en-dessous vs au-dessous

Is there a difference between "au-dessous de l'éléphant" and "en-dessous de l'éléphant". Is there an appreciable difference between "below" and "under" in French, and if so, can you please explain it to me? Thank you.

March 19, 2018


There is no difference between under/below. L'interrupteur est sous la fenêtre = The switch is below the window. Tes chaussures sont sous la table = Your shoes are under the table. Not sure what you are thinking of regarding the elephant!

I had to do some searches for en dessous (no hyphen) and au-dessous because I have often wondered if there was a difference between them, but never checked. Apparently, in a formal style, "en dessous" means "on the underside" or "in the lower part", whereas "au-dessous" means "lower than".

Il a des poches au-dessous des yeux. = He has bags under his eyes. Le numéro de série est marqué en dessous. = The serial number is marked underneath.

In practice, however, you find the same question on forums for French people, and people don't differentiate between them. "En dessous" is more common, and "sous" can often be substituted: sous les yeux, sous l'éléphant. Same theoretical difference for "en dessus" and "au-dessus", but in practice, "au-dessus" is more common.

March 19, 2018

Merci beaucoup!

March 19, 2018

Good question. I found this with a google search.

"Si l'on est plus attentif, on emploie «au-dessous» pour dire : «plus bas (que quelque chose)» et «en dessous» pour dire : «dans la partie inférieure (de quelque chose)»."

March 19, 2018

their spelling may seem similar but in pronunciation their opposites hoped it helped

March 19, 2018

En dessous and au-dessous mean under or below.

En dessus and au-dessus mean over or above.

March 19, 2018
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