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Up Close and Personal with "Auprès"

Auprès de is a French preposition that doesn’t have a direct English translation. It generally refers to a situation of proximity and has a range of meanings, including “beside,” “next to,” “with,” “among,” “by,” “at,” “close to,” and more. It’s one of those words whose definition almost entirely depends on context, so let’s take a look at how it’s used in some Yabla videos.

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The most literal meaning of auprès de is “beside” or “next to,” referring to physical proximity (another expression for this is à côté de). At the end of the classic French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast), Belle wants nothing more than to be beside her beloved Beast:

 

Laissez-moi retourner auprès de lui; c'est mon seul souhait...

Let me return to his side; it's my only wish...

Caption 45, Bande-annonce - La Belle et La Bête

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On a less romantic note, you can also use auprès de to describe two things that are next to each other:

L’hôpital se trouve auprès du parc.
The hospital is located next to the park.

Auprès de doesn’t always refer to being directly beside someone or something. More generally, it can mean “with” (avec) or “among” (parmi) a group of people or things:

 

Thalar, mon cher ami, avez-vous enquêté auprès de tous les animaux?

Thalar, my dear friend, did you inquire among all the animals?

Caption 40, Les zooriginaux - 3 Qui suis-je?

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Une fois que tu seras auprès des chefs, tu pourras leur parler de ce que tu voudras.

Once you're with the chiefs, you'll be able to talk to them about whatever you like.

Captions 2-3, Il était une fois... L’Espace - 6. La révolte des robots

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When looking at two people or things that are beside one another, or considering two ideas or situations in your head, it’s almost impossible not to compare them. Along those lines, in addition to “with,” auprès de can also mean “compared with” or "compared to": 

Nous sommes pauvres auprès de nos voisins.
We are poor compared to our neighbors. 

Auprès de is also used in more formal administrative and governmental contexts to mean “at” or “with,” usually to direct people to a certain department or office or to describe people connected to a department or office: 

 

Les visites ont donc lieu tous les jours et sont gratuites mais pensez à réserver auprès de l'Office du Tourisme de Tourcoing.

So visits take place every day and are free, but think about making a reservation at the Tourcoing Tourism Office.

Captions 17-18, Grand Lille TV - Visite des serres de Tourcoing

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Aujourd'hui, par exemple, elle reçoit des chargés de mission auprès du gouvernement.

Today, for example, she meets with government representatives.

Caption 34, Le Journal - Les microcrédits

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J’ai laissé un message auprès de ta secrétaire.
I left a message with your secretary. 

 

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You may have noticed that auprès de looks very similar to another preposition, près de (near, nearly, around). Près de also describes proximity, but it implies a greater distance than auprès de. It’s a question of being near something versus being next to something. In the first green example sentence, the hospital is directly beside the park. But in the sentence, L’hôpital est près du parc, the hospital is just in the park’s general vicinity. 

So whether you’re talking about being snuggled up beside a loved one or just walking among a group of people, auprès de is the phrase to use. Try using it to describe what or who is next to you right now! 

Vocabulary

Monter's Many Meanings

Monter is a French verb that can come in handy in many situations. We find the most basic meaning of the verb in our interview with Joanna, whose apartment is so tiny that her entire kitchen fits inside a cupboard! And although living on the ground floor means she doesn’t have to climb any stairs, she does have to climb a ladder to get to her bed.

 

J'habite au rez-de-chaussée, donc je n'ai pas besoin de monter les escaliers.

I live on the ground floor, so I don't need to go up the stairs.

Caption 6, Joanna - Son appartement

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C'est pour dormir, avec mon lit, et je dois monter à cette échelle.

It's for sleeping, with my bed, and I have to climb this ladder.

Caption 14, Joanna - Son appartement

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Joanna uses the verb monter to describe going up the stairs and climbing the ladder. Although “to go up” is the verb's most basic meaning, there are quite a few others. For example, a price or a level of something can also monter:

Le prix de l’essence monte chaque année.

The price of gas rises every year. 

Jean-Marc also uses the verb to talk about getting inside his dream car:

 

À chaque fois que je monte dedans,  j'y prends beaucoup de plaisir.

Every time I get in, I enjoy it very much.

Caption 13, Jean-Marc - Voiture de rêve

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The opposite of monter is descendre (to go down), and just as monter can refer to getting into a car or onto a bus or train, descendre refers to getting out or off:

On va monter dans le train à Bastille et descendre à République.

We’ll get on the train at Bastille and get off at République. 

Note that it’s monter dans le train (literally, “to go up into the train”) and descendre du train (to descend from the train).

When monter is used with a direct object, it can mean “to put up,” “set up,” “establish,” or “put together”:

 

C'était un peu une façon pour moi et de faire un film et de monter une pièce.

It was kind of a way for me to make not only a film but also to stage a play.

Caption 18, TLT Toulouse - Dorfman mis en scène à Toulouse

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Il a réussi à monter sa propre pizzeria.

He succeeded in opening his own pizzeria.

Caption 3, Le Journal - Les microcrédits

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Donc, le crapaud il va falloir beaucoup plus de temps pour le monter.

So for the squat, it will take much longer to put it together.

Caption 37, Le Tapissier - L'artisan et son travail

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Speaking of direct objects, it’s good to know what to do with monter in the past tense (passé composé). Monter is one of the few verbs that usually takes the auxiliary être in the passé composé instead of avoir:

Joanna est montée à l’échelle. 

Joanna climbed the ladder.

But when monter takes a direct object and becomes transitive, it does take avoir:

Nous avons monté une pièce.

We staged a play.

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The passé composé is a very tricky aspect of French grammar. You can find a detailed introduction to it here.

This lesson just dips its toe into the verb’s numerous possibilities: you can also monter un film (edit a film), monter à cheval (ride a horse), monter un complot (hatch a plot), monter au combat (go to battle), monter des blancs d’œufs (whisk egg whites), and much more!

You can find a comprehensive list of monter's meanings on this site.

Vocabulary

C'est l'heure de ton Yabla, pauvre gosse!

Some French adjectives change their meaning depending on whether we put them before or after the noun they modify. For example, in Le Journal's video Les microcrédits, we learn about a fellow who realizes his dream of opening a business. This pauvre homme (poor, as in "pitiable," man) had spent years doing nothing every day. But, because he was also an homme pauvre (poor, as in "penniless," man), he qualified for a microcredit loan, and is now a proud restaurateur!

 

Il a réussi à monter sa propre pizzeria, il y a maintenant trois mois.

He succeeded in opening his own pizzeria, just three months ago.

Caption 3, Le Journal - Les microcrédits

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Sa propre pizzeria means it's his alone, but if he wants customers to keep coming back, he'd better make sure it's also a pizzeria propre (a clean pizzeria)! As you can see, if placed in front of the noun, propre signals ownership; if placed after, it indicates cleanliness. 

We hear another interesting example when rugby-player-turned-singer Cali sings the romantic ballad C'est quand le bonheur?

 

Car qui mieux que ces vieux amants, sait qu'on perd l'amour

Because who knows better than those old lovers that you lose love

Caption 35, Cali - C'est quand le bonheur

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You may notice that Cali does not mention anyone's age; ces vieux amants, "those old lovers," refers to lovers who have experienced long-lasting love. They might be in their twenties or in their eighties—we don’t know. If Cali had placed the adjective vieux (old) after the noun amants (lovers), then we'd know that he meant elderly lovers (who, for all we know, met last week at bingo). So, amants vieux would indicate their age, while vieux amants indicates the duration of their love.

Dropping in on the Paris Poetry Fair, we hear:

 

Antonin Artaud, grand homme de théâtre, grand poète du vingtième siècle...

Antonin Artaud, famous playwright, famous poet of the twentieth century...

Caption 9, Marché de la Poésie - Des poètes en tout genre

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Notice that grand, placed before the noun, means "famous" or "great"—quite different from when it appears after the noun. Un homme grand means a tall man—a man of physically grand proportions. Can you spot any poètes grands (tall poets) among the aspiring grands poètes (great poets) at this Paris Poetry Fair?

Did you see Le Journal's piece about teen use of marijuana?

 

Selon lui, certains signes devraient alerter vite les parents.

According to him, certain signs should quickly alert parents.

Caption 24, Le Journal - Cannabis en hausse chez les jeunes

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This specialist talks about certains signes (certain, as in "some specific," signs). But are these also signes certains (certain, as in "definite, unquestionable," signs)? Watch the video and decide for yourself!

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Keep an eye out for these and other adjectives that change their meaning depending on where they sit!

Extra credit: Certain language sages have noted that, generally speaking, these types of adjectives take a more figurative meaning when placed before a noun, and a more literal one when placed after. Can you see what they mean?

Grammar

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