I can usually understand when to use one of these words in a sentence, like the following examples:

je vais au parc pour jouer au foot

normalement je me réveille très tôt parce qu'il y a beaucoup à faire

What I do not understand is why there is a need for the pour or the à. In a literal translation, they sound fine without the preposition. Could someone explain to me why they are needed, and under which circumstances would you use each of the given prepositions over the other?

Thank you in advance.


Pour means in order to, with the purpose of. Use that as a test.

Note that the syntactic environment is also different between the two cases. The pour version modifies a sentence; the à version modifies a noun phrase.

I could conceivably say

je vais au parc à jouer au foot

but that would imply the sentence structure

je vais au (parc à jouer au foot)

that is to say, it would assume there is a specific kind of park with the purpose of playing football (in), known as a parc à jouer au foot (this is not actually the case), and you're saying it's one of those parks you're going to.

  • Very clear answer - merci! – 13509 Jun 28 '15 at 7:12
  • 1
    "parc à jouer au foot" sounds contrived at best and to me downright impossible. You'd say "je vais au terrain de foot" or, if you wanted to include the idea of "parc", "je vais au parc où (il) y a le terrain de foot." – user21018 Jun 25 '19 at 4:34
  • I've rephrased. If you still think it's impossible, please let us know. – reinierpost Jul 22 '19 at 17:29
  • Hi Reinier! I still think "parc à jouer au foot" is not what we'd say in French. "Parc de foot" might conceivably be ok, but "terrain de foot" is what we'd say. – user21018 Jul 22 '19 at 21:19
  • Of course, if you want to refer to a regular football pitch, but does that mean my answer is incorrect or can be improved? – reinierpost Jul 23 '19 at 10:46

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