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Using “à” with French Verbs Posted by on Aug 6, 2015 in Grammar

Those mean ol’ prepositions are back! In a previous post, I discussed how prepositions were a problem for me and many others when starting to learn a language. There’s no rhyme or reason as to why certain prepositions are used, and if you use the wrong one, the whole meaning can change. Think about it – does une pom-pom girl (cheerleader) cheer her team ON or cheer her team UP?

French’s 2 big prepositions with verbs are de and à (and yes, some verbs can take either one, but that’s for another day). In the last post, I wrote about using de with verbs.  Today we’re going to explore verbs that require à. Again…no real rules as to why it’s this way. Just gotta memorize them!

 

Verb + à + infinitive
It’s very common in French that if you want to use verbs in a row, they may need to be separated with a preposition.

Malgré ses problèmes de santé, il continue à fumer.
Despite his health problems, he continues to smoke.

Notice that à is slapped between continuer and fumer. Why? Continuer requires the preposition à to be placed before an infinitive (quoi?? an unconjugated verb) that follows it. Below I’ve listed some common verbs that require à. Please note that qqch is shorthand for “quelque chose” (something)  and qqn is shorthand for “quelqu’un” (someone).

aider à to help
s’amuser à    to have fun __-ing
apprendre à to learn how to
s’apprêter à to get ready to
arriver à to succeed in ___-ing
avoir à to have to
chercher à to attempt to
commencer à to begin to
continuer à to continue to /___-ing
encourager qqn à to encourage someone to
s’habituer à to get used to
hésiter à to hesitate to
s’intéresser à to be interested in
inviter (qqn) à to invite (someone) to
obliger (qqn) à to force (someone) to do something
passer du temps à to spend time ___-ing
se préparer à to prepare oneself to
recommencer à to begin ___-ing again
renoncer à to give up doing something
réfléchir à to consider ___-ing
réussir à to succeed in ___-ing
rêver à to dream of ___-ing

 

 

Verb + à + indirect object
Un complement d’objet indirect (an  indirect object) is the person or thing that to or for whom something is done.

       J’ai envoyé une carte à ma mère.
       I sent my mother a card.

Who received the card? Ma mère. This is the indirect object.

       J’ai envoyé un texto à Marc, mais il n’a pas répondu.
       I sent a text to Marc, but he didn’t respond.

Who got my text message? Marc. This is the indirect object.

This example is pretty easy for English speakers since we also say “to send to someone,” but some of these verbs in the list below can be a bit problematic. À, we’re taught, means to or at. Why on earth do you borrow a book TO someone? Or taste TO something? It’s natural to wonder these things when you’re first starting to learn a language because it’s what we’re used to. However, we have to keep in mind that French and English aren’t the same thing. Take a look at the list below and commencez à la mémoriser (start to memorize it)!

acheter à to buy from
assister à qqch  to attend (something – class, meeting,…)
conseiller à to advise
croire à to believe something
demander qqch à qqn to ask someone something
désobéir à to disobey
dire à to say/tell
donner qqch à qqun to give someone something
emprunter qqch à qqn to borrow something from someone
être à to belong to
faire attention à to pay attention to
goûter à quelque chose to taste something
s’intéresser à to be interested in
jouer à to play (game or sport)
manquer à to miss someone
s’opposer à to oppose
pardonner à to forgive
parler à to talk to
penser à to think of / about
plaire à to please
profiter à to benefit / take advantage of something
réfléchir à to reflect upon / consider
répondre à to answer
ressembler à to resemble
songer à to dream of
téléphoner à to call
voler qqch à qqn to steal something from someone

 

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About the Author: Josh Dougherty

Just your typical francophile. If you have any topics you'd like me to discuss, feel free to let me know!


Comments:

  1. Linda Rightmire:

    Greetings, I think you’ve suggested you might address problems or questions re usage. I have been wondering about planifier / projeter / prévoir. I was thinking I could get away with planifier since it’s like English, but now I’m learning that it doesn’t handle what I’m trying to say, often. Like if I’m planning a trip, planning my town day (errands), making a big plan for objectives (for myself) over the next few months…. Could you give some usage suggestions re these three verbs?

    We value your blog a lot! Merci!

    (Planning our trip to France!) 🙂