The United States (of America) = Les États-Unis (d’Amérique). Ok. But what other words & acronyms do the French use to speak about the US in French? And what are the names (and genders) of the individual states in French?
Most of you know that “Les États-Unis” is how we say “United States” in French.
However, there are other options, and translating won’t always work.
1 – Les États-Unis d’Amérique = United States of America
“Les États-Unis d’Amérique” is the most precise translation used for ‘United States of America’. But it’s long, and we’re lazy… So most of the time, the French will only say “Les États-Unis”, just like you’d say “The United States” in English.
2 – Pronunciation of “Les États-Unis”
“Les États-Unis” is a great example of liaison in French: there are two strong liaisons in “z”, one after “les” (or “des” or “aux”…) and the other one after the “s” of “états” (note that the t is silent tough). So…
- “Les États-Unis” is pronounced [lé zéta zuni]
- “Des États-Unis” is pronounced [dé zéta zuni]
- “Aux États-Unis” is pronounced [o zéta zuni]
Confused about when you would use “les”, “des” or “aux”? Check out my article about French prepositions of place.
3 – Do we use the Acronym “US” or “USA” or “EU” for United States in French
The answer is a bit complicated.
In French, “ÉU” is short for “États-Unis”. The French acronym for “United States” can be spelled with or without accent “ÉU” or “EU”, with or without periods “É.U.” or “E.U.”
But the French also often use “USA” and “US” (“U.S.A”, “U.S.”)… It’s not technically French, but we use it nonetheless.
You will sometimes see “ÉUA” for “États-Unis d’Amérique”, like it was used in the Olympics.
4 – “EU” and “UE” in French
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Now, in French “EU” is always for “États-Unis”, whereas in English “EU” is for ‘European Union’… You see the possible confusion!
So, if you want to talk about Europe, I suggest you either write “L’Union Européenne”, or “L’Europe” or be extra careful and write “UE”… Because if you wrote “EU” like in English, the French will understand “États-Unis” = ‘United States’…
5 – L’Amérique = America
Technically, “L’Amérique” (feminine noun) meaning ‘America’ is used for the whole American continent in French. But we often use it to just refer to the USA.
6 – Les Amériques = Americas
It’s quite old-fashioned to talk about ‘The Americas’… But the French still do: the other day (November 2018) I was interviewing people in the streets of Paimpol, Brittany, France, to ask them if they knew what this “Black Friday” sale, now popular in France was about, and where it came from. A girl in her… I don’t think she was even 20 years-old answered “Les Amériques”… I almost burst out laughing because it sounded so weird coming from such a young girl!
So, “Les Amériques” should be used to talk about North and South América (“L’Amérique du Nord” et “L’Amérique du Sud”), so again, the continents, but the French sometimes use it to refer to the USA.
7 – Do the French Ever Say “Les États” for “The US”?
In English, it’s common to refer to the US by just saying “the States”. In French, “Les États” is not used like that at all, but John H., a follower, sent me a message to say he hears it in Canada.
However in France, it’s quite hip to speak “franglish” and say something like : “et toi… tu connais les States”? – what about you, have you been to the States? Showing off your impeccable American accent (LOL!)…
8 – American in French
Let me go on a tangent a bit…
To say “American” in French, you’d say:
- américain (nasal “in” sound) for something/someone masculine
- américaine (rhymes with the letter “N”) for something/someone feminine
9 – Names of the US States in French
If there is nothing, the state is masculine. If there is a “la” or (f), it’s feminine (also in bold).
- La Californie
- La Caroline du Nord
- La Caroline du Sud
- Le Colorado
- Le Connecticut
- Le Dakota du Nord
- Le Dakota du Sud
- Le Delaware
- La Floride
- La Géorgie
- Hawaï (Note: no article. As for the gender… long debate… masculine if you are referring to the state “l’état d’Hawaï est beau”, feminine if you are referring to the island “l’île d’Hawaï est belle”)
- Le Kansas
- Le Kentucky
- La Louisiane
- Le Maine
- Le Maryland
- Le Massachusetts
- Le Michigan
- Le Minnesota
- Le Mississippi
- Le Missouri
- Le Montana
- Le Nebraska
- Le Nevada
- Le New Hampshire
- Le New Jersey
- l’État de New York
- Le Nouveau-Mexique
- La Pennsylvanie
- Le Rhode Island
- Le Tennessee
- Le Texas
- Le Vermont
- La Virginie
- La Virginie-Occidentale
- L’État de Washington
- Le Wisconsin
- Le Wyoming