1. everybodylovesnaymon New Member

    English - UK
    Hi I'm just trying to practice some of my french grammar and would like to know the proper grammatical term for "a" in the following sentence "Je n'ai rien a faire". I would just like to look into more detail on this. Thank you.
  2. Feanfox

    Feanfox Junior Member

    Just a simple preposition, nothing more, I guess
  3. Hulalessar Senior Member

    English - England
    A bit of a tricky one. Most people's reaction would, I think, be to describe à as a preposition. The snag with that is that if you go googling for a definition of "preposition" you will be told that it is a word which governs a noun to show its relationship to other words in the sentence. The best I think that can be said is that in some languages some words which function as prepositions may also have a function which is not prepositional according to a standard definition of what a preposition is.

    The English translation of your sentence is "I have nothing to do". Here, just like the French à, to is not functioning as a preposition. It may be described as an infinitive marker. In French infinitives are in fact already marked by their form, so perhaps it is a case of double marking which has just happened to develop in French. [...]

    Certainly when I learned French many years ago the fact that before the infinitive some verbs needed to be followed by à, some by de and some by neither was described in terms that "some verbs need a preposition before the infinitive". I think the case is that where words come between a finite verb and an infinitive in this way they are always words which happen to be used as prepositions and they are therefore called prepositions. "Function" words do not always fit into neat categories. The word "particle" is available but is rather vague and not generally used as a grammatical category in describing languages like English, French or Spanish.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 13, 2013

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