TNs, U27: Time (Close Future, Dates, Jour or Journée, Telling Time)

The Close Future

In French, the present tense can often be used to describe something that will happen soon.

  • Je vous appelle demain. — I [will] call you tomorrow.
  • On se voit demain. — We [will] see each other tomorrow.

This also occurs in English, albeit less frequently.

  • Ça commence demain. — That begins tomorrow.

Describing Dates

The most common way to express a date in French is to use nous sommes or on est.
This construction is idiomatic and does not directly translate to English.

  • Nous sommes vendredi. — It is Friday.
  • Aujourd'hui, on est mardi. — Today is Tuesday.

Note that c'est vendredi does not mean "it is Friday" but "it is on Friday", where "c'est/it is" refers to an event or occasion. However, c'est vendredi aujourd'hui means and translates to/from "it is Friday today".

Note that while "today" is a noun and adverb in English, aujourd'hui cannot be used as a noun to give a date, so you cannot say Aujourd'hui est mardi. However, hier, aujourd'hui, and demain can be used as nouns when jour or journée are used as well.

  • Demain est un autre jour. — Tomorrow is another day.
  • Hier était un jour férié. — Yesterday was a holiday.

This construction can be used to express the month or year, though you must add en. Like weekdays, months aren't capitalized in French.

  • Nous sommes en juillet. — It's July.
  • On est en deux mille dix-huit. — It's 2018.

When denoting specific dates, put le and the date before the month. Also, French date abbreviations take the form DD/MM/YY.

  • 27/11/14 — C'est le 27 novembre 2014. — It's on November 27, 2014.
  • 02/10 — Nous sommes le 2 octobre. — It's October 2nd.

However, for the first day of the month, you must use the word premier.

  • 01/04 — C'est le premier avril. — It's on April 1st.
  • 01/12 — On est le premier décembre. — It's December first.

To express a relative time in the past, you can use il y a.

  • Il y a huit jours — Eight days ago
  • Il y a deux ans — Two years ago

Jour or Journée?

A few words for dates and times have both masculine and feminine forms that are used in different contexts.

English Masculine Feminine
day jour journée
morning matin matinée
evening soir soirée
year an année

Consider the meaning of the whole sentence when deciding between the two. Some pairs are more flexible than others. Jour and journée can sometimes be interchangeable, but matin and matinée are very strictly separate.

The masculine forms are used for countable units of time and specific dates or moments. For instance:

  • With numerals (except un in some cases).
    • deux ans — two years
    • trois jours — three days
  • With tous ("all"), chaque ("every"), and ce ("this"/"that").
    • chaque matin / tous les matins — every morning
  • With temporal adverbs (e.g. demain and hier).
    • demain matin — tomorrow morning
    • hier soir — yesterday evening / last night

The feminine forms are used to express or emphasize a duration or the passing of time. They're also used with most adjectives. For instance:

  • When emphasizing a duration.
    • Je vais lire toute la matinée. — I am going to read all morning.
    • la journée de huit heures — the 8-hour day
  • With adjectives (except tous/chaque/ce).
    • une belle soirée — a beautiful evening
    • Cette année est mémorable. — This year is memorable.

Deciding between forms with un depends on whether un acts as a numeral or article. If you can translate un as "one" in English, then go with the masculine.

I must spend a (one) year abroad. — Je dois passer un an à l’étranger.
I’ll have dinner there one day. — Je vais dîner là-bas un jour.

Notice that chaque matin doesn't require an article but tous les matins does. This is because chaque, ce, and articles are all examples of determiners, which are words that give context to nouns. You will learn more about determiners in "Adjectives 3".

Telling time: Quelle heure est-il ?

To introduce the time (which is l'heure, not le temps), the impersonal il est is used, and the noun heure(s) is required, except for midi (noon) and minuit (midnight).

  • Il est sept heures. (shortened to 7h00) — It is seven (o'clock).
  • Il est midi. — It is noon.
  • Rendez-vous à minuit. — Let's meet at midnight.

Time is often expressed on a 24-hour clock; otherwise du matin (from 1:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.), de l'après-midi (from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 or 6:00 p.m.) or du soir (from 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.) are added. This also works with minutes, quarter-hours (et quart or moins le quart) and half-hours (et demie).

  • Il est seize heures. or Il est quatre heures de l'après-midi. — It is four p.m./4 p.m.
  • Il est vingt heures quinze. or Il est huit heures et quart du soir. — It is eight fifteen in the evening/8:15 p.m.
  • Mon rendez-vous est à cinq heures de l'après-midi/du soir. — My appointment is at five/5:00 p.m.
  • Il est minuit moins le quart. — It is eleven forty-five/11:45 p.m.
  • Il est midi et demi. — It is twelve thirty/12:30 p.m.
  • Je suis libre entre onze heures (du matin) et midi. — I am available between eleven and noon/11:00 and 12:00.

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I am French and I'd like to say well done !

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