Prepositions you need to use with geographic places
I have noticed that questions about prepositions and places often come up in Duolingo's forums. Prepositions are often a mess with no apparent logic, and even when there is it's sometimes hard to get. So I decided to give you some tips to know which preposition to put in front of a geographic place's name.
Note : Keep in mind that a preposition depends on the verb that comes before (e.g : je vais aux toilettes / je jette ça dans les toilettes). The tips I'll give you are fine with verbs like "aller", "se rendre", "voyager", "être", "rester"... in short, when you wanna express that you get there, or that you are already there.
Note bis : I only precise "à" when it can be "au" because they are the same preposition : au = à+le.
- For countries : en (feminine, and all country names beginning with a vowel sound -> en France, en Irak, en Haiti), à (masculine beginning with a consonant, and plural names -> au Guatemala, au Liban, à Djibouti, aux États-Unis).
- Continents : only en (because all continent names begin with a vowel -> en Amérique, en Afrique, en Europe, en Océanie, en Asie, en Antarctique)
- Cities : à (à Bordeaux, à Los Angeles, à Oran). Note : you can also find en put in front of only 2 specific cities : Avignon and Arles.
- Regions, states, districts, and basically every division of a country : en (fem., and all region's name beginning with a vowel sound -> en Bretagne, en Alaska, en Oregon), à (masc. beginning with a consonant -> au Texas, au Connemara). Note : "Dans le" is often better to talk about masc. regions/states (-> dans l'Ohio, dans le Montana, dans le Gars)
- Oceans, seas, and lakes : à (-> à l'océan Atlantique, à la mer Méditerranée, au lac de Côme)
- Mountains : dans (-> dans le massif Central, dans la Cordillère des Andes, dans les Montagnes Rocheuses)
- Forests and woods : dans or à (-> dans la forêt amazonienne, au bois de Boulogne)
- Islands and archipelagos : aux for plural names (aux Fidji, aux Philippines), à or en (fem. and masc. -> à Majorque, à la Barbade, à Taïwan, à Antigua-et-Barbuda, au Groenland, en Corse, en Nouvelle-Calédonie). Note : For tiny islands that need to keep "île" in their name, we can either say dans or à (dans l'île de Ré, à l'île Maurice)
List of exceptions : Oman (masc. en Oman or à Oman), Honduras (masc. au Honduras), Yemen (masc. au Yemen, even though Y is supposed to be a vowel in French)
I realize it's pretty complicated when you're not used to all this, it takes time to get use to every cases. You can get back to this post whenever you have a doubt on which preposition to use. Hope it will be useful for you :)
Feel free to ask questions if something still isn't clear.
I really value the posts by Zarrouguil, even though I have trouble spelling his user name. Not only are they helpful and very "French", but there is great passion for learning and nice wit.
Thank you very much. My name is quite hard to get even for French people ^^ You can call me Z.
Maybe a little add-on for the tricky islands: aux Séchelles, à la Barbade, dans l'île de Ré, en Crète, à Malte...?
I tried to find a logic and I added it. Also added a list of exceptions. Still working on it...
@Sitesurf -- What do you think of adding this content to the French Grammar: Tips and Notes "Update" you and CommeuneTexane put together?
Putting it there would increase discoverability.
It could be an "Extra" topic. Similar to the "Punctuation" and "Aimer" topics.
Reminder to any readers - don't forget to "follow" this post before the downvoters destroy it. You will probably want to return to it a few times before it stays stuck in "la matière grise"!!
Hi Janet240859, could you please explain this process of downvoting which means that topics disappear too soon from the view ?
You might be interested in reading :
Thank you very much, very useful ; and i will try the different ways to sort, especially in long discussions.
Why in the world would anybody downvote such a useful and friendly thread?
I think prepositions are the HARDEST part of learning any language, at least they are for me! Thanks and have some lingots!
Note : you can also find en put in front of only 2 specific cities : Avignon and Arles. Are you sure ? I am not certain but the people will understand. Oceans, seas, and laques (lac) Je vais au bois de Boulogne but if you say "je vais au bois" it's meaning first " I go search wood for the chimney" good job
"En Avignon" and "en Arles" are old structures coming from Occitan. Today we should use "à Avignon" and "à Arles" but you can still hear "en Avignon" now and then.
To me "Aller au bois" firstly means to go to the woods. "Aller au bois" to mean to get wood would be more of an idiom (from where I'm from at least).