Preposition before Places in French

Preposition before Places in French

It is not easy to understand how to translate ‘in’ or ‘to’ when they come before a name of a country, a city or an island, as there is not one rule in French.

1. Countries

a. Feminine Countries: En

A feminine country ends with the letter “e” in French: France, Angleterre, Allemagne etc.

I go to France: je vais en France
I am in France: je suis en France

b. Masculine Countries: Au

A masculine country ends with another letter: Canada, Liban, Nicaragua

I go to Canada: je vais au Canada
I am in Canada: je suis au Canada

Je vais aux Etats-Unis.

Exception: Countries starting with a vowel: Irak, Iran : En

I go to Irak: je vais en Irak
I am in Irak: je suis en Irak

2. Islands

a. Feminine Islands: En

Nouvelle-Zélande, Martinique, Guadeloupe

I go to Martinique: je vais en Martinique
I am in Martinique: je suis en Martinique

b. Masculine Islands: à

Cuba, St Martin, Hawaï, Porto rico

I go to Hawaï: je vais à Hawaï
I am in Hawaï: je suis à Hawaï

Exceptions: some very little islands with a compound name ending in ‘e’: Belle-île (a French island on the atlantic coast):
Je vais à Belle-île.

3. Cities


I go to London: je vais à Londres
I am in London: je suis à Londres

I go to La Baule: je vais à La Baule
I am in La Baule: je suis à La Baule

However the verb “habiter” is a bit special as it is transitive and intransitive so you can say:
1. J’habite Paris
2. J’habite à Paris
Both are correct!

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