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au and avec

Could someone explain when to use au and avec?

April 30, 2020



I noticed that certain phrases that were in the duolingo lessons such as "Voulez-vous du cafe au lait?" which means "Do you want some coffee with milk?" This made me confused with the usage of au and avec


"Café au lait" is just the way you would say "coffee with (steamed) milk" in French. It's a set expression in a way.

You are right, though, that in English you would say coffee "with" milk (added to it).

"Avec" is the usual French word meaning "with".


Ohhhh! Yeah you're right. It's just sort of an expression in french to say "au lait" instead of "avec lait".

If you're saying "Voulez-vous du café au lait?" ("Do you want coffee with milk?") then here "au" would mean "with".

It is very confusing and even with French being my second language I don't fully understand. I think it might be like coffee with the flavour of milk. Like for example "Gateaux au chocolat." (Chocolate cake.") It's the same sort of concept.

https://hinative.com/en-US/questions/20722 This link might also help answer your question.


You're right, it's a set expression that is used.

It's kind of like in English where you would order "fish 'n chips" (instead of "fried fish with French fries").


In this case, when you are refering to a flavour of something, you use à + l'/le/la rather than avec:

un café au lait - a milk coffee (i.e. a coffee with milk)

un gâteau au chocolat - a chocolate cake

un sandwich au fromage - a cheese sandwich

une glace à la fraise - a strawberry ice-cream

une tarte à l'orange - an orange tart

Edit: I want to add another example just because in the above the gender of the flavouring just happens to match the noun, so I want to add another one where it doesn't:

une glace au citron - a lemon ice-cream


Thanks for this useful tip


You're welcome.


Use au before a masculine word (eg le supermarché):

je vais ausupermarché - I'm going to the supermarket

and "avec" its Meaning is "With"


Depending on whether the setence is in the past, present, or future "au" can either mean "to" or "at". If the sentence is in the present, "au" means "at" and if the sentence is in the future or in the past, "au" means "to".

So for example if you're saying "Nous allons au magasin." (We're going to the store.") or "Nous sommes allés au magasin." ("We went to the store.") in these two sentences "au" would mean "to". But if you were saying "Je suis au magasin." (I'm at the store.") then "au" would mean "at".

But you shouldn't always use "au" for "to". If you're saying "Je vais à l'épicerie." (I'm going to the grocery store.") here you would use "à" instead of "au" because "l'épicerie" is feminine. So use "à" before a feminine word "au" before a masculine word.

"avec" simply means "with"

So if you're saying "Je veux un hamburger avec du fromage." (I want a hamburger with cheese.") here "avec" would mean "with".


What is your suggestion of determining when to use au, de, du and aux?


It's not simple so I suggest you check on Youtube on the usage of Partitive Articles although I partly discussed below "au" and "aux" is the plural of "au" for example - aux Etats-Unis which is plural, got the idea


My first try to assist my fellow learner - au is short form for "a + le" which is "to the / at the" in English, au applies to masculine only; example, to(at) the park = au parc". For feminine example, "to the house = a la maison", do not use "au" here. Avec simply means "with", for example, "with my brother = avec mon frere", or, "with my mother = avec ma mere".


I see, you had an issue with cafe au lait, this is French way of saying and I am just as confused as you but you will get used to it, ex. gateau au chololat, soupe au poulet, etc.


The most confusing is that in the Duolingo lesson they had the phrase " Du cafe au du lait", which means some coffee with some milk flavor. However, the phrase in English that was given to translate into French is " Some coffee with milk". Why can't you write " Du coffee au lait"?


Haven't seen that phrase yet, I will be confused also (again)

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