French Grammar Guide for non-francophones

DATES AND TIME

An Overview of Dates and Time

In order to write dates and times correctly, you need to learn the basic vocabulary and familiarize yourself with French written conventions.

Basic Vocabulary

The days of the week in French are:

  • lundi ('Monday'), mardi ('Tuesday'), mercredi ('Wednesday'), jeudi ('Thursday'), vendredi ('Friday'), samedi ('Saturday'), dimanche ('Sunday').

Months of the year are:

  • janvier ('January'), février ('February'), mars ('March'), avril ('April'), mai ('May'), juin ('June'), juillet ('July'), août ('August'), septembre ('September'), octobre ('October'), novembre ('November'), décembre ('December').

 

Dates

When writing the date in French, the basic structure you should follow is:

  •  le 21 novembre 1963

*Note the use of le at the beginning and the absence of a comma after the month.

If you are indicating the day as well, use the following format:

  • le mercredi 4 janvier 2001

*Note presence of le before that day (NOT after it!); note also the absence of commas. A second possibility would be to write:

  • mercredi, le 4 janvier 2001

 

 

 

  • Both days of the week and months are written with a lower case letter, e.g.: lundi, janvier.
  • Do not use sur before days, e.g.: On arrive lundi (and NOT On arrive sur lundi).
  • Do not use "de" after dates (i.e.: do NOT write le 2 de décembre)
  • Write Quelle est la date aujourd'hui? (NOT Qu'est-ce que la date?)
  • Use le when you mean "every", e.g.: On s'entraîne le lundi.
  • When writing the date, do not put a comma before the year, e.g.: le 21 novembre 1963.

Time

When writing about time in French, use the following expressions:

  • Il est ... , e.g.: Il est 4h ("It is 4 o'clock")
  • À quelle heure ... ("When/At what time ...?)
  • Moins le quart ("Quarter to ...)
  • et demie, e.g.: Deux heures et demie (2:30)

 

 

 

  • When indicating time, use "h" rather than a colon, e.g.: 2h30.
  • The 24 hour clock is common, e.g.: 20h = 8PM
  • The word demi takes an "e" (but no "s") after et, e.g.: deux heures et demie.
  • The word demi does not change when it precedes heure, e.g.: une demi-heure.

 

Prepositions

The words pendant, dans, en, pour and depuis are used to indicate when an action started or how long it lasted. Let's consider each of these in turn:

Pendant:

  • means "during/for" and, as such, is used do describe action between two points in time (present, future or past), e.g.: J'ai voyagé pendant deux jours. Do not use pour for this meaning unless referring to a future event.

Dans:

  • means "in" (or "from now), with future reference, e.g.: Je vais le voir dans trois heures. Note that this should not be used for past events. In other words, do NOT write Nous l'avons terminé dans cinq minutes; write Nous l'avons terminé en cinq mintues.

En:

  • means "within/in", e.g.: Il faut le faire en cinq minutes. Do not use en to mean "from now".

Pour:

  • means "for", but only when referring to the duration of a future event, e.g.: Nous allons voyager pour trois semaines; do not use pour for duration in the past (use pendant instead).

Depuis:

  • means "for" or "since", e.g.: On est ici depuis une heure. As such, depuis refers to an action that started in the past and continues in the present.

An hour

The transation of "an hour" depends on what is being described:

  • For wages, use l'heure, e.g.: Elle gagne 20 dollars l'heure.
  • For speed, use à l'heure, e.g.: L'auto roulait à 100/km à l'heure.
 
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