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

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.


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.


Q&A

Lucy

Kwiziq community member

13 February 2019

0 replies

Why is “j’habite dans le New Jersey” correct, but “j’habite dans le Texas” wrong?

Bonnie

Kwiziq community member

7 February 2019

2 replies

En Idaho ou dans l'Idaho?

Bonnie

Kwiziq community member

7 February 2019

7/02/19

My detailed explanation was lost... 

If "dans l'Ontario" is "correct" but "en Ontario" is acceptable for pronunciation purposes, does the same apply to U.S. states that begin with vowels? I've seen "en Alaska, en Iowa", etc., and have even read that to use "dans le" in those circumstances is "affected". If one is acceptable in conversation, but not in written French, that would be helpful to know... 

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

8 February 2019

8/02/19

Hi Bonnie,

Yes these sound correct to me .

In the case of Idaho , I would say, ‘dans l’Idaho’ which is easier to pronounce but it is , I think acceptable to say both...

Tom

Kwiziq community member

22 January 2019

2 replies

Languedoc-Roussillon.

I came across this Q/A

Mes parents vivent ________ Languedoc-Roussillon

The only answer accepted is dans le Languedoc-Roussillon yet I have seen numerous instances en Languedoc-Roussillon cited in many august sources.

I will reference only one from INSEE:

"La pauvreté en Languedoc-Roussillon" - www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/1894450

Is INSEE wrong?

Tom

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

24 January 2019

24/01/19

Hi Tom,

You can actually say both but using ‘en’ rather than ‘dans le’ is according to the Petit Robert ‘affecté’ and sounds precious.

You will see this used in tourist literature used even sometimes for towns-

En Arles, en Avignon...

“Découvrez le guide vacances pour préparer votre séjour en Pays de la Loire.”

But - ‘Les cinq départements des Pays de la Loire’

So I stand by the correction as it is difficult enough for students to get to grips with all the intricacies of using ‘en’, ‘dans’ and ‘à’ and I dont wish to complicate matters...

Hope this helps! 

Tom

Kwiziq community member

24 January 2019

24/01/19

Hi Cécile,

Thanks for the reply.

I understand the "préciosité" of this construction, hence my referece to "august sources".

As you said, and I accept, this may be a difficult topic for beginners but perhaps this could introduced in later level, say C1.

Since Kwiziq purports to support learning to CEFR C1, I believe the site should endeavour to include all valid constructions and registers at the appropiate CEFR level.

I would hate to thing that Kwiziq was guilty of dumbing down its content.

Tom

Patricia

Kwiziq community member

15 January 2019

2 replies

Like Susan, I'm taking a long time to master these rules though I summarise them. I live in Australia and this emphasis on America and Canada.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

17 January 2019

17/01/19

Hi Patricia,

If you send me examples of the Australian regions you would like to express in French I will advise ....

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

17 January 2019

17/01/19

Hi Patricia,

If you send me examples of the Australian regions you would like to express in French I will advise ....

Susan

Kwiziq community member

7 January 2019

1 reply

I have taken at least 15 quizzes on this topic and I still miss some. It is very confusing.having

Isn’t  there a chart of some sort to help with this topic.?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

10 January 2019

10/01/19

There are lots of Q&A's at the bottom of the lesson page. Have you looked through those yet?

Ryan

Kwiziq community member

27 December 2018

0 replies

WHYYY

Honestly instead of making like 5-6 different articles about all the prepositions for to/from different places, why wouldn't you make a single article with a chart summarizing all of them?

It's a confusing topic, and it's expressed horrendously here on this website in an unnecessarily convoluted manner.

Mary

Kwiziq community member

6 December 2018

2 replies

My second question on the test referred to Devonshire, which I assumed to be feminine.

After taking the test, I found an explanation that all English countries ending in shire are masculine, but I don't believe it was mentioned in the material of the lesson before the test. If I'm correct that is was not explained beforehand, it doesn't seem like a good question.

Ryan

Kwiziq community member

26 December 2018

26/12/18

It's mentioned in one of the articles about the gender of countries, but not in all of them. It is a little silly if they happen to give you the articles out of order and you just happen to miss that one...

Mary

Kwiziq community member

17 February 2019

17/02/19

Thanks! I was frustrated by the Devonshire question because I took the lesson in the order it was suggested to me and didn't read the lesson that explained about English counties.

Bill

Kwiziq community member

26 November 2018

2 replies

Bonjour

how about being from a state or country? Are they all « de » somehow I can’t find lessons talking about from somewhere other than cities.  Is it:?

je viens de Californie

je viens de États-Unis. 

Merci d’aVance

Bill

Kwiziq community member

26 November 2018

26/11/18

des États-Unis?

Bill

Kwiziq community member

26 November 2018

26/11/18

Never mind just found it! Sorry for the inconvenience 

Arndis

Kwiziq community member

12 November 2018

2 replies

How am I supposed to know whether Merseyside (for example) is masculine or feminine?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

15 November 2018

15/11/18

You are not,  it's a case of having a feel for what sounds right.

Dans le Merseyside , dans le Yorkshire, dans le Devon, dans la Région des Lacs etc...sound correct to me.

But en Ecosse, en Irlande, au Pays de Galles are correct and well known regions of the UK by the French.

In English these counties and regions don't have a gender so we have to invent an equivalence in French.

I have just looked at a French tourist website to see how they describe the different regions : Le Yorkshire de l'ouest , le Sussex de l'ouest, interesting ...

 

 

Arndis

Kwiziq community member

16 November 2018

16/11/18

For a beginner who is just practicing with these rules I don't think it's a fair question if we can't be expected to identify the gender. 

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. 
Clever stuff underway!