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 parc to play football (in), and you're saying it's that park you're going to.

  • Very clear answer - merci! – James Wirth Jun 28 '15 at 7:12
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    "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." – petitrien yesterday

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