I was taught that "il vient de X," is the construction to use for describing someone's birthplace or hometown.

My daughter is being taught that "il est de X" is acceptable.

Both seem to check out as grammatically correct, acceptable French, at least as far as web searches and Google Translate go.

And certainly "he is from" and "he comes from" are both equally valid English phrasing.

Nonetheless "il vient de..." sounds more correct, or at least more pleasing, to me. Is it just me? Are both equally acceptable?

1 Answer 1


If I have to choose between those two options, I would go for "Il est de X" to make it less ambiguous since "il vient de X" can simply mean that he took the train/car/etc. from X. Furthermore using être show that it is truly part of him, i.e. it defines his character. You could also use "Il est originaire de X".

That said, to be even less ambiguous I usually use some more precise expressions such as Il est né à X, Il a grandi à X, Il habite depuis Y ans à X, and so on.

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    Pour parler d'un lieu de naissance à l'étranger (e.g. la Pologne) on dira « il vient de Pologne » plus facilement si le voyage est récent... Pour indiquer qu'il y est né, qu'il en est originaire, on emploira « il est polonais » « il est d'origine polonaise » ou bien « il est polonais d'origine » (tournure plus familière). On peut employer ces tournure avec certaines villes (« il est Marseillais »).
    – Rémi
    Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 6:23

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