1. Education

Your suggestion is on its way!

An email with a link to:

http://french.about.com/library/prepositions/bl_prep_en_vs_dans.htm

was emailed to:

Thanks for sharing About.com with others!

Most Emailed Articles

Now We Can Begin

En vs Dans

French Prepositions

Lesson | Test

The prepositions en and dans both mean "in" in French, and can both express time and location. But they are not interchangeable; their usage depends on both meaning and grammar.

En expresses the length of time an action takes. Note that this means the verb is usually in the present or past.

       Je peux faire le lit en 5 minutes.   I can make the bed in 5 minutes.
  Il a lu le livre en une heure. He read the book in an hour.
  J'ai appris à danser en un an. I learned how to dance in a year.

En is used to express the month, season,* or year in which an action takes place (calendar vocabulary):

       Nous voyageons en avril.   We travel in April.
  Il arrivera en hiver. He will arrive in the winter.

     *Except au printemps

En can mean "in" or "to" when followed directly by a noun that doesn't need an article:

       Vous allez en prison ! You're going to prison!
  Il est en classe. He's in school.

En also means "to" or "in" with some states, provinces, and countries:

       J'habite en Californie I live in California
  Je vais en France I'm going to France

 
Dans indicates the amount of time before which an action will occur. Note that this means the verb is usually in the present or future.

       Nous partons dans dix minutes.   We're leaving in 10 minutes.
  Il reviendra dans une heure. He'll be back in an hour.
  Elle va commencer dans une semaine. She's going to start in a week.

Dans refers to something that occurs within or during a decade:

       Dans les années soixantes...    In the sixties...
  Dans les années quatre-vingts... During the eighties...

Dans means "in" a location when followed by an article plus noun:

       Il est dans la maison. He's in the house.
  Qu'est-ce qui est dans la boîte ? What's in the box?

Dans also means "to" or "in" with some states and provinces:

       J'habite dans le Maine I live in Maine
  Je vais dans l'Ontario I'm going to Ontario

  

En vs Dans - Test

En lesson     Dans lesson

Geographical prepositions     Temporal prepositions

More prepositions     French grammar

  

The free, twice-weekly About French Language newsletter keeps you informed about changes to this site, including new lessons, articles, and forum discussions. Subscribe today!

Subscribe to the Newsletter
Name
Email

 

You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

See More About
Related Video
French Dialogues: Shopping
French Dialogues: Travel, Hotels, and Accommodations

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.