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The French Prepositions De and À are both used when talking about prepared food such as "une tarte à la fraise" and une "confiture de fraises". Which one to pick actually follows a rather simple logic.

The French Preposition De

“De” is used to describe the way one main ingredient is prepared:

  • un pâté,
  • une confiture,
  • un chutney,
  • une terrine… etc…
  • DE + main ingredient

All these are different ways of preparing one main ingredient. Take away this ingredient, and you’d be left with… spices, sugar… Nothing much at all.

This is why we say “une confiture de fraises”.

Note that the “de” here never becomes “du” nor “des”. It is not a French partitive article, it’s the French preposition “de” and it means “of”.

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The French Preposition À

On the contrary, “à” (which contracts with le to become “au” and with “les” to become “aux”) is used to describe a flavor or a garnish: take away this ingredient, and you will still have something.

It might not taste like much… an unflavoured ice-cream or a dull cake…

You can replace the article by “avec” (with) and it should still make sense.

This is why we say “une tarte à la fraise”.

The best way to memorize these French subtleties is to learn them in the context of a story.

I highly recommend you check out my unique downloadable French audiobooks, featuring different speeds of recording and enunciation, and focussing on today’s modern glided pronunciation.

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Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today's French to adults for 20 years in the US and France. Based on my students' goals and needs, I've created unique downloadable French audiobooks focussing on French like it's spoken today, for all levels. Most of my audiobooks are recorded at several speeds to help you conquer the modern French language. Good luck with your studies and remember, repetition is the key!

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