Bonjour !

Today I would like to talk to you about a common difficulty encountered by learners. Whether to use à or de when the verb isn't directly followed by a complement. As a matter of fact, a lot of English verbs function the same way but when it comes to French, it's difficult to choose which preposition follows (if any). This common confusion comes from the fact that most of the time, it's a question of knowing what follows rather than logically use one or the other. There isn't a sure way to guess.

Today I will share with you a list of those verbs and structures, along with some examples.

C'est parti !

The categories of verbs:

1) Les verbes intransitifs

Forget the barbaric names: these verbs function very easily. Basically, they do not need a complement.

If I tell you "Je cours" (I run / I am running), "Je dors" (I sleep / I am sleeping) or "Je conduis" (I drive / I am driving) you will perfectly understand.

They can have a complement but don't need one to be correct semantically. It makes sense as it it.

2) Les verbes transitifs directs

On the other hand the transitive verbs do need a complement or the sentence will simply make no sense.

I I say "J'aime" (I like) "Je veux" (I want) or "Je vois" (I see), you will be left wondering what?

These verbs are direct, which means the complement directly follows the verb.

Ex: Je connais ton frère. = I know your brother.

J'ai lu ce livre. = I read this book.

Je bois un café. = I drink a coffee.

3) Les verbes transitifs indirects

These are the tricky ones. Indeed, they follow the same pattern as the transitive indirect but, they will be followed by a preposition. The big problem here is that there is not much of a logical reason to choose à over de. And, there is going to be a lot of times when knowing what goes with what will matter in grammar (pronom COD / COI, pronoms relatifs...)

Here's a list of the main verbs with examples and a cheatsheet to dowload with 50 verbs, their preposition and definition.

Common examples:

  • Penser à

= Je pense à mes amis très souvent.

= I think about my friends very often.

  • Parler de + topic

= Je parle de mon frère. ( de quoi tu parles ? )

= I talk about my brother.

  • Parler à + interlocutor

= Je parle à mon frère.

= I talk to my brother.

  • Appartenir à + person

= Ce téléphone appartient (est) à Lucie.

= This phone belongs to Lucie.

  • Choisir de + verb

= Il a choisi de partir.

= He chose to leave.

  • Décider de + verb

Vous avez décidé de rester.

= You decided to stay.

verbe transitif indirect learn french grammar online

  • Avoir besoin de + noun /verb

= J’ai besoin de prendre mes médicaments.

= I need to take my medicine.

  • Aider à + verb

= On aide à nettoyer le jardin.

= We help to clean the garden.

  • Oublier de + verb

= Je n’ai pas oublié de t’acheter un cadeau !

= I didn’t forget to buy you a present!

  • Avoir envie de + complement

= J’ai envie de manger une glace.

= I feel like eating an ice cream. (I want - syn)

  • Essayer de + verb

= Est-ce que tu as essayé de téléphoner?

= Did you try to call?

  • Commencer à + verb

J’ai commencé à fumer il y a 2 ans.

= I started smoking 2 years ago.

  • Arrêter de + verb

= Je vais arrêter de grignoter le mois prochain.

= I will stop chewing (eating outside of meals.) next month.

  • Hésiter à

= N’hésitez pas à m’appeler !

= Don’t hesitate to call me!

  • Conseiller de + verb

= Je vous conseille de vous reposer.

= I advise you to rest.

  • S’habituer à + verb = to get used to

= Nous nous habituons à la chaleur.

= We are getting used to the heat.