I'd like to have a better understanding of the rules for linking two nouns together with à or de. For example:

l'homme aux yeux bleus
la femme au parapluie
une tasse de café
une chemise à rayures bleues
un sandwich au jambon
une carte de crédit

This is a nice example of a situation in French where I understand just fine what each of the phrases means, but I'm a little fuzzy on how to correctly produce them myself. For example, when using à, when do you use an article as well? Seems like it's only when à means "with", or "accompanied by", rather than when it expresses purpose, use, function (une tasse à thé). But I feel like there are other subtleties I might be missing, and I haven't been able to find a comprehensive reference in French.

  • Am I right that you are more interested in the use of article (or its absence) than in the à preposition? – Un francophone Sep 21 '16 at 12:54
  • Hmm, I guess that's true--although I think my confusion about whether or not to use an article with à is part of a slight general fuzziness about how to use à, de, en, etc. to link nouns. – Alan O'Donnell Sep 21 '16 at 12:58
  • Could you please edit your question and title to clearly state if you want to know 1) when not to place an article or 2) how to chose between de and à. By the way, it is tasse DE café and not tasse à café in your example, – radouxju Sep 21 '16 at 13:37
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    @radouxju How do we know if OP wants a cup of coffee or a coffee cup? – None Sep 21 '16 at 13:48
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    Does the answer to Why is an article needed in “café au lait”, but not in “verre à vin”? answer you question too? – None Sep 21 '16 at 13:52