Time Expressions

French Time Expressions

Understanding Time Expressions

  • A time expression signifies when something happens, how often it happens, or the duration for which it happens.
  • In French, time expressions can relate to a specific time of day, a day of the week, a month of the year, or relative times like ‘now’, ‘later’, ‘before’, and ‘after’.
  • You can use a time expression by itself, as an answer to a question, or you can incorporate it into a sentence: ‘Je vais à la plage le samedi(I go to the beach on Saturdays).

Time of Day

  • To express the time of day in French, use ‘Il est’ + the hour + ‘heures’: ‘Il est deux heures(It’s 2 o’clock).
  • Use ‘et quart’ for quarter past, ‘et demie’ for half past, and ‘moins le quart’ for quarter to.
  • French uses the 24-hour system, so ‘Il est quinze heures’ translates to ‘It’s 3 pm’.

Days of the Week and Months of the Year

  • Days of the week are all masculine, while months of the year are all masculine too but they are not typically preceded by an article: ‘Je vais au marché le samedi(I go to the market on Saturday)
  • However, if you want to say ‘in a certain month’, you use ‘en’ before the month: ‘Je vais à Paris en juillet(I’m going to Paris in July).

Relative Time

  • Words such as ‘maintenant’ (now), ‘tôt’ (early), ‘tard’ (late), ‘avant’ (before), ‘après’ (after), ‘pendant’ (during) are used to denote relative time.
  • The phrase ‘il y a’ is used to express ‘ago’, as in ‘Il y a deux heures, je suis arrivé(I arrived two hours ago).

Frequency and Duration

  • To express frequency, use ‘tous les’ (every) or ‘fois par’ (times per): ‘Je vais au cinéma tous les week-ends(I go to the cinema every weekend), ‘Je l’appelle trois fois par semaine(I call her three times a week).
  • To express duration, use ‘depuis’ (since/for), ‘pendant’ (during/for) or ‘dans’ (in): ‘Je travaille ici depuis cinq ans(I have been working here for five years).

Expressing Future and Past Time

  • To express an action that will take place in the future, use ‘dans’+ time: ‘Je finirai le projet dans deux jours(I will finish the project in two days).
  • To express an action that took place in the past, use ‘il y a’+ time: ‘J’ai déménagé il y a trois ans(I moved three years ago).

Remember, practice makes perfect. Try to incorporate these expressions into your daily French conversation to make them second nature.