I am seeing some contradictions in my research as I learn the French language. I am trying to conclude when to include a preposition or not in my speech. For example, in which of the following, if any, are prepositions optional?

  • J'habite (à) Paris.
  • J'habite (dans) une maison.
  • J'habite au Canada.
  • J'habite aux États-Unis.
  • J'habite en France.

My understanding that a preposition is only required for countries and continents.

This site seems to suggest it is always necessary: https://frenchtogether.com/vocabulary/jhabite/

While this one allows it to be optional: https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/habiter-vs-vivre/

Is this a question between what is right and what is common?

1 Answer 1


You can go by the answer to this question J'habite Lille or j'habite à Lille saying that habiter is both transitive and intransitive, although it doesn't give examples with a country name, so I'm adding it here. Both can be said, j'habite la France and j'habite en France.
Here's a sentence from Le Petit Prince by Saint-Exupéry:

cette grande personne habite la France où elle a faim et froid.

An ngram shows that the intransitive form is more common nowadays which supports my own impression of spoken French.
enter image description here

The same seems to work for continents:

Leur fille, adulte, mariée, habite les États-Unis. (from an academic paper by André Kaspi and Catherine Le Dret)

The only case I would not use the preposition in front of the country name is when habiter means "populate", as in:

Les premiers peuples qui ont habité le Canada étaient des nomades,

  • This is an incredible insight, thanks very much! Dec 7, 2023 at 14:41
  • « Cette grande personne habite la France où… », la pour une tierce personne, mais si je dis « j'habite la France… » c'est que cela ne fait pas longtemps, les natifs disent plutôt « J'habite en France » quand on parle de soi ou de proches, le en me semble plus soutenu — Parfois les gens du voyage disent « Je parle la France », ce qui met hors jeu le la quand on parle de soi :-)
    – Personne
    Dec 8, 2023 at 12:07

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