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 États-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"


On est au Portugal.
We are in Portugal.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


Q&A Forum 7 questions, 20 answers

MelisaA2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

États-Unis

"For pronunciation reasons, you will use en with masculine countries starting with a vowel" yet États-Unis is using aux. Is that only because it is plural?

Asked 9 months ago
AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

I guess the point is that there is no issue with pronunciation when using aux, because the 'x' will be pronounced as 'z'.

CécileKwiziq team member

Hi Melisa, 

The United States of America is 'Les États-Unis d'Amérique' in French so you would say -

Je vais aux État-Unis le mois prochain I am going to the United States next month.

Because -

à + les = aux 

Hope this helps!

MelisaA2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Oh, I didn't think about the liaison. I'm never sure when there is one and when there isn't since it seems like there frequently isn't and I haven't found a rule for it. Thank you Alan and Cécile.

MelisaA2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Oh, I didn't think about the liaison. I'm never sure when there is one and when there isn't since it seems like there frequently isn't and I haven't found a rule for it. Thank you Alan and Cécile.

Melisa asked:View original

États-Unis

"For pronunciation reasons, you will use en with masculine countries starting with a vowel" yet États-Unis is using aux. Is that only because it is plural?

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ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

A small typo noticed

Bonjour,

In the sentence from the lesson which reads-

“Vous allez aux Etats-Unis.” Here the acute accent on ‘E’ is missing .  Should it not be as “États-Unis”?

Asked 11 months ago
AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Bonjour Varsha !

Excellent question!

Actually in French, when it comes to capital letters, accents are not compulsory, and both cases are perfectly valid :) Thus, you can write either "les États-Unis" or "les Etats-Unis"!Talk about confusing learners!

However, I will add the accent here for the sake of avoiding extra confusion ;)

I hope that's helpful!Bonne journée !

ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Merci Beaucoup Madame Aurélie.

A small typo noticed

Bonjour,

In the sentence from the lesson which reads-

“Vous allez aux Etats-Unis.” Here the acute accent on ‘E’ is missing .  Should it not be as “États-Unis”?

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JessieA1Kwiziq community member

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?
Asked 2 years ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

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!

RonC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
It is probable that the reason is the same as «au Texas» but I am unable to provide the reasoning.
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
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.

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?

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PaulC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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)?
Asked 2 years ago
RonC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
Bonjour Paul, There are two separate lessons here: 1) to or from a city --> here is the lesson for this: Je viens de + [city] = I'm from + [city] 2) to or from a Region, State, Country or Continent --> here is the less for this: Venir de, d', du, des + country / state / region = To come/be from 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.
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
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)
RonC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
Bonjour à nouveau Chris, J'en ai profité bien de votre réponse, merci.

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)?

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ValentinaA1Kwiziq community member

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

Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer
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 !
RonC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
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.

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

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LisaA2Kwiziq community member

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

Asked 3 years ago
GruffKwiziq team member

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).

LisaA2Kwiziq community member
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.

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

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YellamarajuC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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

Asked 4 years ago
RihA2Kwiziq community member
it means going to
FISEHAA1Kwiziq community member
Going to is right. Because en France comme en Ethiopie, c'est feminin.
YellamarajuC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
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.
LauraKwiziq team member
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!

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

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