PreS: Sorry for the length of this post. I feel like it was important for me to write out explicitly my investigations, because it feels like I repeatedly run into this question every year. Even if I don't arrive at an understanding of my questions, writing this out explicitly will help me investigate my confusion when it comes up again in future months.

I learned early that indirect objects require being introduced by a preposition (often à or de). I also learned that the same verb (eg "Parler") will have different meanings, and if you want to use one meaning, you must use à, and to use a different meaning, you must use de.

For example, two pages written for learners of French are this page about "Penser", and this page that tell me that there are eight different verbs that change their meaning, depending on if à or de are used.

This is the contents of the rest of this question:

  1. First, I investigate if the WordReference pages for "Penser" and "Parler" can give me the same information as those pages written for learners of French give me. I will come to the conclusion that, yes, I can get that information from WR.

  2. I then investigate similar questions about "Porter" to mean "to wear something". I came to understand (in a different question I posted), that when porter means "to wear something", it is always "Porter DE qqch", and I wanted to see if WordReference could give me this information. After looking up "porter" on WR, I end up being confused, which led me to write this question.

INVESTIGATING: DOES WordReference EXPLAIN Parler à VS Parler de?

This is the WordReference page for parler. If I look through all its entries where it says "vtr ind" ("indirectly transitive verb"), I see that all the WR entries that mean "talk about something" (ie in the English translation on the right column) use "de qqch", and all entries that mean "talk to someone" use "à qqn".

There are about five entries to look at with meanings of "talk about something" or "talk to someone". Two of them are in the screenshot below:

Two entries from parler

I can conclude, then, that I must use "de qch" if I want to use "parler" to mean "talk about something", and "à qqn" if I want to mean "talk to someone".

INVESTIGATING: DOES WordReference EXPLAIN Penser à VS Penser de?

Similarly, looking at all the entries for penser, there is only one entry with "penser de":

penser de

Strangely, it says "vtr + prep" instead of "vtr ind". I'm assuming that "vtr + prep" means "This entry requires a direct object ("vtr"), and a prepositional-indirect-object ("+ prep")" (and that "prep" means prepositional-indirect-object, instead of a dative-indirect-object nor a locative-indirect-object).

Anyways, I can skim through all the entries, and I can see that "penser de qch" means "to have an opinion about something", and the other entries have meanings closer to "to have consideration for something/someone" or "to remember someone". To corroborate this guess of mine, I use Google Translate to translate this page, so that I can translate the French definitions (in brackets, in the middle column).


So, it seems that I can use WordReference to get similar information about "Parler à" vs "Parler de", and "Penser à" vs "Penser de", as the websites that explicitly explain this to beginners.


In a recent question, the following two sentences were mentioned. They both use "porter" to mean "to wear [clothing or accessories]":

  • Elle ne voulut plus porter d'autre bonnet que celui-ci.
    Elle ne voulut plus en porter d'autre

  • Elle portait des jolies perles roses.
    Elle en portait des roses.

(Looking at the WordReference page):

I wondered if "porter" to mean "to wear clothing" always required "de" (that is, is it always "Porter DE qqch"?), so I looked at the WR page for "porter". There was only one entry that seemed to be about wearing clothing:

enter image description here

There are two concerns that come to my mind:

  • All the example sentences use "de". However, this entry does not say "porter de [qqch]" on the left column.

So I am confused, now:

  1. When I use "porter" to mean "wear clothing", must I always use "de", or is it just a coincidence that the example sentences all use "de"? Is it impossible to say, for example, "I wear my red shoes every Monday" ("Je portes mes souliers rouge chaque lundi") or "I wear the red shoes that my friend gave me, every Monday" ("Je portes les souliers que mon ami m'a données, chaque lundi")? (I'm intentionally asking about 'les' and 'mes', by the way, because these are definite determiners, which have consequences on if I can use the pronoun 'en' with these sentences)

(Looking at the Collins tab on the WR page):

When I take a look at the Collins tab of the WordReference page, I don't get any more help in understanding if "porter" requires a "de", when it means "to wear clothing". It does show me, however, an example sentence that says "Elle porte une jolie robe bleue". This sentence doesn't use "de".

enter image description here

I might make a guess that if I use "porter" to mean "to wear clothing", I don't have to use "de" to introduce the object, but that (maybe??) it will always be an indefinite noun phrase? And that that's why I was told in a different question that it's always "Porter DE something" when talking about wearing clothing?


So, given all of the above, I have many questions.

About the specific usage of "porter":

  1. Is it possible to say "I wear my red shoes every Monday" ("Je portes mes souliers rouge chaque lundi") or "I wear the red shoes that my friend gave me, every Monday" ("Je portes les souliers que mon ami m'a données, chaque lundi")?

About "vtr ind" vs "vtr + prep":

  1. When investigating "Penser de", I posted a screenshot; I noticed the WordReference entry said "vtr + prep" instead of "vtr ind". Was I correct in my guess that "vtr + prep" means "When using this verb with this meaning, it requires a direct-object, and then an prepositional-indirect-object"?

About French-English dictionaries:

  1. Should I expect a good French-English dictionary to always tell me when an indirect object requires to be introduced by a specific preposition, such as à or de, or some other preposition? And will a good French-English dictionary tell me about a change in meaning that will occur when using à vs using de (as in Parler à vs Parler de or Penser à vs Penser de)? Or is this information that French-English dictionaries are not meant to provide, and I'm only lucky if I can make guesses about this when looking up the word in a French-English dictionary?

  2. I notice that the "Porter" entry in WR does not say "vtr ind". Is porter in fact taking a direct object in each of the following sentences? If that is the case, then part of my confusion (in this entire post) might be confusing "de is required for some indirect objects (and you can look up whether an indirect object requires de vs à)" versus "some direct objects start with de (but you get to decide whether that direct object starts with de, une, les, etc; and a dictionary isn't relevant for telling you about this)".

    • "Elle portait des jolies perles roses."
    • "Elle ne voulut plus porter d'autre bonnet que celui-ci."
    • "Ma collègue aime porter des bijoux clinquants."
    • "Elle porte une jolie robe bleue."
  • Word to the wise: certain verbs take de, others take à. Those that take de, have en as the pronoun. Those that take à have y, as the pronoun. Rome was not built in a day. Here is more on this: la-conjugaison.nouvelobs.com/fle/…
    – Lambie
    Jun 13, 2021 at 1:28
  • Je porte des chaussures plates tous les jours. >**J'en** porte tous les jours. Je porte les chaussures de ma soeur tous les jours.> Je les portes tous les jours. It is not "porter de"; it's porter |des chaussures|. porter |des perles| etc.
    – Lambie
    Jun 13, 2021 at 1:31
  • @Lambie that example (with "des chaussures" vs "les chaussures") is useful to me. Is it also Je portes mes chaussures neufs tous les jours > Je les portes tous les jours ?
    – silph
    Jun 13, 2021 at 1:34
  • Yes, that's exactly it. But in general, you will not learn all the nuances between, say, penser à and penser de in one go. It takes time. You have to be patient.
    – Lambie
    Jun 13, 2021 at 1:35
  • 2
    A small correction: Je portes mes chaussures neuves tous les jours. Using mettre instead of porter would be more common : Je met mes chaussures neuves tous les jours. Of course, shoes quickly cease to be neuves when they are worn every day ;-)
    – jlliagre
    Jun 14, 2021 at 9:31

1 Answer 1

  1. Yup, those sentences are fine.

  2. Yup, and your "Strangely" paragraph explains it well (and why it's not so strange).

  3. Yup, you should expect that. Barring omissions, the dictionary should list the preposition that goes with the verb if it requires one. Why? Because this choice can't be reliably determined by any rule or by the meaning of the preposition -- even if generalizations about the meanings of de and à sometimes work.

  4. Yup, porter takes a direct object, the thing worn. You've stated your confusion correctly. It's a coincidence that all the examples on WR use de, because it's not the preposition de but the partitive article de. Hence any article could be used in that slot. « Je veux porter les pantalons bleus » or « Je porte une chemise » or « Je porterai mon chapeau » are all OK.

Note that in « Elle ne voulut plus porter d'autre bonnet que celui-ci », de is substited for the article as a predictable grammatical rule following negation. However, according to the comments, it would also be possible to say « Elle ne voulut plus porter un autre bonnet que celui-ci » in the event that the speaker had in mind a particular « autre bonnet », as opposed to no longer wanting other « bonnets » in general.

  • as an extra thanks, the last paragraph was useful to me. i completely forgot about that grammar rule about "de" after a negation; and this explains why my brain was a little unfamiliar with "d'autre bonnet" (whereas, my brain would not be unfamiliar with "un autre bonnet". i appreciate you thinking about what my brain might be missing, that i don't realize that i'm missing!
    – silph
    Jun 13, 2021 at 3:59
  • I wouldn't say plus porter un autre bonnet que celui-ci is not grammatical. This form exists but has a different meaning. Instead of she didn't want to wear any other "bonnet" than that one, its meaning is something like: she didn't want to wear again a specific "bonnet" different from that one. A little convoluted in this case.
    – jlliagre
    Jun 13, 2021 at 7:01
  • @jlliagre Thanks -- can you elaborate to help me understand? Which part is contributing "specific"? (The exact rules of "de" after "negation" I'm not entirely familiar with)
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jun 13, 2021 at 14:00
  • Well, this is not accurate: "[I] came to understand (in a different question I posted), that when porter means "to wear something", it is always "Porter DE qqch." Porter des chaussures will trigger en. porter la robe, will not. I tried to make that point several times, and think, at the end, the OP did understand it.
    – Lambie
    Jun 13, 2021 at 16:03
  • @Lambie You're right. If I read OP's question right, I think that was his starting point, and by the end he got it straightened out... hopefully.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jun 13, 2021 at 16:06

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