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In French, one can say

le parc aux pirates

While "des" may translate to "of the", "aux" can mean it too.

Which one should I use, and why should I use it?

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    On a first approximation, "Le parc aux pirates"=le parc où il y a des pirates. "Le parc des pirates"=le parc qui appartient aux pirates.
    – MasB
    Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 19:57

1 Answer 1

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"Aux" & "des" are articles contractés meaning "à les" & "de les". The rule applied here is the one of the usage of the prépositions "à" and "de" for appartenance (genitive, ownership).

The first answer is that "Le parc aux pirates" is a faulty expression, not grammatically correct, because you should use "des" ("de les") to express possession with names and nouns, quite like "'s" in English ("pirate's park").

The second one is that it have been well accepted form centuries in the popular language. That's why you can hear and see "parc aux pirates", "marché aux puces", "l'Anse Aux Anglais", "fils à papa", "barbe à papa", "bête à bon dieu"... But... You'll never see "parc aux princes" because we speak about princes, which are less... popular than the pirates are.

The third is that it could be grammatically correct, if it's used in a sentence with a verb: "le parc appartenant aux pirates est abandonné.","Mais qui est donc le propiétaire de ce parc? Ce parc est aussurément aux pirates."

The last answer is a synthesis and an answer to the "which one", generally speaking.

  • never use "à" ("aux") in formal language to express ownership.
  • exception #1 expressions and locations names.
  • exception #2 used with a pronom personnel: "Leur parc à eux", "un ami à moi", "Son livre à elle"
  • exception #3 used in a sentence with a verb to put emphasis on the ownership of the object.
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    I wouldn't say it's not correct, since it's pretty common (though it doesn't necessarily express ownership): La Butte-Aux-Cailles, La Ville-Aux-Dames, Pré-au-Lard, ... Commented May 2, 2023 at 13:11
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    D'ailleurs je pensais que la Butte-Aux-Cailles était une butte sur lequel vivait une abondance de cailles mais apparemment non, ça vient de Pierre Caille qui en est devenu propriétaire. Commented May 2, 2023 at 13:14
  • @TeleportingGoat there's a lot to say about this question (ownership or not). Je n'en mettrai pas ma main à couper, but it seems that there is always an expression of ownership, sometimes not a real one. "Pré-au-Lard" is of course not a meadow owned by some beacon ;) , but a settlement build on a meade where there was hogs (which where not the stricto sensu owners of the meadow). In "Pré-au-Lard", the translator added a beautiful -and realistic, because it's something that you often found in french places names- synecdoque, but the meaning remain the same.
    – Pierre
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 7:20

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