Five things to know about France’s 2021 Eurovision entry

With the French entry to the 2021 Eurovision song contest among the bookies' favourites to win, here's what you need to know about singer Barbara Pravi.

Five things to know about France's 2021 Eurovision entry
Singer-songwriter Barbara Pravi will represent France at Eurovision 2021. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

1. She’s got form

France is represented this year by singer-songwriter Barbara Pravi, a 28-year-old Parisienne.

This is her first entry into the contest, but she composed the song which won the Eurovision Juniors contest in 2020.

2. She’s one of the more serious entries

While Germany has a man dressed as a giant hand running around the stage, Norway has a collection of chained devils and Ukraine is bringing some traditional throat singing to the contest, Barbara’s act is a little more sober.

Her song Voilà is in the classic French chanson tradition of singers like Edith Piaf.

It’s actually really catchy and builds to a great climax and is also very French – her official video has her wearing a beret and features some mime artists.

3. She will definitely be in the final

France is one of the ‘big five’ countries that go directly into the final every year. France, the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy get guaranteed places in the final because they are the biggest financial contributors to the contest.

The host country, this year the Netherlands, also gets an automatic spot in the finals, but all other countries have to qualify through two semi finals, which take place on the Tuesday and Thursday before the final on Saturday. 

4. She’s singing in English

Haha, don’t be ridiculous, of course she’s not! Over the years more and more countries have been sending English-language songs to the contest to maximise their chances of being understood by the largest numbers of people and singing at least most of your song in English is widely seen as improving your chance of winning.

That cuts no ice with France, of course, for whom francophone pride comes first. In recent years some French entries have had English choruses or phrases in English and that reliably sparks outrage in France and often questions in parliament.

Last year the Culture Minister declared that the song, which had alternating French/English couplets, “broke his ears”.

Barbara’s song is entirely in French. Also, this year the English-speaking nation of Malta has given its song a French title – Je me casse.

5. She could win

France’s recent form in Eurovision has not been great. They haven’t won the contest since 1977 and many of their entries have finished towards the bottom of the table. Unlike countries like Sweden, where Eurovision is huge, France tends to send relative unknowns to the contest, rather than chart-topping stars.

But this could change . . . The site Oddschecker, which collates odds from dozens of bookmakers, on Thursday had France as third favourite to win at 18/5, behind Italy and Malta.

The final is on Saturday, May 22nd at 9pm on France 2 TV.

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Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.


Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty


Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 


And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  


Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.