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In French it is common to use the preposition à with a definite article for a place that belongs to an institution: (See also here.)

Je vais au restaurant/cinéma/marché. (Not: Je vais à un restaurant.)

Je suis au restaurant/cinéma/marché.

If the place comes with an adjective, can we still use the same construction?

Je vais au restaurant/cinéma/marché français.

Je suis au restaurant/cinéma/marché français.

  • Please note: it would be quite uncommon to say IN French: I am going to a French restaurant. But if you did say it in French (if, say, you were in London and speaking French), you would say: Je vais à un restaurant français (as opposed to Indian, Italian or the pub). I think you might consider changing your adjective as the adjective restaurant français probably presupposes not being in France. – Lambie Jan 6 '17 at 19:44
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Saying "Je vais au restaurant/cinéma" is actually pretty different from "Je vais au restaurant/cinéma français" (which doesn't meant what you want by the way, see at the bottom).

The marché is a little different, I'll cover that later.

When you say "Je vais au restaurant/cinéma", it's a general statement about the idea of going to somewhere, while the other is about going to a specific place. It's easier to see the difference with cinéma :

I'm going to the movies

and

I'm going to a French movie theater

express different ideas. In French, the general statement will go with "au" (au restaurant, au cinéma), the specific one will go with "à un/dans un". "à un" is less correct but you might still encounter it.

Je vais dans un/(à un) restaurant/cinéma français

Je suis dans un/(à un) restaurant/cinéma français


About the marché, I said it was different, and it's because usually, there's only one. Even in big cities, you'll be referring to the closest one. It's like saying "I'm going to the city hall", it's clear which one you're talking about, so you say "the marketplace" not "a marketplace".

However, it's more rare but if you really need to say "a marketplace" you can, and it will behave the same.


"Je vais au restaurant Français" wouldn't mean "I'm going to a French restaurant" but :

"I'm going to the French restaurant", which implies you've already mentioned it. That's just a un vs le situation.

"Je vais au cinéma Français" would technically be correct, if you were in a non-French city and there was one French cinema among other local cinemas (it's the same for restaurants by the way). That's not what you would say if you're in France and go to a random cinema.

It also sounds weird for a French speaker because "cinéma Français" is a well-known word to designate the French cinema industry.

  • So should we say "Je vais dans un marché français" or "Je vais à un marché français"? – user11550 Jan 5 '17 at 10:41
  • @user11550 Both are ok. "à un marché" is maybe a little more colloquial. – Teleporting Goat Jan 5 '17 at 10:45
  • Even if the marché is outdoors, is it still correct to use the preposition dans? – user11550 Jan 5 '17 at 10:46
  • @user11550 Yep, just like we say "dans une rue". It can feel weird, even for native speakers, but that's not something we say a lot. – Teleporting Goat Jan 5 '17 at 10:59
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    @guillaume31 Actually it's not incorrect, it just doesn't mean "I'm going to a French restaurant". Thank you, I'll edit my answer. – Teleporting Goat Jan 6 '17 at 13:23
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Je vais au restaurant / cinéma / marché.

Is correct.
Using a "à un" might feel slightly like being forcefully ambiguous and feels weird. I realize that "à un" might seem more logical and appropriate, but I guess it's one of those things we shouldn't think too much about.

Je vais au restaurant / cinéma / marché français.

Can also be correct, but probably not very used.
It would mean "I am going to the french restaurant" and would imply that the listener knows which one you are referring to. Using "à un" would be the one to use if you want to say "going to a french restaurant".

  • Is it more correct to say "Je vais dans un restaurant/cinéma/marché français" than "Je vais à un restaurant/cinéma/marché français"? – user11550 Jan 5 '17 at 10:44
  • I would say "à un" unless you want to put the emphasis on going through the door and inside the building. – stack reader Jan 5 '17 at 11:01

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