TL/DR: How do you acquire and master adpositions in a L2? Please do not answer that only further exposure, practice or time are needed; they do not aid advanced L2 learners.

Optional Reading: A native Anglophone, one family friend:
- majored in linguistics as an undergraduate;
- has been studying French as a L2, for over 50 years since kindergarten;
- has been living in France and communicates in French daily, for over 40 years;
- and so is now almost fluent in French.

Though he uses all Lexical and other Functional Morphemes perfectly, he still errs with adpositions. For example, he continues to confuse à with de with en with sur, or forgets which should be used. So he is interested in this question.

  • Hmm, I'm perplexed by your almost identical question here: spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/15787/…
    – jlliagre
    Jan 15, 2016 at 20:08
  • @jlliagre Sorry for any offense; I asked this question also for Spanish out of caution; not knowing enough about Spanish, I wonder whether learning adpositions for Spanish differs?
    – user1995
    Jan 15, 2016 at 20:15
  • 1
    If exposure, practice and time didn't aid an advanced L2 learner with 40 years of daily communication in French not to confuse à, de, en and sur, the best and only advice would be to give up. It isn't worth insisting. In any case, this is far less likely to happen between French L1 and Spanish L2 as these languages are much closer.
    – jlliagre
    Jan 15, 2016 at 20:42

2 Answers 2


bonjour, voici ma contribution sur ce point:1- lorsque l'on remarque un emploi de préposition on peut réutiliser immédiatement cet emploi dans sa réponse à l'interlocuteur exemple: j'ai eu conscience de ce problème bla bla bla, réponse: moi j'ai eu conscience d'un autre problème..., cette solution oblige à être attentif puis actif,par conséquent on retient mieux cet exemple, ensuite on accumule les exemples. cela appartient à un des épisodes finaux de l'acquisition d'une langue 2- le fait d'adopter une attitude positive, je vais y arriver, je vais faire attention, opposé à je n'y arriverait jamais, est un moyen d'avancer même si cela vous parait banal.Ces réponses sont issues de mon expérience personnelle d'apprenti et d'enseignante.Je crois qu'on n'en a jamais fini et qu'il faut toujours rester attentif Lise


The question and background information indicate that the problem is behavioral rather than linguistic. Perhaps you could use negative conditioning to avoid repeating past mistakes. For example, when you use the wrong adposition, snap a rubber band which you wear around your wrist. Associating pain with the mistake will make you more alert and motivated next time you have an opportunity to use the correct adposition.

  • What sort of behavior would impede familiarity with prepositional affinity? I found your answer "surprising". That's tongue-in-cheek right?
    – user3177
    Jan 20, 2016 at 3:39
  • Not at all. The OP is familiar with the correct prepositions but fails to use them correctly after decades of exposure and study. Snapping oneself with a rubber band is an effective form of adverse conditioning, and is more discrete than smacking oneself on the forehead.
    – rolfedh
    Jan 20, 2016 at 18:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.