French Verbs with 'De'

Instructor: Lucy Barnhouse
This lesson covers the French verbs that appear with 'de.' Some require 'de' to make sense and express a complete action. Others take 'de' only in certain circumstances. There are no shortcuts to memorizing these, but this lesson provides an introduction.

Verbs and Prepositions

French verbs with de are diverse, but very useful. They can express both actions and feelings. There's also bad news, though. De can be translated using many different English prepositions... or no preposition at all, as in the verbs s'emparer de (sahn-par-ay dö), 'to obtain,' or douter de (doo-tay dö), 'to doubt.' Don't try to translate directly; it will only end in tears. This is actually a good rule for all language-learning, but it's especially relevant to mastering how French verbs use prepositions.

Verbs Requiring De

  • s'agir de (sah-zheer dö) / to be a question of
  • s'approcher de (sah-pro-shay dö) / to approach
  • s'apercevoir de (sah-pehr-sö-vwahr dö) / to notice
  • dépendre de (day-pahn-drö dö) / to depend on

For these verbs requiring de, you may want to think of the preposition as forming part of the infinitive. You will never see forms of these verbs without de. Another category of verbs requiring de express feelings or needs. These expressions are formed in saying avoir _____ de… You might say to a friend, for instance, J'ai envie d'aller au cinéma. Your friend might reply either Moi aussi! or J'ai besoin de faire mes devoirs.

Verbs Taking De

Another category of verbs taking de do so only in certain contexts. In these contexts, the use of de is sometimes determined by the presence of a noun, as in 'writing with a pen,' or 'playing an instrument.'

  • écrire de (ay-kreer dö) / to write with
  • arriver de (ah-ree-vay dö) / to arrive from
  • changer de (shahn-zhay dö) / to change, e.g. trains or opinions
  • jouer de (zhoo-ay dö) / to play an instrument
  • venir de (vö-neer dö) / to come from
  • manquer de (mahn-kay dö) / to lack

As you can see, de can be used in a variety of contexts, to express specific meanings. These verbs need not always be used with the preposition. You might say Il écrit beaucoup des lettres, 'He writes many letters,' for example; e´crire need not take de. If you want to say 'He always writes with a fountain pen,' however, you'd use 'de': Il écrit toujours d'un stylo plume.

Varying Meaning and Preposition

A couple of verbs can take either à or de without having their meanings affected. Commencer and continuer are such verbs, but these are exceptions.

Except in such rare cases, changing the preposition used with a verb can change the meaning; this is especially true of verbs involving location. If you say Je viens de New York, you're saying 'I come from New York.' If you say Je viens à New York, you're saying 'I'm coming to New York.'

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