In French, you will encounter a lot of compound nouns. This lesson looks at those which take the prepositions à, de or en.
Learn about compound nouns with à/de/en in French
Look at these examples:
un verre à vina wine glass (a glass for wine)
un bracelet en ora gold bracelet
un sac de cuir / un sac en cuira leather bag
une tarte aux pommesan apple tart
In English, we often simply squish nouns together to form new words for things: wine glass, snowball, ironing board, etc. (we call these compound nouns because they are formed from two nouns compounded together).
In French though, compound words like this are almost always separated byà or deorenand the meaning changes depending on which is used.
Compound nouns with à
à usually indicates what something is designed for, e.g. un verre à vin.
Note that to say a glass of wine, we use de where English uses of: e.g. un verre de vin.
Compound nouns with de / en
deor en usually implies what something is made of, e.g. un sac de cuir / un sac en cuir.
Compound nouns with à la / à l' / au / aux
Additionally, à la / à l’ / au / aux are used particularly with food to mean with, made with or flavoured with, e.g. une glace à la vanille.