Habiter and Vivre: Two Ways of Living

Habiter and vivre both mean "to live" in French, but they're used in slightly different contexts. Habiter is very similar in meaning to its English cognate, "to inhabit": it generally refers to where a person is living. While vivre can also have this meaning, it more often refers to a person's living conditions or general existence. Let's look at some examples to illustrate the difference between these two lively verbs. 

 

It's very common to place a preposition such as à or dans after habiter to describe where you're living: 

 

On habite à Still, on a eu une superbe opportunité.
We live in Still, we had a superb opportunity.
Cap. 7, Alsace 20 - Grain de Sel: à l'Anatable à Dinsheim

 

J'habite dans une maison bleue. 
live in a blue house. 

 

But technically, habiter doesn't require a preposition at all. You could just as well say on habite Still (we live in Still) or j'habite une maison bleue (I live in a blue house). The choice is yours! Here's another example of habiter without a preposition: 

 

De là à habiter ce bout du monde isolé...
From there to inhabiting this isolated end of the world...
Cap. 3, Le Journal: L'île de Pâques

 

Whereas habiter describes the specifics of a person's living situation, vivre is more about la vie en général (life in general). It describes how a person lives, or what their life is like:  

 

Elle a permis à Michel, sinon de faire fortune, du moins de vivre bien avec sa petite famille...
It has allowed Michel, if not to become rich, at least to live well with his small family...
Cap. 17-18, Le Journal: L'île de Pâques

 

...un petit village qui vit son quotidien de manière tranquille
...a small village that lives its daily life in a quiet way
Cap. 4, Lionel et Chantal: à Frémestroff

 

Vivre can also mean "to live through" or "to experience":

 

Moi je dirais que c'est magique et que ça se raconte pas, qu'il faut le vivre.
I'd say that it's magical and that it can't be described, that you have to experience it.
Cap. 24, TV Vendée: "Nieul Village de Lumière"

 

No matter where you're living or how you're living, we hope your French studies are going well!

 

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