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.
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.