dans OR à?
I had a task to translate "I used to go to this restaurant". I wrote "J'allais à ce restaurant", but the owl corrected this to "J'allais dans ce restaurant".
I don't say I'm right, I just want to find out how do I know if it is "à" or "dans". As far as I know, one says: "aller au café" (= à le café). What it the difference in case it is a restaurant?
"Dans" and "en" confuse me at times because I've never come up with or found a rule to determine when to use which, but translating "to the restaurant" as "dans le restaurant" seems wrong to me. I couldn't find a meaning of "dans" in Larousse that suggests this usage. "Dans" seems always to mean "within" in some sense. The owl's French is not always so good..
IAs an aside, it occurs to me that a transcript of a lesson might be of value. I see new phrases and then when they reappear I've forgotten them. It would also be useful for remembering mistakes. .
I can't answer your question, olimo, and I have the same general understanding of "dans" as Sisyphe. The following link is to a forum discussion about a subtle difference in meaning between "dans" and "au" in the context of going to a restaurant. http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2204367 The question was asked by a French speaker! Discussion is in French
Another discussion, partly in French, partly in English, about the same expressions. "Au restaurant" seems to be the most common. The last post agrees that, in general, "au" is preferable but says "Oui, on va dîner au restaurant, mais dans un bon restaurant." http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=692156
Is there a difference in English between "dining in" and "dining at" a restaurant? If there is, is it a parallel one?
My understanding is the same as Sisyphe's: "dans" always means "within" in some sense. So we can go into the restaurant: "nous allons dans le restaurant" but if we're just going to it, "nous allons au restaurant", you use "à" (or au in this case). I think.
The distinction seems to be the same in English, but the line between the two ("dining in" and "dining at") is not sharp. In common usage they are interchangeable.