Important Time Expressions in French

Here are a number of useful time expressions to help you express the past, present, and future in French.

Adverbs of Time

À l’heure
Chaque jour, j’arrive à l’heure.
Each day, I arrive on time.

À temps
Elle a commencé juste à temps.
She began just in time.

Je suis actuellement infirmière.
I am currently a nurse.

On avait auparavant un bâtiment à côté de notre maison.
We formerly had a building beside our house.

Tu as choisi aussitôt ce que vous alliez manger.
You chose immediately what you were going to eat.

Autrefois, il y avait 30 000 personnes qui ont habité à Guelph.
In the olden days, there were 30,000 people who lived in Guelph.

D’abord, il faut choisir une chanson.
First, it’s necessary to choose a song.

On offre désormais la service en français.
We’re offering service in French from now on.

En avance
Il a été en avance.
He was on time.

En même temps
Je vous ai écrit en même temps que vous m’avez écrit.
I wrote to you at the same time that you wrote to me.

En retard
Il a été en retard.
He was late.

Ils ont mangé enfin.
They finally ate.

Ensuite, elle a marché vers le centre commercial
Then, she walked towards the mall.

Maintenant, il ne me parle jamais.
Now, he never speaks to me.

Puis, elle a marché vers le centre commercial
Then, she walked towards the mall.

Tout à coup
Tu m’as frappé tout à coup.
You hit me all of the sudden.

Tout à l’heure
Elle a quitté le Canada tout à l’heure.
She left Canada a little later on.

Nouns of Time

Hier = yesterday
Demain = tomorrow
Le lendemain = the next day
Avant-hier = the day before yesterday
Après demain = the day after tomorrow
Aujourd’hui = today
La veille = the day/night before
L’aube = dawn
Le crépuscule = twilight
L’année passée/dernière = last year
Le mois passé/dernier = last month
La semaine passée/dernière = last week
La dernière année = the last year (of a sequence)

Times of the day

In French, the words for year, morning, day, and evening have a masculine and a feminine form which have different meanings.

The masculine forms emphasize quantity (talking about multiple) whereas the feminine forms emphasize quality (talking about the content of that time period). The masculine forms (quantity) are usually found with the adverbs listed at the beginning of the page as well as with numbers and ce/cet/cette/ces. The feminine forms (quality) are usually found with adjectives or when you’re talking about what you did on a specific day.

L’an/L’année = year
J’ai 40 ans.
I’m 40 years old.
L’année suivante, je vais lire beaucoup de livres.
Next year, I’m going to read a lot of books.

Le matin/La matinée = morning
Ce matin, on va discuter du livre.
This morning, we’re going to discuss the book.
J’ai lu un livre dans la matinée.
I read a book in the morning.

Le jour/La journée = day
Le voyage a duré 3 jours.
The trip was 3 days.
Passez une excellente journée!
Have a great day!

L’après-midi = afternoon
Elle mange le déjeuner en après-midi.

Le soir/La soirée = the evening
Qu’est-ce que vous allez faire ce soir?
What are you going to do this evening?
J’ai dansé dans la soirée.
I danced in the evening.

La nuit = the night
On va regarder un film toute la nuit.
We’re going to watch a movie all night.

Other expressions

Il y a = there is / ago
Il y a un homme qui habite là. There’s a man who lives there.
J’ai écrit un livre il y a quatre ans. I wrote a book four years ago.

dans un instant/moment = in a second
Je vais vous aider dans un instant.
Je vais vous aider dans un moment.
I’m going to help you in a second.


Depuis, pendant, pour can all mean for.

Il habite au Canada depuis 4 ans.*
He’s been living in Canada for 4 years.
Depuis is used in the present tense in French – not in the future or past.

Il habite au Canada depuis 2010.
He’s lived in Canada since 2010. (And he still lives there now).

Elle a habité au Canada pendant 5 ans.
She lived in Canada for 5 years. (And no longer lives there).

Elle va habiter au Canada pendant 3 ans.
She’s going to live in Canada for 3 years. (It is a set amount of time, not indefinite).

Elle va habiter au Canada pour 3 ans.*
She’s going to live in Canada for 3 years. (Could be set amount of time or she could stay for 4 instead, etc..)
Pour can only used to express duration in the future, not the past.


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