessous de     under

en face de     across from

en haut de     at the top of

loin de     far from

près de    near

These compound prepositions showing relative physical positions can be used in their transitive form, in which an object follows the preposition. For example: La maison est à coté de la mer. (The house is right next to the sea.) Please note that with these compound prepositions the de should change in response to the gender of the noun following it. If the noun is feminine, as in the above example (la mer) the de does not change. If, however, the noun is masculine (like, for example, in le restaurant) then the de becomes du.

You can also use these prepositions in their intransitive form. For example, it’s the next house/c’est la maison à coté. 

Next week, we will go over some more compound prepositions that situate time and/or knowledge instead of place.

Can you think of any more compound prepositions that express relative positions?


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About the Author: Elizabeth Schmermund

Bonjour tout le monde! I'm a freelance writer, doctoral student, mom, and Francophile. I'm excited to share some of my experiences living in France, as well as the cultural nuances that I've learned being married to a Frenchman, with all of you. To find out more about me, feel free to check out my website at A la prochaine!


  1. Aly ismael:

    2 corrections : “en haute de …” Is wrong, correct form is “en haut de … “, then ” au-dessous de…” Is ” en dessous de …
    Juste a little contribution!

    • Elizabeth Schmermund:

      @Aly ismael Thank you Aly! Those were some silly errors 🙂

  2. roshni:

    Bonjour tout le monde….
    I’m finding the correct preposition for this following sentence
    On a nagé____la mer bleue
    Which is the suitable preposition please let me know