« soupe à l'oignon »

« soupe de poisson »

I want to know why I need to use "à" for one and "de" for the other.

« soupe à l'oignon »

« soupe de poisson »

What I also cannot understand is why "oignon" is accompanied by the definite article, but not "poisson"?

  • 2
    Soupe à l'onion means soup with onions in it. Whereas soupe de poisson is actually a soup made out of fish where the fish is not visible like the onions in the French onion soup. Even though in English, we say French onion soup and fish soup, in French the à la goes means having x in it. Whereas the DE means OUT OF IT. So, soup with onions versus soup made out of fish. We don't make the distinction in English.
    – Lambie
    Nov 15, 2016 at 18:37
  • Take a look at the picture: cuisineactuelle.fr/recettes/soupe-de-poisson-facile-198208 There is no fish visible because it has been ground up.
    – Lambie
    Nov 15, 2016 at 18:39
  • @Lambie: L'article soupe de Wikipédia est illustré par une soupe de poisson où les morceaux sont bien visibles. Quand les morceaux ne sont pas visibles, on parle plutôt de velouté ou de moulinée, voire de bisque pour les crustacés.
    – mouviciel
    Nov 17, 2016 at 14:52

1 Answer 1


soupe à l'oignon means soup with onion, whereas soupe de poisson refers more to soup that is made of fish.
If you had soupe au poisson, it would mean that it's a soup with fish in it, and on the opposite if you had soupe d' oignon, it would be a soup which mostly consists of onion.

And I guess the article l' is here for the same reason, and there is an article in the sentence soupe au poisson (it has undergone an elision, au is the contraction of à le)

The difference is quite not obvious, even more if French is not your mothertongue.

Can't argue it's like, the classiest language ever, though.

  • 1
    Indeed you could have (on a restaurant menu): soupe de poisson à l'oignon.
    – fralau
    Nov 19, 2016 at 18:26
  • Usage is king. It's the way it's said. You may find some slight differences in meaning, but those are just "expressions toute faites" (idiomatics).
    – XouDo
    Aug 23, 2021 at 12:55

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