How to use the prepositions EN and DANS in French

🎥 Scroll down to watch Jennifer’s video lesson on the prepositions EN and DANS 🎥


In French, the prepositions en and dans both mean in, and they can both express time and location. However,  they are not interchangeable. Their usage depends on context and grammar.


Use EN to express the length of time an action takes.

👉 Je peux mettre la table en 5 minutes. 
👉 I can set the table in 5 minutes. (It will take me 5 minutes)

👉 Il a lu le livre en une heure.
👉 He read the book in an hour.

👉 J’ai appris à parler français en trois ans.
👉 I learned how to speak French in 3 years.

Use EN to express the month, season, or year in which something happens.

👉 Nous rentrons à l’école en septembre.
👉 We go back to school in September. 

👉 Il viendra en été.
👉 He will come in the summer. 

❗Exception:  Au printemps (in the spring)
au printemps, en été, en automne, en hiver

Use EN to mean in or to in terms of location when followed directly by a noun that doesn’t need an article.

👉 Vous allez en prison.
👉 You’re going to prison. 

👉 Il est en cours.
👉 He’s in class.

👉 Je suis en réunion.
👉 I’m in a meeting. 

👉 Tu habites en banlieue?
👉 Do you live in the suburbs?

EN means to or in with feminine countries, states, provinces, and with all continents.

👉 J’habite en Californie.
👉 I live in California.

👉 On va en France.
👉 We are going to France. 

👉 Nous passons trois semaines en Provence.
👉 We are spending three weeks in Provence.

👉 L’Italie est en Europe.
👉 Italy is in Europe.


DANS tells the amount of time before something happens.

👉 J’arrive dans cinq minutes. 
👉 I will be there in five minutes. 

👉 On revient dans une heure.
👉 We will be back in an hour.

👉 Je pars dans une semaine.
👉 I’m leaving in one week. 

DANS refers to what happens during a decade.

👉 Dans les années cinquante
👉 In the fifties

👉 Dans les années quatre-vingt
👉 During the eighties

DANS means in a location when followed by an article with a noun.

👉 Je suis dans la cuisine.
👉 I am in the kitchen.

👉 Je suis dans la salle de bains.
👉 I am in the bathroom. 

❗Exception:  Je suis aux toilettes. 
I am in the restroom (bathroom where the toilet is). 

DANS means to or in with some states and provinces.

👉 J’habite dans le Montana.
👉 I live in Montana.

👉 Je vais dans l’Ontario.
👉 I’m going to Ontario.

Use EN with feminine states and provinces, usually ending in e

Use DANS LE with masculine states and provinces beginning with a consonant.  You can also use AU with these, and always use AU with Texas and Nouveau-Mexique

Use DANS L’ with masculine states and provinces beginning with a vowel.  You can also use EN with these.

❗There are some exceptions❗
Click here for a list of US states in French with their prepositions

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