Le RAFEO est un programme d'aide financière visant à vous aider à payer vos études au collège ou à l'université.

I do not understand how to use a dictionary to translate "payer vos études au collège".

Here we have "payer [noun] à [noun]". I know (from the English brochure) that this is supposed to mean something like "pay for your studies", though I don't know if it's actually grouping "études au collège" together ("pay for your studies belonging to the college") or instead it's "payer [noun] au collège" ("pay for your studies to the college").

The wordreference page for "payer" does not have an entry for payer à, so I'm confused on how to understand "au collège".

And some of the entries are confusing to me: one entry seems to have an entry "pay something" (as in "pay rent money"), and another entry seems to have "pay [for something] [some amount]", though I don't know how to read the second definition in the dictionary:

a) pay rent

This seems to say "payer [noun]" means "to pay by handing noun (to someone)". Here, the rent (ie rent money) is being given over.

Thus, this definition is not applicable for "payer vos études", since you're not paying the school by somehow handing over your studies (ie, handing over your textbooks and notes and assignments?!).

b) pay 20 dollars for this lamp

This does seem to say (by looking at the example sentences) "payer [noun1] [noun2]" means "pay for noun1, the amount of noun2", but I only understand that from the example sentences. From the definition itself, I am confused, because the French says "payer [qqn]", and the English says "pay [sth] for [sth]". There are two [sth]s in the English, but only one [qqn] for the French; how am I supposed to understand where the two [sth]s come from, by reading this entry?

1a) Does "payer vos études au collège" mean "Pay for your [studies belonging to the college]", "Pay for your studies [(by giving money) to the college]", "pay for your studies [(while standing) in/at the college]", "pay for your [studies at the college]", or something else?

1b) How am I supposed to know if I'm suppose to group the à with the verb payer ("payer à"), or instead if I'm supposed to group the à with the "études" (so that it's "payer [noun]", where the noun is "études au collège")?

1c) How do I use a dictionary to understand "payer vos études au collège", ie "payer [noun1] à [noun2]"?

1d) How do I underestand the "payer" dictionary entry (shown above) that has one [qch] ("payer [qch]") but two [sth]s ("pay [sth] for [sth]")?

In "payer vos études au collège", why does collège use the definite article? That is, why is it "au collège" instead of "à collège" or "à un collège"?

1 Answer 1


1A. It does mean "Pay for your [studies belonging to the college]","pay for your studies [(while standing) in/at the college]", "pay for your [studies at the college]" since these three seem to have a pretty identical meaning to me. You could also translate to "Pay for your [college studies]"

1B. Not much to do here but looking at the context of the sentence and identifying the correct word groups i'm afraid

1C. Again the problem you have with the sentence is that you weren't searching for the intended sentence structure, and for the other cases, here's a valid example: "Payer le loyer au propriétaire" => "Pay the rent to your landlord"

1D. I don't understand very well what you mean by that, but in most cases when there are two subjects in an english sentence it's also the case in french (see your problem above for this particular case)

  1. Because here it's not the college as in national college of Paris for example, but college as an institution (like "you're a college student")
  • why is "college as an institution" equal to "le collège"? What would "payer vos études à collège" mean / when would you use it? What would "payer vos études à un collège" mean? Which would you use if it was the national college of Paris?
    – silph
    Commented Jun 9, 2018 at 21:16
  • 1c) i don't understand your answer. are you saying that the sentence structure i was looking for in the dictionary was "payer [noun1] à [noun2]", but the correct sentence structure was "payer [noun]"? if so, how was I to know that "études au collège" was supposed to be grouped together to be one noun?
    – silph
    Commented Jun 9, 2018 at 21:34
  • 1
    1st comment : you never say "à collège" or "à lycée" in this context, because "payer pour ses études à collège" would mean that "collège" is a place, instead of an institution. "payer vos études à un collège" would be understandable but maybe a bit less accurate, as "collège" would then designate a random collège instead of the institution. If the RAFEO was targeted to a specific college (throuh an exchange program let's say), i would say "payer vos études à l'université de Paris" / "pay for your studies at the national college of paris" ( "à l'université" is "à la université" shortened)
    – Lymakk
    Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 16:51
  • 2nd comment : You are right, the structure that you had to look for was "payer [noun]", as for why, it's kinda hard to explain but i'd say in french there are many word groups that can be quite lenghty at times (try googling "COD et COI" intersting examples are bound to pop up), and that you just have to get used to including that king of possibilty, mainly by paying extra attention to the context of a sentence (both before and after the sentence). (sorry if i'm being unclear, i just started on this stackechange and realize it's quite hard to explain the roundabouts of my mothertongue ^^ )
    – Lymakk
    Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 16:55

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