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Prepositions of Place

In our last lesson on the difference between the verbs habiter and vivre, we mentioned that habiteris often followed by a preposition such as à or dans, but it doesn't always require one. So if you live in Paris, you could either say j'habite à Paris (I live in Paris) or simply j'habite Paris (I live in Paris)But in this lesson, we'll focus on instances in which the choice of preposition is very important. Take a look at this example: 

 

Je suis né à Paris en France et j'ai commencé à faire du piano vers l'âge de huit ans
I was born in Paris, in France, and I started to play the piano at around eight years of age
Cap. 3, Alex Terrier - Le musicien et son jazz

 

You'll notice that Alex uses two different prepositions here (à and en) that both translate as "in." So why does he say à Paris but en France? It all has to do with the types of places he's describing. When you're talking about being in a city, you use à:

 

Je suis né à Paris mais j'habite à Lyon. 
I was born in Paris but I live in Lyon. 

 

When you're talking about being in a feminine country (usually ending in e, such as la France), you use en (je suis né en France)But when you're talking about being in a masculine country, you useauunless the name of the country begins with a vowel, in which case you use en:

 

Ma famille habite au Botswana et en Angola.
My family lives in Botswana and in Angola

 

And for a plural country of either gender, you use aux:

 

Donc, treize, quatorze jours de vacances aux États-Unis.
So, thirteen, fourteen days of vacation in the United States.
Cap. 5, Interviews à Central Park: Différences culturelles 

 

These prepositions are translated as "in" in the above examples, but they can all mean "to" as well:

 

Aujourd'hui nous sommes à Londres et demain nous irons à Dublin
We're in London today and we're going to Dublin tomorrow. 

 

When you're talking about coming from a place, the rules are a bit more straightforward. For cities, feminine countries, and masculine countries beginning with a vowel, you use de/d'. For masculine countries beginning with a consonant, you use duAnd for plural countries, you use des

 

Je viens (I come)...        de New York (from New York). 
                                    d'Athènes (from Athens). 
                                   de Chine (from China). 
                                   d'Iran (from Iran). 
                                   du Canada (from Canada). 
                                   des Pays-Bas (from the Netherlands).

 

Knowing these prepositions will make it easier to describe where you're from, where you are, and where you're going in French!  


                                
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Grammar

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