à or en?

I was first taught that you use 'en' when talking about contries and continents, e.g. 'en France' and you use 'à' when talking about cities and towns, e.g. 'à Paris'. But now I am being taught that you use 'en' for feminine places and 'à' for masculine places. Which one is true?

April 6, 2020


For cities it is simple. I go to barcelona = Je vais à Barcelona.

For countries, see this list:

For US states, use these:

• en Alabama • en Alaska • en Arizona • en Arkansas • en Californie • en Caroline du Nord • en Caroline du Sud • dans le Colorado / au Colorado • dans le Connecticut / au Connecticut • dans le Dakota du Nord • dans le Dakota du Sud • dans le Delaware / au Delaware • en Floride • en Géorgie • à Hawaï • en Idaho • en Illinois • en Indiana • en Iowa • dans le Kansas / au Kansas • dans le Kentucky / au Kentucky • en Louisiane • dans le Maine • dans le Maryland / au Maryland • dans le Massachusetts / au Massachusetts • dans le Michigan / au Michigan • dans le Minnesota / au Minnesota • dans le Mississippi / au Mississippi • dans le Missouri / au Missouri • dans le Montana / au Montana • dans le Nebraska / au Nebraska • dans le Nevada / au Nevada • dans le New Hampshire / au New Hampshire • dans le New Jersey / au New Jersey • dans l’État de New York • au Nouveau-Mexique • en Ohio • en Oklahoma • en Orégon • en Pennsylvanie • dans le Rhode Island • dans le Tennessee / au Tennessee • au Texas • en Utah • dans le Vermont / au Vermont • en Virginie • en Virginie-Occidentale • dans l’État de Washington • dans le Wisconsin / au Wisconsin • dans le Wyoming / au Wyoming

See also:

In French, it's not Barcelona, but Barcelone. A few city names are translated.

haha. of course.

Toponyms are a very delicate subject for some. Perpinyà is always spelled that way in the Catalan course, even when one is writing Spanish (wherein it is usually spelled Perpiñán). Of course that generates many complaints, with many Spaniards even defering to the French spelling Perpignan. I can go either way. I usually say "Nueva York" when speaking to Mexicans, or "Londres" when speaking to French people, but sometimes I just say New York or London and they understand me. I can go with Barcelone if you prefer. I'm not really touchy about such things.

I do tend write things like "vers 4:30" rather than "vers 16h30", for example if I am emailing or texting French people in French, for example telling a condo owner when I plan to arrive. They seem to understand, or at least I haven't noted any confusion yet.

I think the main question here doesn't regard the translation of toponyms, but the prepositions used with them. Cities are relatively easy. Countries and US states are more difficult. I certainly haven't memorized the list, but I do know that Pennsylvania is feminine. That one is important because that's where I live so I'v memorized it to be able to answer questions. (e.g., "Je reviens en Pennsylvanie", etc.)

if there is a hair pulling emoji, (with both hands, while screaming no!!!) it would be used here....aaargh....more things to know & remember...thanks though!

I doubt the average Frenchman has memorized the genders of all 200 member states of the United Nations, so don't feel bad if you don't have it memorized right away. It would be helpful, however, if you remember the ones that you live in (country and state) and, perhaps, any that you might be visiting, especially if you plan to have conversations with francophones there, such as "...en France", " Canada", etc.

«l’État de New York» Technically many of these states are "The State of ..." and a couple are "The Commonwealth of ...".

«en Virginie-Occidentale» for West Virginia is strange.

If "The United States" can be "Les États-Unis", then why not «Ouest Virginie» or «Virginie'd'Ouest» ?

I do not know why they call West Virginia Virginie Occidentale, just like I don't know why Mexicans call the mountain chain west of the central valley La Sierra Madre Occidentale rather than Sierra Madre del Oeste. But they do.

To my knowledge, only four of the US states call themselves Commonwealths. Two of them are the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where I currently reside, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where I lived for five years. Although I have not lived there, I know that Virginia and Kentucky are the other two. I haven't seen that distinction in French news. They always use "état" to describe any of the 50. Technically there is a 5th Commonwealth, which is the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, but that one is not a state. The French usually call that one a "territoire non incorporé" of the United States.

L'état de New York (and L'état de Washington as well) makes sense to me since Romance languages do not use nouns as modifiers. We use attributive nouns to say New York State and Washington State (presumably to discriminate between the cities of those same names and the states). The French need to make such distinctions as well, I suppose, but they style it in a way to fit their language.

In my experience, the first one is true. I have not heard about differing between a and en for masculine and feminine, however.

'À' is used with cities, but for countries you need to differentiate between feminine and masculine: 'en France' (fem.), 'au Canada' (masc.); and whether they begin with a vowel or a mute h or not: 'en Iran' (masc., but starts with a vowel). And then of course there are exceptions, as usual.

Oh, I remember now. There's also the 'x' and the end for some, like 'Aux Etats-Unis'. Thank you.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but... à = 'to' (followed by a feminine noun) au = 'to' (followed by a masculine noun) en = 'in', or 'on' (depending on context) for example: Je vais à Paris demain (I am going to Paris tomorrow) Elle est allee au cinema (She went to the movie theatre) Nous sommes en Grande-Bretagne (We are in Great Britain)

Á (with the line the other way) around is at while en is in.

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