I am currently trying to relearn the little French I learnt in primary school (and improve on it). One of the first things to learn is saying where you're from and I watched this video that made me curious about the gender of my country (I figured being an African country the spelling wouldn't really change). I used google translate to translate "I live in Kenya" and the result was "je vis au kenya" ... I was expecting something along the lines of "J'habite..."

What is the difference between the two and which one is the best one to use?

  • 1
    Welcome to French Language Stack Exchange! I see you got an answer to the habite question. Re: gender, you're right, the spelling of countries in Africa rarely changes unless they have a long history with France or have regular country endings (e.g. la Tunisie). The rule is pretty predictable: feminine if it ends in e, masculine otherwise, with few exceptions (le Mexique).
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 13:32

2 Answers 2


Both Je vis au Kenya and J'habite au Kenya are possible in French.

The difference between habiter and vivre is that habiter exclusively means to live in a place, to inhabit, while the first meaning of vivre is to live (as in being alive or experiencing something). So habiter has only one meaning while vivre has two.

Habiter is also more commonly used with specific places such as a city or a specific address because you indicated where your home is located (e.g. J'habite à ParisI live in Paris).

On the other hand vivre is more commonly used with countries, because you indicate where you go about your everyday life, which includes where you live but also where you work, where you hang out, where your social life is, etc. (e.g. Je vis en FranceI live in France).

In any case both are possible, but they have slightly different meanings. Compare:

  • Je vis au KenyaI live in Kenya, my life is there.
  • J'habite au KenyaI live in Kenya, this is where my home is.
  • 4
    Nice explanation, and welcome to French Language SE!
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 16:11
  • If you have a good feel for English, you might want to think of habiter as meaning "reside". You'd still translate into English with "live", when speaking regularly and informally, but, as explained, "live" has a few different meanings.
    – JonathanZ
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 13:20
  • They are almost synonyms but there's a connotation of having a house/appartment in "habiter". For example a French resident who's in jail in Spain for several years wouldn't say "J'habite en Espagne depuis quelques années", but he could say "Je vis en Espagne depuis quelques années". Another example would be someone who travels with his bike and backpack every day in a different place. If all the places are in Spain he could say "Je vis en Espagne", but having no fix place/house/appartment he wouldn't say "J'habite en Espagne". And a third example would be someone who lives under a bridge.
    – Ben
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 14:23

J'habite au Kenya.

Both habiter and vivre translate in English as "to live*, however habiter has a strict sense to live in a place, whereas vivre is used more in the sense of being alive, experiencing life.

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