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Country Names In French With Gender Reassignment

Countries and prepositions

General rule of thumb for countries

Whether you’re expressing where someone comes from or is travelling to, you will need to choose the correct prepositions.

Going towards somewhere requires:

  • en when followed by a feminine country
  • au when followed by a masculine country
  • aux if the country name is in the plural form

Coming from somewhere requires:

  • de when followed by a feminine country
  • du when followed by a masculine country
  • des if in the plural form

Look at the image below for more information, including the preposition to use with cities.

How to use the vocabulary in a sentence

As mentioned, countries are either masculine or feminine. It’s important to know which is which as it will affect how you form your sentences.

For example, imagine you want to explain that you’d like to go to the USA one day.

USA = les États-Unis → Je voudrais aller aux États-Unis un jour.

Things to consider:

  • if the country is masculine, use au + the country’s name
  • if the country name is plural, such as the USA or the Netherlands, then use the plural form of au, which is aux
  • if the country name is feminine, use en. For example: J’aimerais aller en Italie cet été

Continents

Continents are much easier to remember as they’re all feminine.

l’Europe- Europe

l’Afrique- Africa

l’Asie- Asia

l’Amérique du Nord- North America

l’Amérique du Sud- South America

l’Antarctique- Antarctica

l’Australasie- Australasia

A – General Rule About French Prepositions of Places

When the name of a region ends in an E, it’s usually feminine.
La France, l’Angleterre, la Suisse, la Chine, l’Inde, la Californie, l’Asie

  • To say you’re going TO it, use EN
    Je vais… en France, en Italie, en Afrique, en Floride…
  • To say you’re there, use EN
    Je suis…  en France, en Italie, en Afrique, en Floride…
  • To say you’re coming from it, use DE
    Je viens de France, d’Italie, d’Afrique, de Floride…

(There are many exceptions though, such as Le Mexique, Le Maine, Le Zimbabwe…)

When the name of a region ends in any other vowel but E, or a consonant, it’s usually masculine.
Le Canada, le Japon, le Portugal, le Burundi, le Luxembourg, le Texas

  • To say you’re going TO it, use AU
    Je vais… au Niger, au Brésil, au Maroc, au Congo
  • To say you’re there, use AU
    Je suis…  au Niger, au Brésil, au Maroc, au Congo
  • To say you’re coming from it, use DU
    Je viens… du Niger, du Brésil, du Maroc, du Congo

When a masculine country starts with a vowel or an H, use the rules of the feminine countries
L’Iran, l’Ouganda, Oman, Angola, Israël

  • Je vais en Iran, je viens d’Angola, je suis en Israël

For more info on country gender, please see this official list
http://publications.europa.eu/code/fr/fr-5000500.htm

And to train on prepositions in context, check out my French audio books.

B – Particular Cases About French Prepositions of Places

Unfortunately, there are too many exceptions to be listed… So be ready to face many particular cases. Here are some pointers

1 – Plural names
A few names of regions are plural. Most plural regions end in an S, but not all regions ending in an S are plural (le Laos, L’Arkansas)… So with plural regions, here is the rule
Les États-Unis, les Maldives, les Pays-Bas, Les Philippines…

  • To say you’re going TO it, use AUX
    Je vais… aux États-Unis, aux Maldives
  • To say you’re there, use AUX
    Je suis…   aux États-Unis, aux Maldives
  • To say you’re coming from it, use DES
    Je viens… des États-Unis, des Maldives

Note the pronunciation of les États-Unis – there are 2 strong liaisons in Z, whether its introduced by les, aux or des = Zéta Zuni

2 – Cities
Cities are usually not introduced by any article, and it’s unclear whether they are feminine or masculine. According to l’Accadémie Française, both genders are possible for cities. So you could say Paris est beau. I prefer saying Paris est belle because Paris refers to la ville de Paris.

But I digress. Lets go back to what preposition of place you should use with cities.

  • For most cities, to say you’re going TO it, use à
    Je vais… à Paris, à Tokyo, à New-York
  • To say you’re IN it, use à
    Je suis… à Paris, à Tokyo, à New-York
  • To say you’re coming from it, use DE
    Je viens… de Paris, de Tokyo, de New-York

But some cities include an article in their name – Le Havre, le Caire, La Paz, Les Andelys… For these, usually the article contracts with the à, becoming au, du etc…

3 – Islands
Are messy business in French… !! Many don’t have any article, and will be introduced by à or de
Je vais à Cuba, à Haïti, à Madagascar
But some are masculine
Je vais au Japon
And some are feminine
Je vais en Corse
And other plural
Je vais aux Maldives
So it’s more like a case by case scenario…

4 – Regions and states
These usually follow the general rules for gender.
La Provence, Le Sussex, l’Oregon.

Note that in the US, the states are masculine except:
La Floride, La Californie, La Caroline du Sud, La Caroline du Nord, La Louisiane, la Georgie, la Virginie occidentale (West Virginia), la Virginie Orientale (Virginia), La Pennsylvanie.
But watch out… Le Maine.

For prepositions used with  regions and states, it’s very difficult to say there is a rule per se… We tend not to use à, but rather en, au, aux or dans le, dans la, dans les… It’s really a matter of custom, not grammar.
Au Texas, dans le Maine, en Bourgogne, en Californie, dans la Creuse….

C – List of US States With the Appropriate French Preposition of Places

Here is a list of US states with the appropriate preposition:
Je vais…
En Alabama
En Alaska
En Arizona
En Arkansas
en Californie
en Caroline du Nord
en Caroline du Sud
dans le Colorado / au Colorado
dans le Connecticut / au Connecticut
dans le Dakota du Nord
dans le Dakota du Sud
dans le Delaware / au Delaware
en Floride
en Géorgie
à Hawaï
En Idaho
En Illinois
En Indiana
En Iowa
dans le Kansas / au Kansas
dans le Kentucky / au Kentucky
en Louisiane
dans le Maine
dans le Maryland / au Maryland
dans le Massachusetts / au Massachusetts
dans le Michigan / au Michigan
dans le Minnesota / au Minnesota
dans le Mississippi / au Mississippi
dans le Missouri / au Missouri
dans le Montana / au Montana
dans le Nebraska / au Nebraska
dans le Nevada / au Nevada
dans le New Hampshire / au New Hampshire
dans le New Jersey / au New Jersey
dans l’état de New York
au Nouveau-Mexique
En Ohio
En Oklahoma
En Orégon
en Pennsylvanie
dans le Rhode Island
dans le Tennessee / au Tennessee
au Texas
en Utah
dans le Vermont / au Vermont
en Virginie
en Virginie-Occidentale
dans l’état de Washington
dans le Wisconsin / au Wisconsin
dans le Wyoming / au Wyoming

In my opinion, the best way to learn these French prepositions of places is to learn them in context. I suggest you take a look at my level-adapted French audio novels, featuring truly useful and realistic situations, fun story and characters, and entirely recorded using modern French pronunciation.

I post exclusive mini lessons, tips, pictures and more daily on my Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages – so join me there!

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Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today's French to adults for 20 years in the US and France. Based on my students' goals and needs, I've created unique downloadable French audiobooks focussing on French like it's spoken today, for all levels. Most of my audiobooks are recorded at several speeds to help you conquer the modern French language. Good luck with your studies and remember, repetition is the key!

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