Recently, I saw this example.

Marc poussait le ballon du pied.

What's the difference between that sentence and this one?

Marc poussait le ballon avec son pied

Is de then typically used in this manner or is it only employed in certain verb constructions? Additionally, is there any name/grammatical term for this usage of de?

Also, on a side note, would the above sentence be translated differently if I used à instead?

Marc poussait le ballon à pied


1 Answer 1


1/ In the particular example chosen, the relation is not "manner" (in other words, "way"), but instead "means". You can replace "de" by "by means of" (the meaning of "de").
This is a construction that is used with mobile body parts and nouns that denote the movement thereof, but it is not always possible to combine a verb that way; the forms have to be learned one by one, although certain patterns will progressively become apparent. Below, are listed some of them using typical verbs or verbal expressions.

Body parts

  • faire signe des yeux, faire un signe de la main, faire un signe de la tête
  • pousser de la main, pousser du doigt, pousser du coude, pousser du pied
  • repousser de la main, repousser du pied
  • toucher du coude, toucher du genou,


  • faire signe d'un geste,
  • pousser d'un mouvement,
  • écarter d'un revers de main
  • rejeter/repousser/secouer d'une chiquenaude

2/ "De" is a preposition.

(TLFi) b) [Le compl. désigne une partie du corps]
− Verbe + de
Verbes d'action. Travailler de ses mains.
■ Une grande vilaine bête, lourde à soulever des genoux (Hamp, Marée,1908, p. 25).
■ Du pouce et de l'index [il] éjecta le mégot à distance appréciable (Queneau, Pierrot,1942, p. 8).Il m'a regardé de ses yeux clairs (Camus, Étranger,1942, p. 1126)
■ Dans sa hâte, elle s'était embarrassée, elle tâtonna, de la main gauche, pour saisir la rampe, qui trembla un peu. Daniel-Rops, Mort, où est ta victoire?1934, p. 2.

3/ Marc poussait le ballon à pied.

The use of "à" is not correct. The use of "à" in this sentence makes it a meaningless one.

  • mobile body parts? Really?
    – Lambie
    Jun 25, 2022 at 16:10
  • @Lambie Yes, eyes, fingers, hands, feet, elbows, can be moved, and therefore can be called mobile.
    – LPH
    Jun 25, 2022 at 16:14
  • No, we say that you can move fingers, hands, feet and elbows. We simply do not call body parts "mobile". However, a person who has difficulty walking has "limited mobility". And those who walk without difficulty are fully mobile.
    – Lambie
    Jun 25, 2022 at 17:10
  • @Lambie You are distorting grossly what is fact; I didn't say that body parts are mobile. Fingers are mobile body parts : google.com/… // SOED: capable of movement ; movable.
    – LPH
    Jun 25, 2022 at 17:45
  • 1
    @Xavier Exactly, the basic expressions "signe des yeux", "revers de la main", and others such as "claquement des doigts", are constructed on the basis of the same relation imbodied in "de" (object-subject — the hand does the waving).
    – LPH
    Jun 26, 2022 at 14:58

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