En vs dans with locations (prepositions)

Dans (+ un/une, le/la/l'/les, des) and en are both used to mean inside/in with respect to locations like town or class.

Note that the meaning changes slightly:

- dans + [article] + [noun] is used to refer to an actual, physical place = in the/a/his ... 

- en + [noun] is used to refer more to a general, abstract,  symbolic  place = in ...

Je suis en classe 
I'm in class

Je suis dans la classe
I'm in the classroom

Je vais en ville
I'm going to town

Il y a une boulangerie dans la ville
There is a bakery in the town

 

Cases with streets, roads...

When referring to the streetroad, avenue, or boulevard people live on (using habiter), you can either use dans la/le, simply la/le or nothing at all.

BUT you can NEVER use sur (i.e. on) in that context!

J'habite dans la rue Pasteur.
I live on Rue Pasteur.

J'habite rue Pasteur.
I live on Pasteur Road.

J'habite la rue Pasteur.
I live on Rue Pasteur.

Avec être (to be) or vivre (to live), you can use either dans la/le OR nothing at all.

Ce magasin est dans l'avenue Jeanne d'Arc.
This shop is on Avenue Jeanne d'Arc.

Ce magasin est avenue Jeanne d'Arc.
This shop is on Avenue Jeanne d'Arc.

 

ATTENTION: Case of avenue

You can use sur l'avenue when used with se promener (to have a walk).

Nous aimons nous promener sur l'avenue.
We like to have a walk on the avenue.




Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Je suis dans la classe
I'm in the classroom


Ce magasin est dans l'avenue Jeanne d'Arc.
This shop is on Avenue Jeanne d'Arc.


Il y a eu une émeute dans la prison.
There's been a riot in the prison.


Je suis dans ma classe de français
I'm in/with my French group


Ce magasin est avenue Jeanne d'Arc.
This shop is on Avenue Jeanne d'Arc.


Le voleur est en prison.
The thief is in prison.


Il y a une boulangerie dans la ville
There is a bakery in the town


Je suis en classe de français
I'm in French class


Je vais en ville
I'm going to town


Nous aimons nous promener sur l'avenue.
We like to have a walk on the avenue.



J'habite la rue Pasteur.
I live on Rue Pasteur.


Je suis en classe 
I'm in class


J'habite rue Pasteur.
I live on Pasteur Road.


dans = on + street


J'habite dans la rue Pasteur.
I live on Rue Pasteur.


Q&A

Inga Marie

Kwiziq community member

28 February 2019

1 reply

In the test “Mon restaurant est rue du Temple” is given as a possible answer to “My restaurant is on rue de Temple”. How can this be correct!

Inga Marie

Kwiziq community member

28 February 2019

28/02/19

Nvm. I found the answer. 

Liz

Kwiziq community member

28 February 2019

4 replies

Why is using dans le to indicate one’s in an actual dance class wrong?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

3 March 2019

3/03/19

Hi Liz,

Where was this marked wrong Liz?

Liz

Kwiziq community member

4 March 2019

4/03/19

Hi Cécile. On one of the lessons dealing with using dans vs en: I’m in dance class. I took this to be a specific location requiring dans vs en. 

Thanks for your help. 

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

4 March 2019

4/03/19

Hi Liz, 

If you are taking part in the dance class it will be -

Je suis en classe de danse 

 

 

Liz

Kwiziq community member

4 March 2019

4/03/19

Great. Thanks so much.  

Inga Marie

Kwiziq community member

26 February 2019

3 replies

Ton père est ________ prison.

Prison seems like a pretty specific place... so why 'en' instead of 'dans la'?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

27 February 2019

27/02/19

Hi Inga Marie,

This has been asked many times and the answer is in the Q& A at the bottom of the lesson....

Inga Marie

Kwiziq community member

27 February 2019

27/02/19

Are you referring to "‘Je suis en prison’ puts the emphasis on the fact you are ‘incarcerated’  and not maybe visiting someone in prison."  Still seems counterintuitive to me, but also not something I'll be saying so maybe it doesn't matter. I don't see how it puts emphasis on incarceration. 

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

1 March 2019

1/03/19

Hi Inga,

 If we were to say " Your father is doing time" ( slang for being in prison)  for "Ton père est en prison , would that make it clearer , as it is what it means....

Tyron

Kwiziq community member

19 January 2019

1 reply

English correction

A quick English correction, but in this sentence -

dans + [article] + [noun] is used to refer to a actual, physical place = in the/a/his ... 

It should say 'an actual' instead of 'a actual'

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

23 January 2019

23/01/19

Merci beaucoup Tyron !

Thanks to you, this typo has now been fixed :)

Bonne journée !

Shrey

Kwiziq community member

9 January 2019

4 replies

Doubt in the phrases

Bonjour Madame Cécile,

In the lesson, there are two sentences as-

“Je suis en classe.” And “Je suis dans la classe.” I am unable to understand the difference in both of them as how the first is a general statement and the second is for a specific location . Please expain the reason in a little detail. I will be really grateful.

Merci d’avance.

(Madame, I have gone through the discussions but am still perplexed.)

Chris

Kwiziq community member

9 January 2019

9/01/19

Je suis en classe. -- A student would say this when he is at school in general, attending classes.

Je suis dans la classe. -- This means that you are in the classroom.

Shrey

Kwiziq community member

9 January 2019

9/01/19

I would like some advice from Madame Cécile as well.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

10 January 2019

10/01/19

Hi Varsha,

I  will try and explain and hope you get it . It is very subtle but the difference in French between the two sentences is in the meaning.

‘Je suis en classe / en cours de danse’ means that you are in a dance lesson, stressing the activity.

‘Je suis dans la classe’ states where you are situated (in the classroom) not in the in the school yard for instance.

‘Je suis en prison’ puts the emphasis on the fact you are ‘incarcerated’  and not maybe visiting someone in prison.

In a business setting if you said, 

‘Je suis en réunion/ en conférence’.  It means you are in a meeting.

Hope his helps!

 

Shrey

Kwiziq community member

10 January 2019

10/01/19

Merci Madame Cécile. That was a very lucid explanation and as per your expectations , I have got it right.

Shrey

Kwiziq community member

7 January 2019

2 replies

En / Dans le, la

Bonjour Madame Cécile,

While attempting a microkwiz, I got wrong in the following 2 senrences -

1.Je suis en cours de danse.Je te rappelle.

2.Ton père est en prison.

I gave my answers as (i) dans le (ii) dans la but was marked incorrect.

 I did so because the lesson states dans is used when we need to be more specific about a place.

Please explain why instead en is a better choice ?

Merci d’avance.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

7 January 2019

7/01/19

Did you already read the comments at the bottom of the lesson page? I think they might help you get a better understanding.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

10 January 2019

10/01/19

Answered...

Shrey

Kwiziq community member

7 January 2019

0 replies

En / Dans le, la

Bonjour Madame Cécile,

While attempting a microkwiz, I got wrong in the following 2 senrences -

1.Je suis en cours de danse.Je te rappelle.

2.Ton père est en prison.

I gave my answers as (i) dans le (ii) dans la but was marked incorrect.

 I did so because the lesson states dans is used when we need to be more specific about a place.

Please explain why instead en is a better choice ?

Merci d’avance.

Joan

Kwiziq community member

6 April 2018

2 replies

Hi Chris, I found the following sentences in other website (I 'm not sure whether we can discuss things from other sources):

(1) J'aimerais aller dans le collège. (2) Je veux aller dans la jungle. (3) On va aller dans le bureau

"dans" in these 3 sentences mean "to". Can I conclude that 'dans' and "à" are interchangable when they mean "to"?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

6 April 2018

6/04/18

Hi Joan,

Ah, I see. As I am a German native speaker "dans" to me means "in" as I would translate "dans" as "in" in all the examples you gave there. Sorry, about the mixup.

I would really appreciate the backup and feedback of a true French native speaker on this, but I'll offer my understanding nonetheless.

To me, "aller dans le jungle" means to go in the jungle, i.e., hike in the jungle. To go to the jungle, e.g., to travel to the jungle in order to venture inside, I would use "aller à la jungle".

Similarly, I would prefer "aller au collège" to mean "to go to college". "Aller dans", to my understanding, means to go inside, whereas "aller à" stands for "to go to".

I hope Amélie is going to chime in on that.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

P.S.: I would not hesitate to pull in examples from other websites to be discussed here in the context of kwiziq lessons.

Max

Kwiziq community member

30 September 2018

30/09/18

Aller is a verb of déplacement (rather than mouvement: nager, marcher, p.e.) and therefore must be followed by a destination. Therefore, je vais dans le jungle is perfectly clear: dans, which means in or into depending on the preceding verb, means into when following aller. Dans le jungle provides the destination

To say I am in the jungle requires a non-déplacement verb as with Je suis dans la jungle or Je me trouve dans la jungle. For a refresher on verbs of mouvement and déplacement, I recommend John Darbelnet's Pensée et Structure, Charles Scribner's & Sons, 1969, pp. 91 to 95. I have carried my seriously marked up copy with me since Spring 1971. I have no idea if it is still in print. It is a gem for a serious student of French.

Joan

Kwiziq community member

5 April 2018

2 replies

How to differentiate between à and dans when both mean 'to'?

(For location other than countries, cities, continents, regions, states, etc) Like going 'to' a market, school, or some other place

Chris

Kwiziq community member

5 April 2018

5/04/18

Hi Joan,

Did you really mean "à" and "dans"? Because "dans" means "in" and "à" can assume a lot of meanings but "in" isn't normally one of them. From the lesson you are referring to, could it be that you mean "en" and "dans"?

If I go to the lesson page of the one you refer to and scroll all the way down to the bottom I find a whole lot of posts dealing with this issue. Does any one of them speak to the question you have? If not, can you post an example which gives you a problem?

-- Chris. (not a native speaker).

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

5 July 2018

5/07/18

Hi Joan,

In all the examples you give we would use :

'à + article' , so:

Nous allons au marché, à l'école, à la plage, au bureau, au collège etc...

We say 'dans la jungle' oddly enough, but I think it is to convey how difficult it is to get into it...

If you say 'inside' in English it will normally be 'dans' that we use.

Hope this helps!

Joseph

Kwiziq community member

2 April 2018

5 replies

'En' other uses

When 'in' is used in other contexts, apart from physical locations, would 'en' be used?

E.g. En réalité - In reality

Je suis fort en langues vivantes - I am strong in Foreign Languages

En industrie du bâtiment - In the building industry

Ces médicaments sont en sirop - This medication is in (the form of) syrup

Paul est rentré en colère - Paul returned home in Anger

By the way, please correct if wrong, thank you

r

Kwiziq community member

2 April 2018

2/04/18

I can't help but a dictionary definition of en will help

Chris

Kwiziq community member

2 April 2018

2/04/18

The pronoun "en" is a true chameleon in French because it is used in so many contexts. Basically there are three:

1) "En" used spatially as a more general version of "in/inside".
2) "En" used temporally to state a timeframe within which something happens.
3) "En" used in pronomial phrases to replace an object normally introduced by "de".

There are dedicated lessons for all three uses within kwiziq.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Chris

Kwiziq community member

2 April 2018

2/04/18

Hi Joseph,

I think you got the general idea. Your examples appear correct to me, although the input of a native speaker would shed even more light on this.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Joseph

Kwiziq community member

2 April 2018

2/04/18

Thank you very much, I feel more reassured now :) I'd say above 'à' and 'de', 'en' has been my trickiest preposition, but I guess it can sink in over time.

Joe, French A-Level Student

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

2 May 2018

2/05/18

Hi Joseph,

Just to correct some of your examples :

Dans l'industrie du bâtiment

Ces médicaments sont sous forme de sirop.

Paul s'est mis en colère

or

Paul est entré dans une colère noire.

and I do agree that 'à', 'de' and 'en'  can be very intuitive but you will get used to them with practice.

Hope this helps!

 

 

I'll be right with you...