What is the difference between “lieu” and “endroit”? I know both of them mean place, so what exactly is the difference? Please use examples in your answers.

  • Please make sure to read the help pages (on topic questions and how to ask, and how to answer). What research have you done, what dictionary have you looked at (Larousse: endroit, lieu; you may also try Collins, and TLFi) and what did you not understand? Thank you!
    – user3177
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 7:31

4 Answers 4


Usually when I say 'lieu', it is like the english 'location', and 'endroit' is like 'spot'. so:

Le lieu est les Caraïbes.

Vas-tu me rencontrer à cet endroit?

I would say 'lieu' is more broad, it's not very specific. I also think it's more formal, I hear it more on the news, than I hear people saying it in real life. Endroit is like 'spot', or area.

I would say the BIGGEST difference is that lieu is not very commonly used in speech, and endroit is more familiar language.


Lieu as a spot is not used a lot in speech, sometimes in formal situations (news, speeches, ...)

Lieu is rather well-known because used in many expressions:

  • en lieu sûr

  • cela n'a pas lieu (cela n'arrive pas)

  • cela donne lieu (cela entraîne)

  • il y a lieu de faire cela (il faut faire cela)

  • au lieu de faire cela (à la place de faire cela)

  • en dernier lieu (comme dernière solution)

et lieu-dit, non-lieu, lieu commun

à ne pas confondre avec lieue (distance)

  • à dix lieues de là, ou à des lieues de là (très loin)

  • des bottes de 7 lieues (le petit poucet)


In many cases, when talking about a place, the difference is really a matter of usage, both words can be used and nobody will see anything wrong:

  • J'ai visité l'endroit, j'ai visité les lieux.
  • Ce n'est pas le lieu, ce n'est pas l'endroit (meaning it's not the appropriate place to do something).
  • Repérer l'endroit, repérer les lieux (with a view to doing something).

However there is a small difference: J'ai visité l'endroit, refers to the place we are talking about, while j'ai visité le lieu implies we are talking about a location where some action took or will take place.

Avoir lieu means to take place, and le lieu de l'action is where it takes place, shortened into le lieu, sometimes les lieux.

Un endroit is a part of something larger, not necessarily a place:

  • Un endroit agréable: A nice place.
  • Il était au mauvais endroit: He was at the wrong place.
  • On voit du sable par endroits: We can see sand in some places. (Lieu wouldn't be correct in this sentence.)
  • À quel endroit mettre la chaise? Where to place the chair? (Lieu wouldn't be correct in this sentence.)
  • Elle a été touchée à plusieurs endroits du corps: She was hurt at several parts of her body. (Lieu wouldn't be correct in this sentence.)

Lieu is used to denote where some action takes place:

  • Le lieu de naissance: The place of birth.
  • Un lieu de vacances: A place used for vacations.
  • Au lieu de vente: At point of sale.
  • Le lieu de tournage: The film location.
  • Dresser l'état des lieux: To perform an assessment, conduct a joint verification. Endroit wouldn't be correct in this sentence.)

Maybe a good sentence to see the difference is about the place where a murder is committed:

  • L'endroit idéal pour un crime: The best place for a crime (in general).
  • Le lieu du crime: The crime scene (the place where the crime took place).

In some cases, lieu doesn't refer to any place, but indirectly to the action, and it cannot be replaced by endroit:

  • En premier lieu: In the first place.
  • Au lieu de: Instead of, as a replacement.
  • Tenir lieu de: Acting as, replacing.
  • Il n'y a pas lieu de s'inquiéter: There is no reason to worry about.

Lieu comes from latin locus, still used in English in math. For example a circle is the locus for points at an equal distance of its center. French equivalent is lieu.


un lieu", "une place" and "un endroit" design all a location and in most occasion you can use the one you want without disctinction.

However, they are mostly used for different scale :

"lieu" will mostly be used for larger location like a village, a valley .... It is not so much used in oral modern French.

"place" will be use for the location of the size of one man or one object, a location where an object/a man is/has to be : "This is my spot!" => "C'est ma place!" or "The phone is not where it should" => "Le téléphone n'est pas à sa place". It's also use to design your seat in a plane/train/bus "This is my seat" => "C'est ma place".

But "place" is also the French word for "Plaza", like a big open place without building in a city.

"endroit" will be used for a location at the dimension of a room. Most "place" in English will be translated by endroit : "This is a nice place" => "C'est un endroit agréable". In modern oral French, it case be used for larger location like village/valley.

Source :


See also the other answers therein.

  • 1
    Link-only answers are useless if the linked site is not accessible. Please summarise the relevant content in your answer and only provide links as references. Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 10:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.