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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 Etats-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)

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"


Je vais en Afrique l'été prochain.
I'm going to Africa next summer.


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


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.


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


Mon oncle vit en Asie.
My uncle lives in Asia.


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


On est au Portugal.
We are in Portugal.


Je voudrais voyager en Amérique du sud.
I would like to travel in South America.


Q&A

Jessie

Kwiziq community member

8 December 2017

3 replies

Quebec

It is not grammar related question, but I would love to know why Quebec behaves like a country? Is it because of the referendum?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

9 December 2017

9/12/17

It is probable that the reason is the same as «au Texas» but I am unable to provide the reasoning.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

12 December 2017

12/12/17

English, by the way, isn't any more logical. One says "I go to Styria" but "I go to the Tyrol." Styria and Tyrol being to counties in Austria. Or "I am from England" but "I go to the Bahamas."

-- Chris.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

28 February 2018

28/02/18

Hi Jessie,


As "Quebec" is a Province of Canada, it will behave in grammatical terms just like other regions, states and shires having its own article to denote it. So you will have "le Québec, la Normandie, le Missouri, le Yorkshire" etc..


nothing to do with the referendum...


Hope this helps!

Paul

Kwiziq community member

11 October 2017

3 replies

In and To

I admit to being totally confused about the rules for In/To/From for Cities/ Regions/States/Countries/Continents. I am creating an Excel spreadsheet for myself to clarify the rules and I am going through the several Kwiziq lessons which explain the rules. I am confused because the lessons use In and To interchangeably. Are In and To always the same word in French for each combination of gender, first letter (vowel or consonant) and number (singular or plural)?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

13 October 2017

13/10/17

Bonjour Paul,
There are two separate lessons here:
1) to or from a city --> here is the lesson for this: https://french.kwiziq.com/my-languages/french/view/3160
2) to or from a Region, State, Country or Continent --> here is the less for this: https://french.kwiziq.com/my-languages/french/view/4713
I too have issues with the various regions, states, etc. so it will be best to leave any other response to the Kwiziq team.

Bonne chance.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

16 October 2017

16/10/17

I found the lessons on kwiziq regarding this topic quite exhaustive. Best to review and practice them. Don't overthink (always a bad idea with French in particular :) ).
There is a peculiarity with some prepositions which I have resigned to just learning rather than trying to understand. "Je vais dans ma chambre" means "I am going to my room" and implies a direction. "Je vais dans la forêt", however, means I am going in the forest and does NOT imply a direction. If you wanted to say "I am going to the forest" you would use "Je vais à la forêt".

To confuse matters even more, I believe that "Je marche dans ma chambre" would connote that you were walking around in your room (rather than going to your room).

-- Chris (not a native speaker)

Ron

Kwiziq community member

16 October 2017

16/10/17

Bonjour à nouveau Chris,
J'en ai profité bien de votre réponse, merci.

valentina

Kwiziq community member

3 August 2017

2 replies

Bonjour! When shall I use habiter and when vivre? Oh, and when demeurer?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

3 August 2017

3/08/17

Bonjour Valentina,
demeurer is to live, stay or remain il est demeuré paralysé he was left paralysed
vivre to live J'aimerais vivre à l'étranger. I'd like to live abroad.
Je vis en Écosse. I live in Scotland.
Il vit chez ses parents. He lives with his parents.
Il a vécu à Paris pendant dix ans. He lived in Paris for ten years.
habiter to live «in» Il habite à Montpellier. He lives in Montpellier
habiter dans to live in
habiter chez qn or habiter avec qn to live with sb
habiter 16 rue Montmartre to live at number 16 rue Montmartre
habiter rue Montmartre to live in rue Montmartre

J'espère que cela vous aidera.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

9 August 2017

9/08/17

Bonjour Valentina !

That's an excellent question !

Habiter and vivre are interchangeable most of the time, though there is a slight nuance of meaning between them:
habiter means "to live in / to inhabit [a place]", whereas vivre is more about "being alive, living one's life [somewhere]"

As for demeurer, it's a more antiquated version of habiter, which can also mean "to remain".

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Lisa

Kwiziq community member

30 January 2016

2 replies

Why is Pays de Galles masculine and not plural? Is it an exception?

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

30 January 2016

30/01/16

Good question! I suspect you're comparing "Pays de Galles" with "Pays-Bas" and they do look like they both ought to be plural. In fact, however, "pays" is actually the same word in singular and plural form (a bit like "sheep" in English). It means land or lands, and the country names literally mean, The Land of the Galls (Le Pays de Galles = Wales), and The Low-Lands (Les Pays-Bas = Holland).

Lisa

Kwiziq community member

30 January 2016

30/01/16

That was a really good answer that clarified it for me completely. Thanks for making reference to "sheep" as it reminded me that there are indeed words that are used both for plural and singular forms of the same thing. Thank you.

yellamaraju

Kwiziq community member

4 December 2015

4 replies

Je vais en France ce weekend. means "going to" or "in" France

Rih

Kwiziq community member

4 December 2015

4/12/15

it means going to

FISEHA

Kwiziq community member

5 December 2015

5/12/15

Going to is right. Because en France comme en Ethiopie, c'est feminin.

yellamaraju

Kwiziq community member

5 December 2015

5/12/15

Je vais en France ce weekend.= I'm in France this weekend. It is said so in the lesson. Hence the doubt. Thanks to Rih & FISEHA for replies.

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

5 December 2015

5/12/15

Bonjour Yellamaraju,

Thanks for bringing this up. "I'm in France this weekend" is a British way of saying "I'm going to France this weekend" and I can see why this would cause confusion. We'll change it to make it clearer - thanks!
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