2

Les is the plural "the" so I'm confused as to why we would also need "aux" as it is used as "the" in a plural form.

Can somebody clarify when we would use each one?

5

The word aux is neither more nor less than combining à + les.

Therefore, if you find yourself writing à as in at, to, in, etc., followed by les, use aux instead of either of them.

J'ai envoyé des lettres à les premiers ministres.

J'ai envoyé des lettres aux premiers ministres.

This can even combine in unexpected places, e.g. titles of books.

Notre-Dame de Paris est peu sentimentale, comparé aux Misérables.

It's important to know that this only applies to les the definite article, not les the direct object pronoun.

— Est-ce que vous les lisez actuellement ?

— J'ai pensé à les lire, mais non, pas encore.

It might sound complex, but there are no exceptions, so that's a help.

Also, the exact same rules apply to au (à + le), des (de + les), and du (de + le).

  • So I'm still a little confused. If I say: ils sont heureux ensemble parcel qu'ils jouer aux cartes. Why is it aux cartes and not les cartes. – CanadianGirl Mar 17 at 19:28
  • @Stephanie In English you "play cards" but in French the verb is jouer à — both parts are key. You can check this on WordReference. You'll notice multiple entries on that page. The first couple, jouer, are for playing as in "The kids are playing." The next two, jouer à, are for games and sports. The next one, jouer de, is for musical instruments. And there are still more. The number is a little intimidating, but the idea is to look for the one that's most appropriate to your context. I find WordReference's notes are pretty good for that. – Luke Sawczak Mar 17 at 19:36
  • So when I say he likes to play cards it's "à les" as in "to the"... he likes TO play THE cards? – CanadianGirl Mar 17 at 19:40
  • @Stephanie Not quite, because both of those words should be between "play" and "cards". Unfortunately it's just not going to sound good in word-for-word translation: "He likes to play [at the] cards." Funny enough, in the 19th century we used to say "I play at cards" in English too, but it died out. Nowadays this is one of the many times when we have to go beyond word-for-word translation and just accept that this is how French talks about playing a game or sport. – Luke Sawczak Mar 17 at 19:49
  • 1
    Thanks for the explanation!!! I have bookmarked that word reference page for the future :) – CanadianGirl Mar 17 at 19:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.