The question is on the text as highlighted in this passage from chapter 5 of La porte étroite by André Gide.

La crainte de t’inquiéter ne me laisse pas te dire combien je t’attends, m’écrivait-elle vers la fin de l’été. Chaque jour à passer avant de te revoir pèse sur moi, m’oppresse.


Is jour à passer a set phrase or a model I can use for any noun and verb?


If the latter, I would be able to use the "noun + à + verb" form for any noun and verb combination so long as it make sense.

For example, because we can say,

Je vois un film

that gives us,

un film à voir

to mean,

a movie to watch.

Similarly, you can generate the French equivalent of things to say, dogs to feed, people to visit etc. all on the same model.

Or the model is restricted in its availability somehow. The extreme case of this would be jour à passer as a set phase.

I am reminded of de quoi vivre, which doesn't seem to extend itself to just any verb.

1 Answer 1


I'm conflicted. You said "Can I use it with any word, as long as it makes sense ?", I think you answered the question yourself. When you can't use it, it's when it doesn't make sense.

But it's the same with "de quoi vivre", you can use it with anything as long as it makes sense. Here are some examples :

On lui a donné de quoi manger

J'ai acheté de quoi faire une tarte aux pommes

So, of course, there are some verbs with which it doesn't make any sense, but there is no list of verbs that work. It's the same with "noun + à + verb".

You could get clever and find a use that makes sense that most people don't think of, like "Chaque jour à passer".

You never asked for the meaning, and there are two, so I want to be sure you got it right. I believe the two meanings also exist in English. It can either mean :

  • Something you can do :

    I found something to eat

    J'ai trouvé quelque chose à manger

  • Something you have to do :

    I got homework to finish

    J'ai des devoirs à finir

So if you say "C'est vraiment un film à voir" it means you've got to watch this movie. And "Chaque jour à passer avant de te revoir [...]" means "Every day I have to spend before seeing you again [...]".

So yes, you could use it with anything as long as it makes sense. I don't think it's more or less limited than "de quoi +verb", it just means different things.

Just to be sure, "de quoi +verb" means something between "enough to/what I need to/the bare minimum to + verb". It's like there is a threshold of things you absolutely need in order to do something, and if you have those things or more you have de quoi do the thing.

Note that with locations it can be not à :

I just want a place to sleep

Je veux juste un endroit dormir

I think the difference is because the verbs with which you can say "noun + à + verb" are all transitive. You can visit something, (thus you can say "un endroit à visiter") but not "sleep something" (well you can sleep hours, not a place).

  • Un endroit à visiter /un endroit où dormir. (A place to visit / a place to sleep) !
    – None
    Jan 7, 2017 at 19:30
  • @Laure Bien vu merci ! La préposition à couvre tellement de choses qu'on a vite fait de mélanger des choses qui n'ont rien à voir... Jan 7, 2017 at 19:48
  • Thank you particularly for answering questions I ought to have asked but didn't.
    – Catomic
    Jan 8, 2017 at 0:25
  • Par rapport à ton commentaire : la préposition à a toujours un sens de visée, ça tient au sens du verbe qui est dans ce cas complément du nom. Par rapport à ton edit : je ne vois pas en quoi le verbe qui précède à+infinitif peut influer. Quand tu emploies tu n'as plus de complément de nom mais une proposition infinitive. Je rêve d'un bel endroit à visiter. Je veux juste un endroit où dormir.
    – None
    Jan 8, 2017 at 7:25
  • @Laure je me trompe peut-être, mais je me souviens pas avoir parlé du verbe précédant à + infinitif. Jan 8, 2017 at 11:39

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