Prepositions used for directions

FrankC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Prepositions used for directions

Aapparently when turning to take another street or road, one uses the preposition, dans, as in "...tournez à gauche dans la rue Jacques Cartier." But if one continues on this avenue or route, one uses the preposition, sur, as in "...Continuez sur cette route..."  However, then we have "... puis prenez la deuxième à gauche sur l'avenue de la Liberté" where now the preposition, sur, is used in this turn.  So, the prepositions are a bit confusing for us.  Can you give us some advice regarding sur and dans in the context of directions?

Asked 7 months ago
AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

I think this is mostly due to the different types of road.

https://french.kwiziq.com/questions/view/je-m-baladais-sur-l-avenue

JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Bonjour Frank,

I have experienced this situation when using my sat-nav in the car set to French and noticed more than one way to describe a particular instruction.

I have been inclined to put this down to the speaker's style of expression.

For example.

sur (preposition)  -- marque une position, whereas dans (preposition) -- indique le but de l'action.

You can see from the above that both prepositions can be valid depending on the dynamic situation.

Of course, the direction instructions should indicate to travel on a particular road for example but also it could be argued that the objective is to achieve the correct routing (goal).

This is my experience, but I think that you have raised an interesting point for discussion.

Bonne journée

Jim

MaartenC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Frank, prepositions are tricky and the best is to learn some basics, but grasp the uses as encountered. There are many variations and idiomatic uses. However, it is worth recognising that this is true whether we are speaking of English or French. Direct translations are not always reflective of the nuances of either language, but representations of each language's colloquial usage.

In the cases you list, English also uses different prepositions : 

"tournez à gauche dans la rue Jacques Cartier" - turn (to the) left into/onto Jacques Cartier St/Rd

"Continuez sur cette route" - continue on/along that road/street/(route)

"puis prenez la deuxième à gauche sur l'avenue de la Liberté" - then take the 2nd (on the) left, along/via Liberty Avenue 

The use of different verbs clearly also occurs in English, but French students have it 'drummed' into them not to repeat words if possible, especially when writing. I have counted more than 20 different ways a local newspaper replaces "dire" with other verbs - and in a long article, nearly all of them can be used ! 

https://www.lawlessfrench.com/vocabulary/directions/ 

https://www.wordreference.com/fren/sur 

https://www.wordreference.com/fren/dans

Prepositions used for directions

Aapparently when turning to take another street or road, one uses the preposition, dans, as in "...tournez à gauche dans la rue Jacques Cartier." But if one continues on this avenue or route, one uses the preposition, sur, as in "...Continuez sur cette route..."  However, then we have "... puis prenez la deuxième à gauche sur l'avenue de la Liberté" where now the preposition, sur, is used in this turn.  So, the prepositions are a bit confusing for us.  Can you give us some advice regarding sur and dans in the context of directions?

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