de” or “ d’ ” is one of the most important preposition and word in French. It generally means “of or from”, but it has quite many other meanings and uses than that. It’s often confused with the preposition “à which generally means “to, at or in”.

de” has two contracted forms: with the masculine definite article “le” and the plural definite article “les”.

 

de  +  le  =  “du”   –   Il est à côté du cinéma, He is next to the cinema

de  +  les  =  “des”   –   C’est un chien des montagnes, It’s a dog of the mountains

 

But it doesn’t contract itself with the feminine definite article “la” and the article with elision “ l’

 

de   +   la  stays  “de la”   –   C’est près de la rue, It’s near the street

de   +   l’  stays  “de l’ ”   –   Je viens de l’hôpital, I’m coming from the hospital

 

The different uses of “de” in French:

1)  For a possession:

 Le chat de mon frère > My brother’s cat

 Un livre de la bibliothèque > A book of the library

 

2)  For a starting point or an origin:

 Je pars de Paris > I leave from Paris

 Je viens du Canada > I come from Canada

 

3)  To describe something:

 Une tasse de café > A cup of coffee

 Un film d’action > An action movie

 

4)  For a means or a manner of doing something:

 Être de bonne humeur > To be in a good mood

 Écrire de la main gauche > To write with one’s left hand

 

5)  For a cause or a reason:

 Il pleure de joie > To cry out of happiness (have tears of joy)

 Je suis fatigué du voyage > I’m tired from the trip

 

6)  For a reference point (with “à”):

 Il est à 10 mètres de moi > He is at 10 meters from me

 Le restaurant est à 30 minutes du musée > The restaurant is at 30 minutes from the museum

 

The preposition “de” and French verbs:

1 –  First, “de” is often used after some verbs and expressions when they are followed by an infinitive. You will notice that in English, it has two possible translations: an infinitive (to choose to do smth) or a gerund (to finish eating).

There are many of them, but here are 10 of the most common ones:

  • Accepter de … > to accept to … / to agree to …

 J’accepte de travailler pour vous > I agree to work for you

 

  • Avoir peur de … > be afraid of …-ing

 Il a peur de blesser quelqu’un > He is afraid of hurting someone

 

  • Choisir de … > to choose to …

 Tu as choisi de prendre ce chemin > You chose to take this path

 

  • Continuer de > to continue …-ing

 Ils continuent d’aller de l’avant > They continue to move forward

 

  • Décider de … > to decide to …

 Nous aidons à construire cette maison > We are helping to build this house

 

  • Dire (à quelqu’un) de > to tell (someone) to …

 J’ai dit à Simon de rentrer à la maison > I told Simon to go back home

 

  • Finir de … > to finish …-ing

 Est-ce qu’on peut finir de manger ? > Can we finish eating?

 

  • Promettre de … > to promise to …

 Vous avez promis de retrouver son livre > You promised to find his book

 

  • Regretter de … > to regret …-ing

 Je regrette d’avoir fait une telle chose > I regret having done such a thing

 

  • Venir de (faire quelque chose) > to have just (done something)

 Ils viennent d’arriver à l’aéroport > They have just arrived at the airport

 

2 –  Besides, “de” is also used after some French verbs and expressions when they need an indirect object.

  • Avoir besoin de … > to need …

 J’ai besoin d’un stylo > I need a pen

 

  • S’approcher de > to get near … / to get close to …

 Ne t’approches pas de cette rivière > Don’t get close to this river

 

  • Jouer de … > to play (an instrument)

 Tu joues du piano > You play piano

 

  • Manquer de … > to lack …

 Il manque de courage > He lacks courage

 

  • Se moquer de > to make fun of

 Ils se moquent de moi > They are making fun of me

 

  • S’occuper de … > to take care of … / to deal with … / to look after …

 Elle va s’occuper des enfants > She will look after the kids

 

  • Partir de > to leave …

 Il faut que je parte d’ici > I have to leave this place

 

  • Profiter de … > to take the opportunity to … /to take advantage of … / to make the most of …

 J’ai profité de cette opportunité > I took advantage of this opportunity

 

  • Se souvenir de … > to remember …

 Je me souviendrai toujours de toi > I will always remember you

 

  • Se tromper de (quelque chose) … > to take/get  the wrong (thing)

 Nous nous sommes trompés de route > We took the wrong road

 

Additional notes:

de” (and its object) can be replaced by the adverbial pronoun “en” when it’s followed by an inanimate noun (not a person):

 

 J’ai profité de cette opportunité > I took advantage of this opportunity

 J’en ai profité > I took advantage of it