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French grammar - Location and destination ('in' or 'at' and 'to') - the preposition à

Location and destination ('in' or 'at' and 'to') - the preposition à

The preposition à can mean either 'at' or 'to'

Used with a verb of motion (like aller) it means 'to' a destination.

Used with a static verb (like être) means 'at' a location.

When à is followed by a definite article we have the contractions:

à + le au

à + les aux

But à la and a l' are unchanged.

Il est à Paris.
He is in Paris.
Les enfants sont à l'école aujourd'hui.
The children are at school today.
Il est au bureau.
He is at the office.
Ils sont au parc ou à l'église.
They are at the parc or at church.
Nous sommes à la piscine.
We are at the swimming pool.
Êtes-vous au petit restaurant chinois ?
Are you (formal) at the small Chinese restaurant?

chinois (m) means 'Chinese'

la Chine means 'China'

Le restaurant est au premier étage.
The restaurant is on the first floor.
Ils vont à Nantes.
They are going to Nantes.
Demain, nous allons à Nice.
Tomorrow we are going to Nice.
Allez-vous souvent à Londres ?
Do you (formal) go to London often?
Pourquoi va-t-elle au magasin ?
Why is she going to the shop?

magasin (m) means 'shop'

Pourquoi vas-tu au bureau maintenant ?
Why are you (familiar) going to the office now?
Le bus va au centre de la ville.
The bus is going to the center of the city.

centre (m) means 'center' or 'centre'

ville (f) means 'city' or 'town'

Nous allons aux États_Unis.
We are going to the United States.

Les États‑Unis means 'the United States'