Howdy, and welcome to your quick French lesson of the day. A few years ago, we were at Tom’s parents’ house and his mom said something that sounded like, “Mais on habite en Provence donc ce n’est pas un probleme ici.” (But we live in Provence so it’s not a problem here). I thought to myself, “That’s weird, we don’t live in Provence or anywhere close.” Later when I asked Tom about it, he laughed and said I misheard and his mom had said province. Very different, and no, it’s not another city in France. What does province mean?
Learn the difference between province and Provence!
What does province mean? Province vs. Provence
If you’re not careful and your ears are half-asleep, the two words can sound very similar. But Provence and province are not the same!
First, let’s define the two words:
A geographic area of southeastern France that encompasses the “modern administrative region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, and includes the departments of Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and parts of Alpes-Maritimes and Vaucluse.” (Wiki) The biggest city in the area is Marseille, and the area is known for the beautiful weather, lavender fields and often comes to mind when people talk about the South of France.
What does province mean? Everywhere outside of Paris. If you live in province, it means you’re not in la region Parisienne. You’re out in the “provinces.” So you could be up in a small village in Normandy, in a big city like Nantes in the Loire Atlantique, or down south by Nice. Province is just everywhere else outside of the Paris region — it doesn’t mean out in the boonies — just not in Paris. Anywhere else in France is considered province.
Now let’s hear Provence vs province.
Tom so kindly recorded the following, so hit play on the little button below. Tom says Provence followed by province. The “en” sound is not the same as “in”!
So you could live in Provence, which is considered province.
Have I confused you yet about what does Province mean?
Sometimes province is the butt of jokes for Parisians. To many Parisians, France is Paris and Paris alone and anything else is just not worth the time. That attitude isn’t everywhere but it does exist in some circles. Even as a joke.
If someone says they live in Provence, it means they’re down in the geographical region considered Provence so maybe they mean Marseille. Or Cassis. You know they’re down south, but ask to be sure.
But if you hear province? It just means NOT Paris, so you should ask them where they’re talking about exactly because it could be anywhere (just not in Paris)!
Have you ever confused Provence and province? Can you hear the difference?
Hope you now know the answer to “What does province mean?”
Blooming in Bordeaux says
Fun little French lesson! I had never heard of “province.” Thanks for sharing! 🙂
I never thought I’d heard it either and then realized I had, but thought people were saying Provence until I learned the difference!
Taste of France says
I hate to admit how many years I had this mixed up, due to not hearing the “en”/”in” difference.
I also once confused gare and guerre. I asked a taxi driver to take me to “la guerre du Nord.” His head whipped around so hard I thought it would come off. He of course figured out what I’d meant and didn’t humiliate me over it. I spent the riding realizing my error, and he got a big tip for being gracious.
Not a mistake I made again.
French words (well any non-native words) can be really hard to pronounce. I’m glad that the driver got what you meant with context and didn’t make you feel stupid. This is how we learn 😉
Love this post! Thanks for Tom’s pronunciation. It really helped me hear the difference.
Thank you and so glad you found it helpful!
Ok both words sound the same to me, but I am sure I am not alone with that and for some reason I have always thought that those who live in Paris have a bit of snobbery towards others in France and what the hell I was right some do……….lol
As a “provinciale” 😉 I would say to be careful with the use of the word “Province”. In my whole life, I’ve barely only heard Parisians use it. It’s quite a political word, indeed, and I cringe everytime I hear it!
Oh wow, thanks for the info, Isa. I didn’t realize it was such a loaded word? The French people I asked didn’t say that at all so I apologize if anything I wrote was off-base. From what I understood, it just means not living in the Paris area.
Oh no, no need to worry at all! I find the history of this word pretty interesting. From my knowledge, it was a word used by the King to describe the kingdoms that were dominated by him.
So it’s pretty interesting as France is a very “centralisé” country and how the politics were shaped!
I, personnaly, as most of my friends, would never use the word “province” to describe the place I live or go. I think there’s so much disdaine in this expression!
Ps: I’m soooo sorry for the syntax errors!
for your full information, there is a town called Provins, which is pronounced just like province, but is located a bit outside Paris and therefore qualifies neither as province nor as Provence 😉
Oh boy, that makes it even more confusing!!
With respect to the disdain certain Parisians have for the “provinces” and “a provincial mentality”, I love to quote a wit who said (probably with respect to New York and the rest of the US ): “Provincialism is not limited to the provinces.”
Sophie Nadeau says
Having just come back from Provence, loving this idea of a ‘quick French lesson’ 🙂
Thank you, Sophie! I’ll have to do them regularly. I hope you had a great trip!