French prepositions of place made simple
The French ‘prepositions de lieux‘ enable you to express the situation of people, places or objects. The preposition depends on the geographic location discussed. But don’t worry ! Even native French speakers occasionally make mistakes with them. You should find French prepositions of place made simple thanks to this article.
Table of content :
- Prepositions of place for countries
- French prepositions of place for cities
- Which prepositions of place for regions and states ?
- Particular case : French prepositions of place for islands
- General prepositions of place
Prepositions of place for countries
Firstly, prepositions of place for countries are going to change according to their genders. But how do we know if a country is feminine or masculine ? In most cases, a feminine country ends with an -e, such as la France, la Pologne and l’Australie.
- For feminine countries : EN
For example : J’habite en France = I live in France.
- With masculine countries : AU
Je travaille au Portugal = I work in Portugal.
- For plural countries : AUX
Il est né aux Emirats Arabes Unis = He was born in the United Arab Emirates.
Exceptions : The following five countries end with an -e but are masculine = le Bélize, le Cambodge, le Mexique, le Mozambique and le Zimbabwe.
Country of origin
- For feminine countries starting with a consonant : we use the preposition DE
Son mari vient de Bolivie = Her husband comes from Bolivia.
- With masculine singular countries : DU
Elle vient de rentrer du Pérou = She just came back from Peru.
- For singular countries starting with a vowel or an h : D’
Il arrive d’Italie = He arrives from Italy.
- For plural countries : DES
Ils sont originaires des Pays-Bas = They come from the Netherlands.
French prepositions of place for cities
Then, prepositions for cities are a bit easier as they don’t really have gender in French.
City of location
In this instance, we use À.
J’habite à Amsterdam = I live in Amsterdam.
For city you originate from, we use DE.
Je viens de Toulouse = I come from Toulouse.
Which prepositions for place for regions and states ?
Moreover, as with other other geographical names, French prepositions with regions, departments and states generally depend on the gender. And of course, as we’ve seen previously, the preposition will be different whether you’re coming or going.
A gender rule for regions and states
- Regions or states ending in “e” (feminine) = EN
Vous allez en Provence et en Alsace = You’re going to Provence and Alsace
Je vais bientôt en Californie = I’m going soon to California
- Other letter (masculine) = AU
Ils vont au Texas et au Colorado = They go to Texas and Colorado
Exceptions for French prepositions of place with states and regions
However, unfortunately, it’s very difficult to say there is a definite rule. We don’t use ‘à’ very much, but rather en, au, aux or dans le, dans la, dans les.
It’s really a matter of custom, the way people have been saying it for generations… not grammar. Some examples to note :
- en Alaska
- dans le Connecticut / au Connecticut
- dans le Maine
- en Ohio
- en Utah
- dans l’Etat de Washington
So, in many cases, you’re just going to have to learn by heart. And don’t be discouraged. If you need assistance with these, Online French lessons can also be of great help for your progress.
Particular case : French prepositions of place for islands
Now, if you’ve been studying French for a little while, you know that we love exceptions ! And prepositions of place for islands definitely have some as follows :
- Some islands use the same preposition as feminine countries : EN
Je voyage en Crète et en Corse = I’m travelling to Crete and Corsica.
- Islands can be masculine too : AU
J’habite au Japon = I live in Japon.
- Sometimes, islands won’t have any article : À / À LA
Je vais à Cuba et à la Réunion = I’m going to Cuba and La Reunion
- Finally, islands could be plural : AUX
Nous habitons aux Maldives = We live in the Maldives
Summing up, the preposition we use to talk about islands in French is more a case-by-case basis.
General prepositions of place
In brief, French preposition of place are everywhere ! They are used to :
- describe where an object is ;
- relate one thing to another regarding a position or location.
10 simple French prepositions of place
First, let’s see a list of common French prepositions of place.
- À = at / in
- Chez = at someone’s home
- Dans = in / inside
- Derrière = behind / at the back of
- Devant = in front of
- En = in / by
- Entre = between
- Sous = under
- Sur = on / on top of
- Vers = towards
Note: for mode of transport, we use ‘à’ when you are on top of it whereas we us ‘en‘ when you are inside. For instance :
- Je vais à vélo au travail = I go to work by bike
- Il va en voiture au bureau = He goes to the office by car
Compound French prepositions of place
Once you feel confident with simple French prepositions of place, you can learn more complex ones. These can be very useful when giving or asking directions in French.
- À côté de = next to
- À droite de = to the right of
- Tout droit = straight
- À gauche de = to the left of
- Au-dessus de = above / higher that
- Au-dessous de = below / underneath
- À l’extérieur de = outside of
- À l’intérieur de = inside of
- En arrière de = behind
- Autour de = around
- Au milieu de = in the middle of
- En dehors de = outside of
- En face de = across from / opposite
- Au bord de = on the edge of
- En avant = Onwards
- Loin de = far from
- Près de = close to
- En bas de = at the bottom of
- En haut de = at the top of
In conclusion, if you invest time into learning prepositions and how they are used, you will soon be a complete pro. Keep up the good work !
Think of French prepositions as vocabulary you need to learn. Instead of learning isolated words, study them in context. You can also check the prepositions de lieux on TV5 Monde. And Get in touch today for personalized French classes with lasting and efficient results.