suffire de/suffire à


Senior Member
English - British
I am struggling over the word "suffire". Wordreference offers two examples (as follows) -

Un rien suffit à le metre en colère - It only takes the slightest thing to make him lose his temper

Il suffit de me téléphoner - All you have to do is telephone me

I am sorry - a further example (my computer crashed when I tried to edit the original question title) -

Le vin n'a pas suffit pour me réchauffer - The wine was not enough to warm me up.

Apart from the obvious difference in wording (which is there to make the sentence more identifiable) I cannot see the difference in the usage of the verb. So what is the difference between pour, de and à?

I apologise if I am being thick here. Thank you.
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  • jetset

    Senior Member
    "Suffire" is not that tricky. Ex : only one copy will do for us - Un seul exemplaire nous suffira. It all depends on the turn of phrase, so what about asking the grammar forum ?


    Senior Member
    Southern French
    There is no difference in meaning between the two.

    It means in both cases that only a simple or wee thing has to be done to get a result.

    I can't find a proper explanation, sorry. I'll just say that they are fixed expressions.

    Un rien suffit à
    Il suffit de


    American English
    I'm no native speaker but as I understand it:

    "Il suffit de faire x à faire y." means "Doing x is enough in order to do y."​

    So, in this case, x is "what you need to do" while y is "the expected result". The ambiguity arises in the translation because in English it looks the same :

    "You need to do this to do that."​

    In fact, the first "to do" is an infinitive while the second "to do" means "in order to do". That's why "cela suffit à faire" in French can be replaced with "cela suffit pour faire".

    So in your examples:

    "Un rien suffit à le mettre en colère." is "Nothing at all is enough to set him off."
    ("setting him off" is the result. It's not what needs to happen for the condition to be fulfilled, it's what happens if the condition is fulfilled.)

    "Il suffit de me téléphoner." is "You just have to call me."
    ("calling me" is all that needs to happen. What results from that is unstated.)

    "Le vin n'a pas suffit pour me réchauffer." is "The wine wasn't enough to warm me up."
    (In this last example, "warming me up" is the desired result of drinking wine.)​

    Does that sound right, French natives?


    English, U.S.
    An additional question - I'm not sure if this should be a new thread or not. In any case, which is correct to say - "Il lui suffit," or "Il suffit à elle," when you're trying to say, "It is enough for her"?

    Your help is much appreciated! On peut me répondre en français ou en anglais.