I don't really understand why is dans used in this expression instead of avec, specially when I look up the word dans in the dictionary and only when it is used in informal context, it means with.

However, according to Ngram, the sentence with dans seems to be the one by default.

Can anyone shed some light on this?

2 Answers 2


Word-by-word translation does not always work, especially when faced with idioms. Usage indeed favours "dans le but de" over "avec le but de".

Why is it constructed this way? I have no idea and cannot find the origin.

Something about your Ngram is interesting though: the expression began to really be used in the XIXth Century. We may relate this to sports.

The « but » is the goal in sports too. The first example to come to mind is soccer, where it is the cage you have to put your ball into. Reading the history of soccer on Wikipédia, it seems to have known a great development in England around 1820-1830. France is not so far and may have taken example. Maybe there is connection, but this is speculation.

Sometimes, you just need to admit cultural differences change the way idioms are constructed and not overthink it.

  • Thank you. I guess I'm always looking for a why, instead of settling for just because. Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 23:37

One meaning (7th) of dans in your dictionary explains it well :

dans prép (indique le but de l'action) (purpose) in prep

Les hommes politiques devraient agir dans l'intérêt général.
Politicians are supposed to act in the public interest.

So I would translate "Dans le but de" by "In the aim of"

And "Avec le but de" by "With the aim of".

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