Why “Une Confiture de Fraises” but “Une tarte à la Fraise ?”

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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.

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