Compound nouns formed with noun + à + verb-infinitive

In English we often simply squash two words together to make a compound noun ("dining room"), whereas in French the two words are always joined by a preposition (à, de, en).

Look at these examples:

une planche à repasser
an ironing board

une machine à laver
a washing machine

une machine à coudre
a sewing machine

une pomme à cuire 
a cooking apple

 

Compound nouns in English formed with -ing + noun are often used to indicate function (e.g. "dining room"). In French, these typically take the form noun + à + verb-infinitive. For example, salle à manger

 

Also have a look at Compound nouns formed with prepositions à, de, en

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Préposition

Phrasal/Prepositional

Examples and resources

une machine à coudre
a sewing machine


une pomme à cuire 
a cooking apple


une machine à laver
a washing machine


une corde à sauter
a skipping rope


une planche à repasser
an ironing board


un fer à repasser
an iron (literally, "an ironing iron")


Q&A Forum 2 questions, 4 answers

Clairez-vous s'il vous plaît

So, in all literal senses, the way to further describe an item's purpose is to pair it with the action being done with/upon it. ( i.e. une planche à voile = a [  plank ] to be flown [ surf ] upon ) That is odd to say the least, but French grammar seems to be very similar to archaic English grammar. I suppose the Norman invasion is to blame for that, n'est-ce pas? When the aristocracy speak one language, and the peasants speak another, I suppose they found a nice halfway point between the two, which then evolved into modern English, a confusing tangle of rules, exceptions, and counterrules, all presided over by 5+ official institutions. 


 French is much nicer. The rules are odd, but fairly consistent. It is managed by the Àcadémie Française , and no other, has considerably less mixing, and is only truly messed up in Créole French [ The pitiful excuse for French the people of Louisiana speak ]. So even if I had to traverse the entire french-speaking world, I would find little more than dialect ( i.e. Quebècoise, Guiyanaise, Walloon, Langues d'Occitan et d'Oeil . ) Bíen faites, francophones!

Asked 1 month ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Interesting conversation chaps!

From memory, I believe that modern French evolved from the langue d' Oïl which in the middle ages was spoken in the middle top half of France whereas the bottom half spoke the langue d'Oc.

The Académie française tries to keep the purity of the French language and certainly in my younger days, seemed intent on keeping English out of it which nowadays is cause perdue I am afraid...

I also appreciate what the Académie Française is doing, even though their influence is declining. In German, there is the Duden (a reference book in 12 volumes for the German language which, as of 2017 was in its 27th edition). The Duden, however, has started to accept even the most blaring grammatical infraction as "proper German" as long as it is used by a sufficient number of people.

It is sobering to note how few people actually still have good command of their native languages, be that English or German (the languages I am most familiar with). The historical division between the "proper language" (spoken by an educated few) and the "common language" (spoken by the common people) is all but gone and the war of numbers tips the scales in favor of the common language.

The problem is that, as neuro-science shows, command of a language and the ability to speak it well reflects on how you think. Speak muddled -- think muddled.

If we give in to this and cease to challenge our students, we are slowly sliding down a slippery slope, at the end of which is a language which may be suited to talk about the weather but not about pilosophy.

Clairez-vous s'il vous plaît

So, in all literal senses, the way to further describe an item's purpose is to pair it with the action being done with/upon it. ( i.e. une planche à voile = a [  plank ] to be flown [ surf ] upon ) That is odd to say the least, but French grammar seems to be very similar to archaic English grammar. I suppose the Norman invasion is to blame for that, n'est-ce pas? When the aristocracy speak one language, and the peasants speak another, I suppose they found a nice halfway point between the two, which then evolved into modern English, a confusing tangle of rules, exceptions, and counterrules, all presided over by 5+ official institutions. 


 French is much nicer. The rules are odd, but fairly consistent. It is managed by the Àcadémie Française , and no other, has considerably less mixing, and is only truly messed up in Créole French [ The pitiful excuse for French the people of Louisiana speak ]. So even if I had to traverse the entire french-speaking world, I would find little more than dialect ( i.e. Quebècoise, Guiyanaise, Walloon, Langues d'Occitan et d'Oeil . ) Bíen faites, francophones!

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RobinA2

I need to look at all the answers more carefully

Je déteste quand je connaise une bonne réponse mais je choisis une réponse mauvaise parce que je dépêche!  J'ai besoin de lire chaque réponse en avance de choisir une réponse.  oh la la la la la la la ! :)

Asked 8 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super star
Très bon conseil personnel Robin, prenez votre temps avant de répondre....
RobinA2
merci!
Robin asked:View original

I need to look at all the answers more carefully

Je déteste quand je connaise une bonne réponse mais je choisis une réponse mauvaise parce que je dépêche!  J'ai besoin de lire chaque réponse en avance de choisir une réponse.  oh la la la la la la la ! :)

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