FR: en / au / dans le/la + département, région, province, État, etc. - préposition & genre

johnL

Senior Member
USA, English
Il habite en Californie.
Il habite au Kansas.
What makes Kansas masculine, and California feminine? I thought the masculine/feminine concept was something that was arbitrary and unique to French.

Moderator note: Multiple threads merged to create this one. Please scroll to the bottom of this Resources post for links to sites that provide the genders of sub-national geographic regions (US states, Swiss cantons, French regions and departments, Chinese and Canadian provinces, etc.).
 
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  • Iznogoud

    Senior Member
    French - Canada
    Isn't that arbitrary enough for you? You're right, it doesn't seem to make much sense, and I have no idea where that came from, but that's just the way it is.
     

    Cath.S.

    Senior Member
    français de France
    I was tempted to answer that its a ending, that we typically associate with girl's names, just like Carolina and Florida and Georgia, made it feminine... untill I realised that Nevada, Montana etc. were masculine.
    So I have to own up to my ignorance.:(
     

    orangenormal

    Senior Member
    English - North America
    What makes Kansas masculine, and California feminine? I thought the masculine/feminine concept was something that was arbitrary and unique to French.

    Masculine and feminine nouns aren't unique to French, but you're right when you say that it's pretty arbitrary. There's no strict rule, and you really just have to memorize the gender of each word.

    As for why that's the case... Here's a tip that definitely saved me a lot of grief while learning a new language: Try not to concentrate on "why" certain things are they way they are. It'll be much easier for your brain to accept "that's just the way it is." :)

    Before you know it, you'll get an instinctive feel for what's right, and it'll become perfectly natural for 99 to be "quatre-vingt dix-neuf" (four twenties, ten, and nine.) ;)
     

    Iznogoud

    Senior Member
    French - Canada
    Actually, Cath.S. may have a point. I think the basic rules for gender do apply to geographical names. Most states that have a French equivalent ending in -ie or -e, such as Californie, Georgie, Virginie, Caroline, Louisiane, Floride, etc., are feminine. Others are generally masculine (e.g. le Kansas, l'Arkansas, le Colorado, l'Alabama, le Tennessee, etc.), but others are undetermined, such as Washington and New York, for which we say "l'état de Washington" and "l'état de New York". But, somehow, we also say "le New Hampshire".

    Go figure...
     

    thevilla23

    Member
    English, USA
    How do you know what states are what genders. or are they all one gender? Basically I want to know what Pennsylvania and Virginia are.
     

    john_riemann_soong

    Senior Member
    English, Singlish, Chinese; Singapore
    The "ia" ending is from Latin, and French being a descendant of Latin, renders them "-ie". Being feminine in Latin, it is feminine in French also.

    "la Pennsylvanie"
    "la Virginie"

    But most of the states are masculine.
     

    thevilla23

    Member
    English, USA
    So how would you say I moved to Virginia: J'ai demenage a la Virginia?
     
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    Markus

    Senior Member
    Canada - English
    Hi thevilla,

    Some states are masculine and some are feminine. Not only that, but they have different prepositions as well (tu vas au Texas mais tu vas dans le Nevada, even though both are masculine). For feminine states, you use en as a preposition. Therefore, to answer your question, you would say :

    J'ai déménagé en Virginie.
     

    john_riemann_soong

    Senior Member
    English, Singlish, Chinese; Singapore
    (tu vas au Texas mais tu vas dans le Nevada, even though both are masculine).

    There's something I didn't think about much. What happens when you start talking about Chinese provinces? I can't see why "dans" is used for "Nevada", unless it's because "Texas" has an /s/ on the end.
     
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    Markus

    Senior Member
    Canada - English
    What happens when you start talking about Chinese provinces?

    Being la province, the provinces of China would be feminine. Most of the states in the USA are masculine because état is masculine. I believe that the feminine states in the USA are thus so for historical reasons (the gender is derived from the name of the state).
     

    geve

    Senior Member
    France, French
    Clicking randomly on a few names of Chinese provinces on wikipedia seems to corroborate my intuition: all names of provinces are masculine... except la Mongolie. And it ends with an E - so is it that provinces follow the rule for countries names?
     

    lgd190

    Senior Member
    french, romanian
    je dirais "J'irai au Hunan" et "J'irai au Guangdong"

    de même que j'irai au Texas

    je soupçonne que "j'irai dans le Nevada" c'est pas mieux que "j'irai au Nevada", mais de là à savoir quelle règle se cache derrière tout ça ... :confused:
     

    geve

    Senior Member
    France, French
    Personnellement, je suis allée dans le Jiangsu, dans le Zhejiang et dans le Sichuan. Je suis incapable de dire pourquoi je ne suis pas allée au Jiangsu, au Zhejiang et au Sichuan. :eek: Ah, si : je fais comme pour les régions et départements français en fait ! "En" pour les noms féminins, "dans l' / le / les" pour les noms masculins et pluriels. Je ne vais pas au Morbihan, mais dans le Morbihan, dans le Poitou-Charentes, dans l'Allier.
     

    ChiMike

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Here is the rule, which is simple and elegant:
    All of the states of the United States are masculine gender
    EXCEPT those which do not use the actual name of the U.S. state, as is (tel quel), in French, i.e., those where the French have altered the name so that it has a French ending:
    la Virginie (la Virginie Occidentale)
    la Californie
    la Georgie
    la Pennsylvanie
    la Floride
    la Caroline
    la Louisiane

    It might also be pointed out that the French ending and the feminine gender in these cases are based on the Latin, Spanish, or French derivations of these words.
    -ia is a feminine ending in Latin and in Spanish; -ie, of course, is the corresponding one in French (Italia: Italie; Russia: Russie).
    La Louisiane was the original French name, but comes from Latin cartography: Terra Louisiana (la terre de Louis (XIV).
    Florida is feminine in Spanish and again: Terra Florida (fleurie).
    Carolina, although not having a -ia, has a Latin feminine ending and, like Louisiana, is named for a person - King Charles II - Terra Carolina (du nord et du sud).

    The rule thus has an historical basis. It also applies to "le Maine" (which is masculine as was the old French province) and "le Vermont" (vert mont) for obvious reasons.

    Alors, je déménage en Virginie, pour être exact, à Richmond (riche mont!).
     

    wildan1

    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    English - USA
    on dit l'état de Washington, de New-York pour faire la distinction avec les villes qui porte le même nom. Tout comme en anglais, New York State, Washington State

    Autrement, les états américains masculins sont précédés par dans le/l' (le Vermont, l'Iowa, l'Ohio, le Nouveau-Mexique)

    Mais on dit au Texas, je pense, parce qu'il a été un pays indépendant au 19e siècle (1836 à 1845).
     

    marget

    Senior Member
    Thanks, so are you saying that it is incorrect ot say "dans l'état du Nebraska", for example? I have a feeling that I discussed this issue on this site at one point and I was told that one had to say "dans l'état du..."
     

    wildan1

    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    English - USA
    Thanks, so are you saying that it is incorrect ot say "dans l'état du Nebraska", for example? I have a feeling that I discussed this issue on this site at one point and I was told that one had to say "dans l'état du..."

    On dit peut-être l'état de... plus souvent en dehors de l'Amérique du nord pour préciser à ceux qui connaissenet mal ces noms qu'il s'agit bien d'un état. Au Canada, par contre, on reconnaît bien ces noms et on peut se passer de ces mots l'état de (sauf en cas de confusion--New-York ou Washington)
     

    marget

    Senior Member
    The conversation I had was indeed with French people who insisted on expressions such as "dans l'état du New Jersey", since New Jersey is masculine. I believe that in one grammar text, it was noted that "dans le" could always be used with states, which lead a student to use it exclusively, even with Pennsylvanie, (dans le Pennsylvanie) Californie, instead of saying "en"... I doubt that the text meant that.
    In addition, I believe I hear "au" with more states than just Texas. I have definitely heard "au Colorado", for example.
     

    Iznogoud

    Senior Member
    French - Canada
    In the absence of a rule, let me propose a list of the current usage in Canada:

    l'Alabama
    l'Alaska
    l'Arizona
    l'Arkansas
    la Californie
    le Colorado
    le Connecticut
    le Delaware
    la Floride
    la Georgie
    Hawaii (à Hawaii)
    l'Idaho
    l'Illinois
    l'Indiana
    l'Iowa
    le Kansas
    le Kentucky
    la Louisiane
    le Maine
    le Maryland
    le Massachusetts
    le Michigan
    le Minnesota
    le Mississippi
    le Missouri
    le Montana
    le Nebraska
    le Nevada
    le New Hampshire
    le New Jersey
    le Nouveau Mexique (bizarre, on traduit New Mexico mais aucun autre New...)
    l'État de New York (on dit bien le New Jersey, mais l'état de New York)
    la Caroline du Nord (North Carolina)
    le Dakota du Nord (North Dakota)
    l'Ohio
    l'Oklahoma
    l'Orégon
    la Pennsylvanie
    le Rhode Island
    la Caroline du Sud (South Carolina)
    le Dakota du Sud (South Dakota)
    le Tennessee
    le Texas
    l'Utah
    le Vermont
    la Virginie
    l'État de Washington
    la Virginie Occidentale (parfois: le West Virginia)
    le Wisconsin
    le Wyoming
    le District de Columbia (pour DC)

    When referring to a state as the location of something, feminine names or those that start with a vowel use the particle "en" and masculine names take "au". Those that need the word "État" use "dans l'". For example:

    "Je suis allé en Virginie et en Pennsylvanie, puis en Idaho et en Orégon. Par la suite, je suis allé au Colorado, au Kansas et en Iowa. Finalement, je suis allé dans l'État de Washington."

    Go figure...
     

    pifnane

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Marget is right
    + you could say 'nous habitons dans l'Illinois" (some remote place you never heard of)
     

    Ormston

    Senior Member
    British English
    Coming from Finistère into the Côtes d'Armor, the sign says "Bienvenue en Côtes d'Armor but people round here tend to say "J'habite dans les Côtes d'Armor.

    I can't remember what it says going in the other direction, but I'm pretty sure that people say "J'habite dans le Finistère. The next time I pop into Finistère I shall report back on what the Bienvenue signs say - apart from Penn-Ar-Bed which is, of course, a different matter!!:):)

    Moderator note: This new discussion was split from the thread FR: de (la) / du + département - article.
     
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    Lezert

    Senior Member
    french, France
    Note that very often, there is not only one formulation, but two or three possible ones:
    "J'habite dans le Finistère / dans le Tarn / J'habite le Finistère/ le Tarn
    J'habite /dans les Hautes Pyrénées/ les Hautes Pyrénées/ en Hautes Pyrénées
     

    Ormston

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thanks, Lezert.

    Am I right in thinking one would not say j'habite en Finistère as it's masculine?

    And then I promise I'll put my anorak away.....
     

    Lezert

    Senior Member
    french, France
    You are right, because it is masculine and is beginning with a consonant ( j'habite en Aveyron ):)
     
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    jooleeya

    Member
    Australian English
    Bonjour!

    Is there a hard and fast rule which says which states of a country are masculine and feminine? Is it the same as for countries (i.e. country ends in -e and is fem?).

    J'habite dans le Victoria / au Victoria
    J'habite dans le Queensland / au Queensland
    J'habite en Tasmanie

    Does this seem right? Or is there another way to tell?

    Merci!

    Jooleeya
     

    Fred_C

    Senior Member
    Français
    Hi,
    I have worked out a rule to help you tell which country is masculine and which is feminine.

    Your examples are correct : Victoria is masculine, Queensland is masculine, and Tasmanie is feminine.

    The rule I have worked out is the following.
    There are on earth Two types of countries : The "Alien" countries and the "Familiar" countries. (The reference is France, of course)

    "Familiar" countries are all European countries, or French overseas territories. Their name has a long history and etymology, and so has their gender.
    Fortunately, it appears that among the "familiar" countries, only the ones that have a
    name ending in "E" are feminine, and every country that has a name ending in E is feminine.

    "Alien" countries are non-European countries. Their French name is very often a borrowing, more or less changed according to phonetics. As such, nobody thought about their gender, and they are all masculine by default, except if their name ends in a STRONG ending that compells the name to be feminine.
    The strong endings are : "IE" (like Géorgie, or Arabie), "INE" (like "Chine" or "Argentine"), and "LANDE". (like Thaïlande or Islande)
    I have looked at the world's map trying this rule, and I did not find exceptions.

    So, "Victoria" is masculine because it is an "Alien" country, and it has no particular ending, so is Queensland.
    And Tasmanie is feminine, because although it is "alien", it ends in "IE".
     
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    Fred_C

    Senior Member
    Français
    Now for the second part of the rule...

    Actually, there is a class of exceptions : Alien names ending in "ique".
    "ique" is a strong ending that is felt to be a adjective ending, and as an adjective, it can take the two genders.
    So Some alien countries ending in "ique" are feminine, and some are masculine, you must learn them :

    Continents are feminine : "Afrique", "Amérique" are feminine, but "antarctique" is masculine, because this one is a real adjective, and it stands for "le continent antarctique".
    For others, etymology may help. If in some other romance language, the name ends in "ICO", then it will be masculine, if it ends in "ICA", then it will be feminine.
    For example "Mexique" is masculine, because in spanish, you say "Mexico".

    NOTE : This trans-language gender rule works only for countries ending in "ique".
    For example "Costa rica" is masculine in French, (although obviously feminine in Spanish), because according to the rule above, it is an "alien" country, with no strong ending.
     

    geostan

    Senior Member
    English Canada
    Quite ingenious! Almost foolproof.

    But we say l'Alberta (f.) and la Saskatchewan.

    Cheers!
     
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    Fred_C

    Senior Member
    Français
    This is VERY interesting, and that proves that I am right ! :D
    (Let me explain)
    Alberta and Saskatchewan are Canadian provinces, that the French Canadians consider "Familiar" countries.
    As I said, "Familiar" countries have a very long and complex history, and their gender is difficult to state for these reasons.

    But as a French citizen, I consider these countries "Alien", and I could have sworn that both were masculine (and I would have been wrong, obviously). Still now, I cannot help thinking that the feminine gender sounds strange for these names.

    This is a proof that there are two ways of considering the gender of a Country, depending on wether it is "familiar" or "alien".

    For familiar countries, I had said that Fortunately, every country ending in E were feminine, and only these ones were.
    Well, this was too good to be true, as there should be no such easy rule.
    However, for Alien countries, the rule HAS GOT to be very simple, (otherwise, it would not be human)
     

    geostan

    Senior Member
    English Canada
    To be fair to you, I must say that the gender of Saskatchewan used to be either one. Even in French Canadian literature one could find in the same novel Saskatchewan used as a masculine noun, and later as a feminine noun. But the government has since decreed that it is feminine.

    In the case of Alberta, when I was first learning French back in the 50s, I always thought it was masculine, and learned later that it was feminine. ;)

    Cheers!
     

    Charlie51

    Senior Member
    English
    How do you say "to" with a French département, please?

    I know that it's "en Normandie" and "au Poitou" etc. but I was wondering if there is a general rule.

    Is the rule that it's "en" with feminine départements and "au" with masculine ones? (How do you know if they're masculine or feminine?)
     

    Jean-Michel Carrère

    Senior Member
    French from France
    We went to the Seine-et-Marne / the Charente / the Côtes d'Armor / the Pas-de-Calais :

    Nous sommes allés en Seine-et-Marne / en Charente (la Seine-et-Marne, la Charente) but dans les Côtes d'Armor / dans le Pas-de-Calais (les Côtes d'Armor, le Pas-de-Calais).
     

    Charlie51

    Senior Member
    English
    Thanks for your help, Jean-Michel. Is the rule then: "en" with feminine départements, "dans le" with masculine ones and "dans les" with plural ones? Is there any way to find out their gender?
     

    kepa1

    New Member
    Français
    Hello,
    First post here!
    Interesting topic even for us French native speakers. I tried but could not find a general rule for it. There has got to be an explanation but one must dig very deep to find; my advice would be to learn them by heart...

    Is the rule then: "en" with feminine départements, "dans le" with masculine ones and "dans les" with plural ones?
    I think there is no general rule with gender, try la Sarthe, la Nièvre !
     

    mpuma99

    New Member
    English
    Bonjour,

    Quand on parle des etats americains, et on veut dire " I'm going to New Jersey this weekend" en francais, est-il exact de dire, " Je vais au New jersey ce weekend", ou doit-on dire "je vais dans le NJ ..." Les deux me semblent corrects. Commentaires?
     

    yannalan

    Senior Member
    france, french, breton
    "Je vais dans le NJ est seul correct, ici. Mais ça peut varier selon les états :
    -je vais en Californie , dans l'Etat de New York... à Hawaï... en Arizona...
    Faudrait voir état par état...
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    Hi,

    Have a look at this article. It points out which gender is each State : (m) for masculine, and (f) for feminine.

    We usually use en with feminine States and masculine ones that start with a vowel (En Floride, en Arkansas). For that matter, Au New Jersey doesn't sound wrong to me, but I agree to say that dans le NJ sounds much more common.

    Note that we (at least, I) wouldn't say au Rhode Island or even less dans le Rhode Island. As island means île, and as we say Je vais à l'île de + [name] (à l'île de la Réunion,...), we tend to stick to the French structure, saying à Rhode Island.

    It seems pretty random, though. I'd say either au Kentucky or dans le Kentucky indifferently, but definitely only au Kansas, not dans le Kansas.
     
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