So, why is it important to know the gender of a country?
Let’s look at a couple of examples:
- Je vais en Suède: I am going to Sweden – (En: feminine)
- Je vais au Portugal: I am going to Portugal – (Au: Masculine)
- Elle va aux Pays-Bas: She is going to the Netherlands (Aux: Plural)
Let’s look at every category one by one.
We can begin with countries in the feminine form, there are many of them :-).
The feminine form
We’ve already seen that en will be the translation of to:
- Il va en Allemagne: He is going to Germany.
- On va en France: We are going to France.
En can also mean in:
- J’habite en Lituanie: I live in Lithuania.
- Elle habite en Lettonie: She lives in Latvia.
We’ll change the preposition if we want to say that we are from a country in the feminine form.
In this case, we’ll use de:
- Elle vient de France: She comes from France.
- On vient de Norvège: We come from Norway.
Last but not least, the de can become d’, if the country begins with a vowel. For instance:
- Ils viennent d’Allemagne: They come from Germany.
- Tu viens d’Irlande?: Do you come from Ireland?
De and d’ will have the same translation in English :-).
Before moving on, I would like to mention one more time that Countries in the feminine form represent (by far) the largest group.
Thus, you should remember that:
- En: To/in
- De and d’: From
I know, from personal experience, that having these translations in the back of your head will help you when speaking French.
The masculine form
Let’s begin by saying to. We’ll use the preposition au in French:
- Je vais au Danemark: I am going to Denmark.
- Elle va au Portugal: She is going to Portugal.
We’ll also use au to say in:
- On habite au Danemark: We live in Denmark.
- Tu habites au Kosovo ?: Do you live in Kosovo?
- Il habite au Vatican: He lives in the Vatican.
So, how do we say that we are from a country in the masculine form?
We used de and d’ for the feminine form.
We’ll use du for masculine countries:
- Il vient du Danemark: He comes from Denmark.
- Elle vient du Vatican: She comes from the Vatican.
There is no major difference (de to du). However, this difference can be heard in pronunciation.
It should also be mentioned that there are some countries in the masculine form that begins with a vowel.
I could not find one in Europe. However, there are examples from other continents:
- Je viens d‘Ouganda: I come from Uganda.
Uganda is a country in the masculine form that begins with a vowel.
The plural form
There are not many countries in the plural form. However, they have specific prepositions.
We’ll begin with aux – to.
- Je vais aux Pays-Bas: I am going to the Netherlands.
- Elle va aux Pays-Bas: She is going to the Netherlands.
We can also use aux to say in:
- Nous habitons aux Pays-Bas: We live in the Netherlands.
- Tu habites aux Pays-Bas?: Do you live in the Netherlands.
Last but not least, how do we say from a country in the plural form?
- Elle vient des Pays-Bas: She comes from the Netherlands.
- Vous venez des Pays-Bas?: Do you come from the Netherlands?
Can you think of other countries in the plural form? It’s quite difficult in Europe.
However, there is one autonomous territory that belongs to the Kingdom of Denmark:
- Les îles Féroé: Faroe Islands
It’s an island group located between Norway, The Great Britain and Iceland.
Can you think of any examples outside of Europe?
I can think of at least 2:
- Les États-Unis (d’Amérique): The Unites States (of America)
- Les Philippines: The Philippines
Cities and presentations
So, now we have learned why it’s important to know the gender of a country. It’s something that will change the way we build phrases.
In fact, it would be difficult to speak French on a basic level without knowing the gender of the country you’re referring to.
It’s usually included in the first course of French. For instance, we’re often asked to present ourselves, where we are from, where we live etc.
Referring to a city is easier. We’ll just use à:
- On va aller à Paris: We are going to go to Paris.
- Cet été, je vais à Londres et Berlin: This summer, I am going to London and Berlin.
Do you have a question, or have you found something that is incorrect in this article? Please leave me a comment. I update this website almost daily.
My next project is to do a similar map with all the African countries. I enjoy writing these articles as they help me to become more fluent in French.
And like I mentioned before, knowing the gender of a country is usually included in one of the first courses. Usually we tend to learn the gender of the most famous countries, alternatively the countries in our region.
I hope this article has extended your perspective 🙂