List of French prepositions (ctd: rare and archaic prepositions)

On the previous page, we looked as some "non basic" French prepositions: ones that you might not use very much in everyday speech, but which would be common enough in many types of writing, even if slightly formal.

On this page, we look at some prepositions which are actually archaic: in other words, they're only found in texts written before, say, the twentieth century (and in various cases probably a century or two before that), or in registers such as legal texts which have deliberately kept expressions for earlier usage even though they are no longer in active use.

Rare or archaic prepositions

So, the French prepositions in Table 4 below are ones that are archaic or generally part of literary, legal or specialist language. You may occasionally come across them, but usually only in older texts or in certain very restricted types of presentday language, notably legalese or scientific texts.

French prepositionCommon English equivalentComments
arrièrebehindArchaic as a preposition except in some compound words such as arrière-plan ("background"). Generally replaced by derrière.
dedansinside, withinNowadays, dedans is not used with an object. So it is common to say il est dedans ("he is inside it/there"), but it is now archaic to say, as was once common, e.g. dedans le lendemain = over the course of the next day.
aussitôtimmediately uponThis usage is criticised, but some speakers use aussitôt as a preposition, e.g. aussitôt son arrivée = as soon as he arrives, immediately upon his arrival.
circacircaNot as common as in English; vers is normally used in everyday usage.
deversin the presence ofArchaic and now replaced by other prepositions such as auprès de, chez, devant etc. Occurs in legalese in the form par-devers (see below).
èsof the, in theAn archaic form equivalent to en+les. Nowadays, dans les is used instead. But the form ès is found in academic titles, e.g. licencié ès lettres is the French equivalent of a "Bachelor of Arts".
endéanswithin (a time period of)An archaic preposition (also existing with the form endens) now restricted to Belgian French. For example: endéans un mois = within one month.
hormissave, barOccasionally used in formal language. Generally, sauf and hors are used instead in everyday usage.
inin (with a publication)In academic texts, very occasionally seen to indicate the work in which an article etc appears. The more usual French equivalent is paru dans....
jusque(s)up to, as far asThis preposition was once used on its own. Nowadays, it is only used in conjunction with another preposition such as à, dans or en.
nonobstantdespite, notwithstandingUsed in legal texts.
outrebeyond, as well asOnce more common, this preposition is now essentially part of formal language except in a few set expressions.
prèsas a representative forNowadays, près with an object is always used with de, e.g. près de la gare. In formal use, près is still occasionally used as an alternative to auprès de, e.g. conseiller près l'ambassade = consultant to the embassy.
Table 4: formal, literary or archaic French prepositions.
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This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2014. All rights reserved.