En, dans = In, to with regions, states, counties (prepositions)

We know that regions, states or counties have genders in French, see Continents, countries, regions & states are masculine, feminine or plural (gender).

Note that while we always use to in English for these places, in French we use different prepositions for one or the other. 
We use à with cities, see Using 'à' (to/in) and 'de' (from/of) with cities (prepositions), en/au/aux with countries and continents, see Using en with feminine countries and au(x) with masculine countries to say in or to (prepositions), now let's look at how it goes with regions, states and counties.

Look at these examples:

J'habite dans le New Jersey.
I live in New Jersey.

Mon frère va en Californie tous les étés.
My brother goes to California every summer.

Mes parents habitent en Provence.
My parents live in Provence.

Nous allons dans l'Illinois pour les vacances.
We're going to Illinois for the holidays.

Il y a de belles montagnes dans le Jura.
There are beautiful montains in Jura.

Here is the rule to express in or to:

- You use en with feminine regions/states/counties (usually ending in -e)

- You use dans le with masculine regions/states/counties starting with a consonant.

- You use dans l' with masculine regions/states/counties starting with a vowel.

Note that en is also acceptable for reasons of pronunciation:

Nadia habite dans l'Ontario.
Nadia lives in Ontario.

Nadia habite en Ontario.
Nadia lives in Ontario.

 

EXCEPTIONS: 

These states use au instead of dans le:

Mon oncle habite au Texas.
My uncle lives in Texas.


Tu habites au Nouveau-Mexique.
You live in New Mexico.

Note that the province of Le Québec behaves like a country in French:

Martine habite au Québec.
Martine lives in Quebec.

 

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Nadia habite en Ontario.
Nadia lives in Ontario.


Mon frère va en Californie tous les étés.
My brother goes to California every summer.


Nadia habite dans l'Ontario.
Nadia lives in Ontario.


J'habite dans le New Jersey.
I live in New Jersey.


Tu habites au Nouveau-Mexique.
You live in New Mexico.


Mon oncle habite au Texas.
My uncle lives in Texas.


Nous allons dans l'Illinois pour les vacances.
We're going to Illinois for the holidays.


Il y a de belles montagnes dans le Jura.
There are beautiful montains in Jura.


Mes parents habitent en Provence.
My parents live in Provence.


Q&A

Aaron

Kwiziq community member

2 June 2018

5 replies

Prépositions pour les provinces canadiennes

Le gouvernement québécois a publié cette article détaillant l'usage des prépositions avec les provinces canadiennes. Just pour compliquer ce sujet dont les règles sont déjà difficiles à décrire, la plupart s'utilise avec les prépositions correspondants à ceux utilisés pour les pays (ex. « au Manitoba »au lieu de « dans le Manitoba »). C'est probablement un détail trop petit pour ajouter comme règle sur cette page, mais j'ai pensé que ça vaut la peine de le mentionner dans les commentaires pour ceux qui voyagent au Canada :)

https://www.btb.termiumplus.gc.ca/tpv2guides/guides/clefsfp/index-fra.html?lang=fra&lettr=indx_catlog_p&page=9mJ_RuX2vjuk.html

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 June 2018

4/06/18

Bonne idée, Aaron! Un lien vers cette page serait bien pour ajouter à la leçon correspondant.

-- Chris.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

4 June 2018

4/06/18

Thank you Aaron, will let Aurélie know.

Max

Kwiziq community member

30 September 2018

30/09/18

Isn't Canada a confederation of sovereign states? Manitoba, British Colombia, and so forth are not analogous to Illinois, Indiana, and so forth. A confederation is not the same as a federation. For an analogy we have only to look at the American Confederacy - a collection of sovereign states rather than a federation. Perhaps a Canadian can clear this up further. In any event, to me the Canadian rules make perfect sense.

Aaron

Kwiziq community member

30 September 2018

30/09/18

Yeah, I'm Canadian, that's why I thought I'd share the post :) Canada is officially a "Dominion", but we refer to its formation as "confederation", yeah. Canada's relationship with French is particularly interesting because of how centered around Quebec it is, so there could be an argument to be made about how Quebec's feelings of independence might be reflected in how Canada's provinces are referred to in French, but I think it's more just about how fluid and arbitrary language is and how it naturally developed.

Max

Kwiziq community member

30 September 2018

30/09/18

Fluidity and arbitrariness with an underlying purpose. Thanks for your input. 

Bill

Kwiziq community member

23 May 2018

1 reply

Confusing pedagogy

If you decide to re-work any of the lessons, this would be near the top of my list.

You start with all sorts of stuff that doesn't bear on the lesson (perhaps you mean for us to have a review, but I find it confusingly off topic): genders for regions, states, countries; to in English; then the prepositions for the regions.  You never mention 'dans', but then use it in first example.

For me, the 3 step principal still works: tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.  The approach here is distract them from the topic by referring to previous lessons, then introduce material without explanation, and close with explanation.

It doesn't work for me.

Tamani

Kwiziq community member

29 May 2018

29/05/18

I agree and simply scroll away from any information that is not presented in a clear and orderly fashion!

Ann

Kwiziq community member

1 May 2018

2 replies

Why is dans le Merseyside correct when it is stated to be a county...isn't it feminine?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

2 May 2018

2/05/18

Aurélie affirmed that, indeed, Merseyside is masculine. It joins ranks with all the other British counties and regions endinge on -shire, which are also masculine. That's as close to a justification I can give. It is probably also as close to one as there is.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Ann

Kwiziq community member

2 May 2018

2/05/18

My bad. Later, I noticed on a repeat of the question that they said le Merseyside is a region, I missed noticing the le!

Paul

Kwiziq community member

6 March 2018

1 reply

Just a note to add that Québec is also a city, as well as a Province (that acts like a country.) 

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

7 March 2018

7/03/18

Bonjour Paul !

Yes, of course, when talking about Québec City, you will use "à + [city]", as such:

J'habite à Québec.

Mary Anne

Kwiziq community member

11 September 2017

6 replies

When do you need to use an article with a country, for example, La Corse or Corse.

Ron

Kwiziq community member

12 September 2017

12/09/17

Bonjour Mary Anne, This is going to sound somewhat terse, but, other than a couple of shortcuts provided in the lesson from Aurélie, i.e. Here is the rule to express in or to: - You use en with feminine regions/states/counties (usually ending in -e) - You use dans le with masculine regions/states/counties starting with a consonant. - You use dans l' with masculine regions/states/counties starting with a vowel. Note that en is also acceptable for reasons of pronunciation: These will need to be learned or otherwise committed to memory. I have been studying French since 1999 and because I do not use countries, regions, states enough, most of the time I must look it up, like if I am writing a paper or something. Is it worth the time to memorize such a thing, unequivocally YES. J'espère que ma réponse vous aidera. Bonne chance dans vos études en français.

Mary Anne

Kwiziq community member

14 September 2017

14/09/17

Thank you but my question was about the use of a definite article with a place name. Are you saying that "dans" does not use a definite article, but "en" does?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

14 September 2017

14/09/17

For purposes of clarification regarding the use of «dans le» and «en», typically dans le, dans l', follow the following rule: - You use dans le with masculine regions/states/counties starting with a CONSONANT. - You use dans l' with masculine regions/states/counties starting with a VOWEL So yes, «dans» uses the definite article. However, what the author, Aurélie, states is this: Note that «en» is also acceptable for reasons of PRONUNCIATION (only); I added the «only» to indicate the emphasis toward spoken French. If the speaker chooses to use «en», it would be WITHOUT a definite article like in the example above in the lesson. Now for one caveat, Aurélie may follow with a different explanation, possibly in more detail; however, based on the lesson and my studies, this is the best explanation that I can offer. I do hope this clarifies, somewhat, my response for you. Bonne chance et à bientôt !

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

13 October 2017

13/10/17

Bonjour Mary Ann !

The short answer is that you always use the definite article with countries, regions etc to simply say France, Corsica...la France, la Corse...

Have a look at our related lesson:
https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/revision/grammar/using-le-la-l-les-with-continents-countries-and-regions-names


Bonne journée !

Randi

Kwiziq community member

10 July 2018

10/07/18

Thanks for this summary, Ron. It’s helpful to me. 

I can’t be critical of Aurélie’s lesson because, we’ll, I’m just adoring everything about Aurélie and this site. I’ve improved my French grammar so much since I signed on a month ago. So I’ll toil on, despite frustrations. That said, I’ve found this particular topic incredibly difficult to learn. 

Aurélie, it might be helpful to add more mini-lessons here, breaking this topic into sub-topics. I might digest this more easily if I could ingest it in even smaller bites. For example, maybe you could offer a lesson titled “use ‘en’ with feminine regions/states/counties”, and a separate lesson for “dans le”.

Just a thought. Ultimately, I think I’ll take Ron’s suggestion and just try to commit corresponding geographic prepositions to memory. It won’t be easy. But I never thought I’d memorize all the verbs in Mr. and Mrs. Vandertramp, and I finally did. 

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

10 August 2018

10/08/18

Bonjour Randi, et merci beaucoup pour ces compliments !

The lesson in itself is quite straightforward, though I agree that the "endless" number of cases can make it overwhelming at times :)

Remember that 95% of regions, states and countries ending in -e are feminine (and that they represent the great majority of cases), and try to focus on memorising the exceptions (and I'd say, starting with the ones you'll encounter more often in your everyday life)

Hang on, and remember that French saying:

C'est en forgeant qu'on devient forgeron !
It's by forging that we become a blacksmith! => Practice makes perfect!

Bonne journée !

PS: Look out for our next Gap Fill exercise called "Un été international" ;)

Will

Kwiziq community member

24 August 2017

1 reply

Some additional resources?

I'm really struggling with bringing all the preposition rules together for cities, regions, states, countries. Just as I slowly think i am cracking it with à, de (to/from cities), au, du (to/from m countries) and en/de - I then hit the stumbling block with regions and states as on the lesson here I read it also applies to countries. I have searched for YouTube videos to explain but it seems hard to find one where someone goes over all the different variables. Can anyone suggest a good single point of reference?

Will

Kwiziq community member

24 August 2017

24/08/17

Oops - I misread counties as countries! Perhaps that might be the source of my struggles!

K

Kwiziq community member

22 August 2017

1 reply

Sorry, change that "country" to "county"

Ron

Kwiziq community member

22 August 2017

22/08/17

Please view the reply on your previous question.

K

Kwiziq community member

21 August 2017

1 reply

" You use dans le with masculine regions/states/counties starting with a consonant."

When is "dans" used with a country? Examples, please.

Ron

Kwiziq community member

22 August 2017

22/08/17

Bonjour K, I noticed your amended question regarding counties and it appears that possibly counties refer to the English counties such as York, Cumbria, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, etc. I find no reference to counties in the US. For example, in Texas, Dallas is in Dallas county, Houston in Harris county and Austin in Hayes, Travis and Williamson. So similarly to your question, I am curious to know if US counties are also masculin. J'espère que cela vous aiderait. Bonne chance

Anyul

Kwiziq community member

5 August 2017

1 reply

there's a contradiction between lessons

There's a contradiction between this lesson and https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/my-languages/french/review/3217/102145 As there explains that you always use à for cities. I quote "In French, to say which city you live in, you use: J'habite à + the city". Which one is right?

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

5 August 2017

5/08/17

Bonjour Anyul, There's no contradiction. This lesson is about the preposition you use with regions, states, and counties. The other is about the preposition needed with cities. In French, the preposition is different depending on the geographical place.

nim

Kwiziq community member

31 July 2017

4 replies

au

is there a reason texas and new mexico use "au" instead of dans le other than the fact that it is an exception? and if so, are there other ones that use "au"?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

3 August 2017

3/08/17

Bonjour Nim, Texas and New Mexico are both masculine nouns as is Canada, hence je vais au Canada, je vais au Texas and je vais au Nouveau Mexique. J'espère que cela vous aidera.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

9 August 2017

9/08/17

Bonjour Nim !

Unfortunately, I don't have a definitive explanation for you.
My guess would be that Texas was almost like a separate country as some point in its history, and that New Mexico contains the name of a country, so they follow the masculine countries rule of agreement with "au".

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Lanny

Kwiziq community member

28 January 2018

28/01/18

Texas was a country between 1836 (independence from Mexico) and 1845 (entered United States).

France was one of the few nations to grant semi-official recognition of Texas on September 25, 1839.
In 1841 The French opened a legation which still stands in Austin, (a few miles from the site of the current Texas Capitol building), and Texas in turn opened an embassy in Paris.
France had wanted to set up a consulate general in Washington-on-the-Brazos and a consulate in Houston as well.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

30 January 2018

30/01/18

Bonjour Lanny ! Merci beaucoup pour ces explications très intéressantes ! Bonne journée !
Thinking...