Using le, la, l', les with continents, countries & regions names (definite articles)

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

Now look at these sentences:

La France est un merveilleux pays.
France is a wonderful country.

J'adore le Portugal et l'Italie.
I love Portugal and Italy.

Les Etats-Unis sont un immense pays.
The United States is a huge country.

Il adore l'Europe.
He loves Europe.

Je déteste la Californie ou la Provence.
I hate California or Provence.

Notice that in French, countries/continents/states/regions are used with the definite article le, la, l' or les, when used in general statements, unlike in English.

ATTENTION:
When talking about going to or from a country, you won't use the definite article.
See Using en with feminine countries and au(x) with masculine countries to say in or to (prepositions).

NOTE that cities do not use articles:

J'aime Paris et Londres.
I love Paris and London.

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Le Pays de Galles, l'Écosse, l'Angleterre et l'Irlande du Nord font partie du Royaume-Uni.
Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland are part of the United Kingdom.


Il adore l'Europe.
He loves Europe.


Je déteste la Californie ou la Provence.
I hate California or Provence.



J'adore le Portugal et l'Italie.
I love Portugal and Italy.



La France est un merveilleux pays.
France is a wonderful country.


Les Etats-Unis sont un immense pays.
The United States is a huge country.


La France est un beau pays
France is a beautiful country 


J'aime Paris et Londres.
I love Paris and London.


Q&A Forum 12 questions, 17 answers

GadA1Kwiziq community member

no definite article before Israel

In the video there is no definite article in front of Israel. Why? Are there other countries that do not have a definite article beforehand?

Asked 3 months ago

no definite article before Israel

In the video there is no definite article in front of Israel. Why? Are there other countries that do not have a definite article beforehand?

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JoanneB2Kwiziq community member

The Low Countries

Hello, I answered a questions that asked what the "Low Countries" were as "Les Pays-bas" which I learned in my French class, were the combination of The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium. But the correct answer was The Netherlands event though the verb was "ont" and not "a" and the Netherlands is a single country. Could you tell me what the actual Low Countries would be in French?

Asked 8 months ago
AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

I don't think it's the same as English. Generally we use a singular verb with countries like the Netherlands or the United States, but I suppose we'd use a plural verb with the Low Countries.

I believe in French you would use "Les Pays-Bas" for both the Netherlands and the Low Countries, and always with a plural verb.

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Hi Joanna, it's the same as in Englich: The Netherlands is formally plural even though it refers to a single country.

JoanneB2Kwiziq community member

Thank you! That makes sense.

The Low Countries

Hello, I answered a questions that asked what the "Low Countries" were as "Les Pays-bas" which I learned in my French class, were the combination of The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium. But the correct answer was The Netherlands event though the verb was "ont" and not "a" and the Netherlands is a single country. Could you tell me what the actual Low Countries would be in French?

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ClaudiaA1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Hello, on the video on countries China is wrong. It is la Chine

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Thank you for pointing this out Claudia .

There is indeed a mistake in the video as it is-  La Chine ( not La China) but as it is a third-party resource , we can't correct it .

Hello, on the video on countries China is wrong. It is la Chine

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HilaryA0Kwiziq community member

When do you know if a voutry is masculine or feminine

I was told most countries are masvuline, but feminine when ending in e

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Hilary,

The largest category of countries in French are feminine ones. Those ending in 'ie' are normally feminine because of their latin root 'ia'.

Often, when a country ends in a consonant,  it will be masculine but not always, you may find exceptions to all of these rules.

Here are some examples of countries who might appear to be feminine but are in fact masculine.

Le Mexique, Le cambodge, Le Mozambique, Le Vénézuela, Le Nicaragua etc...

Hope this helps!

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

When do you know if a voutry is masculine or feminine

I was told most countries are masvuline, but feminine when ending in e

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IanA1Kwiziq community member

I live in Wales, "Pay de Galles" in French. In conversation I find I am referred to as "de Galles", which is correct?

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Ian,

The country is 'Le Pays de Galles' and its inhabitants are 'les gallois' . I have never heard 'de Galles' used .

I think in Rugby they sometimes shorten it to 'Galles' when they speak of it in a match.

Maybe someone else can add to this?

I live in Wales, "Pay de Galles" in French. In conversation I find I am referred to as "de Galles", which is correct?

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Julianne B2Kwiziq community member

Is the correct English translation of Je déteste la California ou la Provence, I dislike California and Provence

i think the point is that in French 'ou' is used in this situation rather than 'et' - is that right? 
Asked 1 year ago
AliciaA0Kwiziq community member

Hi Julianne!

"I dislike California and Provence" is not the correct translation for "Je déteste la Californie ou la Provence".

Actually, there is something wrong about the French sentence here. We cannot say "Je déteste la Californie ou la Provence", but rather "Je déteste la Californie et la Provence" ou bien "Je déteste la Californie comme la Provence" (I dislike California just as I dislike Provence) 

'ou' could be used in this kind of sentence: "Je déteste le Sud: que ce soit la Californie ou la Provence" 

"I hate being in the South: whatever if it's California or Provence" (sorry for the clumsy English syntax!)

Julianne B2Kwiziq community member

Thanks. So the text in the lesson needs to change then - that's where I got the French statement and incorrect it appears English translation from. Julianne 

Is the correct English translation of Je déteste la California ou la Provence, I dislike California and Provence

i think the point is that in French 'ou' is used in this situation rather than 'et' - is that right? 

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GwynnB1Kwiziq community member

Why is Israel in effect neutral gender?

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Gwynn,

Israel's long form in French is 'l'Etat d' Israel’ which is a bit long so that maybe the reason for shortening to Israel! ( sorry my computer doesn't want to do a 'tréma' on the 'e' today)

Islands and groups of islands don't have an article either...

e.g. Cuba, Haïti, Chypre (Cyprus)

Hope this helps!

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

You mean, why it doesn't take an article? Good question. I am also waiting for Aurélies answer. But I'm afraid that there probably isn't a good reason except for "that's how it is".

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Why is Israel in effect neutral gender?

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RobertA2Kwiziq community member

Do adjectives always come in front of the noun they describe?

Peut on dire "La France est un pays merveilleux?"
Asked 2 years ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
Hi Robert, the situation in French is a bit more varied. The vast majority of adjectives follows the noun. Then there are some which always come before the noun (e.g., grand, belle, nouveau, etc.). And then there are some which even change meaning depending on whether you put them before or after the noun. "Propre" means "one's own" when it vomes before the noun and "clean" when put after it. Best to study the exercises Gruff has posted. -- Chris (who is not a native speaker).

Do adjectives always come in front of the noun they describe?

Peut on dire "La France est un pays merveilleux?"

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ArmanC1Kwiziq community member

D'Espagne ou De l'Espagne

Do these two sentences mean different things, or is one of them incorrect ? 1. Je viens d'Espagne 2. Je viens de l'Espagne To say “the customs of Spain”: 1. Les coutumes d’Espagne 2. Les coutumes de l’Espagne To say “under the influence of Spain”: 1. Sous les influences d’Espagne 2. Sous les influences de l’Espagne.
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Arman ! There is indeed a difference between "d'Espagne" and "de l'Espagne". The distinction here is between d' to express "from", or de l' which means "of [the]". So when you express where the thing comes *from* (its origin), you'll use d', but when you want to say that thing *belongs to* this country, you'll use de l' . Thus "je viens d'Espagne"; either "les coutumes d'Espagne" (where these customs come from) OR "les coutumes de l'Espagne" (its own customs) => here you would more colloquially say "les coutumes espagnoles"; "Sous l'influence de l'Espagne" I hope that's helpful! À bientôt !

D'Espagne ou De l'Espagne

Do these two sentences mean different things, or is one of them incorrect ? 1. Je viens d'Espagne 2. Je viens de l'Espagne To say “the customs of Spain”: 1. Les coutumes d’Espagne 2. Les coutumes de l’Espagne To say “under the influence of Spain”: 1. Sous les influences d’Espagne 2. Sous les influences de l’Espagne.

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BenKwiziq community member

What about in addresses?

Danemark or Le Danemark on the envelope?
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Ben ! On an enveloppe, you'll simply add the name of the country on its own: "67, rue des Lilas 45 467 PIERREVILLE FRANCE" (This isn't a real address.... I think!) I hope that's helpful! À bientôt !

What about in addresses?

Danemark or Le Danemark on the envelope?

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BonnieC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

So, "J'habitais dans le Minnesota." and "Je viens du Minnesota." ?

Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Oui, Bonnie, exactement ! Bravo, continue comme ça !

So, "J'habitais dans le Minnesota." and "Je viens du Minnesota." ?

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Boon HongA1Kwiziq community member

what about cities? J'aime la paris. or J'aime paris

Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Boon Hong ! That's a very good question: the answer is no, you don't use articles with names of cities. "J'aime Paris et Londres." À bientôt !

what about cities? J'aime la paris. or J'aime paris

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Getting that for you now.