Using en with feminine countries and au(x) with masculine countries to say in or to (prepositions)

We know that countries and continents have genders in French [see Continents, countries, regions & states are masculine, feminine or plural (gender)]

Note that while we always use in and to in English for cities and countries, in French we use different prepositions for one or the other.
We use à with cities Using 'à' (to/in) and 'de' (from/of) with cities (prepositions), it's a bit more complicated when it comes to countries.

Have a look at these examples:

Je vais en France ce weekend.I'm going to France this weekend.

Il est en Angleterre maintenant.He's in England now.

On est au Portugal.We are in Portugal.

Vous allez aux États-Unis.You are going to the United States.

Ils vont au Pays de Galles.They are going to Wales.

Here are the rules:

- en is used with feminine countries (the ones ending in -e, except for Mexique, Cambodge, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Belize) and continents (all of them are feminine)

- au is used with masculine countries

ATTENTION: 

For pronunciation reasons, you will use en with masculine countries starting with a vowel:

Mon ami Sahid vit en Iran.My friend Sahid lives in Iran.

J'ai passé mon été en Ouganda.I spent my summer in Uganda.

- aux is used with plural countries

Note that Le Québec behaves like a country, even though it's a province:

Martine habite au Québec.Martine lives in Quebec.

 

See also the related lesson: En, dans = In, to with regions, states, counties (prepositions)

Want to make sure your French sounds confident? We’ll map your knowledge and give you free lessons to focus on your gaps and mistakes. Start your Braimap today »

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Jacqueline Doiron of FrenchByPhone.com presents "Prepositions with names of countries" = Jacqueline Doiron de FrenchByPhone.com présent "Les prepositions et les noms de pays"
On est au Portugal.We are in Portugal.
Mon oncle vit en Asie.My uncle lives in Asia.
J'ai passé mon été en Ouganda.I spent my summer in Uganda.
Il est en Angleterre maintenant.He's in England now.
Je voudrais voyager en Amérique du sud.I would like to travel in South America.
Je vais en Afrique l'été prochain.I'm going to Africa next summer.
Vous allez aux États-Unis.You are going to the United States.
Simon va au Mexique.Simon is going to Mexico.
Je vais en France ce weekend.I'm going to France this weekend.
Martin habite aux Pays-Bas.Martin lives in the Netherlands.
Martine habite au Québec.Martine lives in Quebec.
Ils vont au Pays de Galles.They are going to Wales.
Ce film se passe en Inde.This film takes place in India.
Mon ami Sahid vit en Iran.My friend Sahid lives in Iran.
Getting that for you now.