What French Prepositions Go With Countries and Continents?

First determine the gender, then you can find the preposition

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Lawless, Laura K. "What French Prepositions Go With Countries and Continents?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 13, 2017, thoughtco.com/learn-french-prepositions-with-countries-4084855. Lawless, Laura K. (2017, August 13). What French Prepositions Go With Countries and Continents? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/learn-french-prepositions-with-countries-4084855 Lawless, Laura K. "What French Prepositions Go With Countries and Continents?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/learn-french-prepositions-with-countries-4084855 (accessed September 26, 2017).
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When trying to determine which French preposition to use with the French name for a country or continent, the only difficulty is determining the gender of that name. Here are some sources and guidelines.

Countries

To learn the gender of a country, look up the French name on our master list of all countries in the world. You'll notice that nearly all countries that end in e are feminine, and the rest are masculine.

 There are just a few exceptions:

  • le Belize
  • le Cambodge
  • le Mexique
  • le Mozambique
  • le Zaïre
  • le Zimbabwe

You will be applying the right prepositions to a vast array of countries. So how many countries are there in the world? National Geographic says that "at last count, there were 195 independent countries"; how we define a country depends on a complex underpinning of delicate politics and international relations. But United Nations membership guides us.

The 195 total includes the 193 member states of the United Nations and two states with nonmember observer status: the Holy See and the State of Palestine.

The 195 total does not include: Taiwan (the People's Republic of China was declared the true political China in 1971, and so Taiwan lost its status then), the Cook Islands and Niue (states in free association with New Zealand that are neither member states nor nonmember observer states)dependencies (or dependent territories, dependent areas), autonomous territories, and other countries that the United Nations does not recognize as self-governing.

Continents

The French names of all continents end in e, and all are feminine. In French, there are five major continents, which include: l’Afrique, l’Amérique, l’Asie, l'Europe, and l'Océanie, on which the five rings of the Olympic flag are based. But they become seven if you add l'Antarctique and if you count deux ("two") Amériques, according to l'Encyclopédie Larousse.

National Geographic differs. Here's how there could be seven, six, or five continents:

By convention, there are seven continents: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Europe, Australia, and Antarctica. Some geographers list only six continents, combining Europe and Asia into Eurasia. In parts of the world, students learn that there are just five continents: Eurasia, Australia, Africa, Antarctica, and the Americas.

To some geographers, however, "continent" is not just a physical term; it also carries cultural connotations. For example, Europe and Asia are physically part of the same landmass, but the two areas are culturally diverse. (That is, the various cultural groups in Asia have more in common with one another than with those of Europe.)

Oceania is the collective name for the lands of the Pacific Ocean, including Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. Oceania is a convenient way to name these areas, which, with the exception of Australia, are not part of any continent. But Oceania itself is not a continent.

Find the Gender and Then the Preposition

Back to finding the right preposition for these subdivisions on a globe of the world. Once you know the gender, it is a simple matter of deciding which preposition to use.

Note, however, that Islands follow their own rules, so you'll have to look up the French name for each in a French dictionary or encyclopedia to determine its gender and number. Fidji, for instance, is masculine and plural to reflect the 333 tropical islands in its group.

These are the correct prepositions according to gender and number:

  1. Masculine and plural countries: à or de, plus the appropriate definite article.
    Except: masculine countries that begin with a vowel, which take en to mean "to" or "in" and d' to mean "from."
  2. Feminine countries and continents: en or de with no article.

Table of Prepositions for Countries and Continents

Country is:To or InFrom
masculine and starts with consonantaudu
masculine and starts with vowelend'
feminineende / d'
pluralauxdes

Examples:

Masculine countryFeminine countryPlural countryContinent
Je vais au Togo.Elle va en Chine.Il va aux Fidji.

Tu vas en Asie.

Je suis au Togo.Elle est en Chine.Il est aux Fidji.Tu es en Asie.
Je suis du Togo.Elle est de Chine.Il est des Fidji. Tu es d'Asie.