Prepositions of Time in French: A Guide to Basic French Grammar

French prepositions of time constitute a very important element of sentence formation. They help to establish a grammatical as well as semantic concord between different parts of a sentence which refer to time, periods of time, and duration of events and activities. Apart from prepositions of time, there are also prepositions of place and prepositions of manner in the French language.

Examples of French Prepositions of Time

There are several frequently used prepositions of time in the French language – only some of them require using contracted forms with different genders of nouns:

à – used to denote time – hour, date, or specific time period:

  • à six heures – at six o'clock
  • à Noël – during Easter
  • à 30 ans – at the age of 30

Attention: this rule doesn't apply to the seasons of the year: au printemps – in the spring, en ètè – in the summer, en automne – in the autumn, en hivier – in the winter

  • à partir de – used to express "starting from…", or "as of…"

à partir d'aujourd'hui – starting from today:

  • aprés – after;
  • avant – before;
  • dans – used to denote a short period of time during which something will happen or will be done:

dans cinq minutes – in five minutes:

  • depuis – since; depuis 1983 – since 1983;

en – this preposition is used in a number of cases

  1. To describe year, e.g. en 1984 – in 1984;
  2. When used with a noun that starts with a vowel or mute "h", e.g. en hivier – in the winter;
  3. Before names of months, e.g. en décembre – in December;
  4. Period of time during which something will be finished, e.g. en sept ans – within seven years.

Attention: While you can say "en décembre", alternatively you can say "au mois du décembre" – pay attention to the change of preposition.

  • entreet… – meaning between… and…;
  • jusque – till, until. This preposition assumes two forms:
  1. jusqu'à – which comes from a combination of jusque and la, e.g. *jusque la poste will be correct only when written as "jusqu'à poste";
  2. jusqu'au – which comes from a combination of jusque and le, e.g. *jusque le jardin will be correct only when written as "jusqu'au jardin".
  • pendent – during;
  • pour – used to denote a short period of time that will be spent on a specific activity, e.g. Je vais à Paris pour le weekend;
  • vers – meaning "around", or "about", e.g. vers six heures – around six o'clock.

The above list contains a comprehensive overview of French prepositions of time.

Useful Words and Expressions in French Connected with Time

Apart from prepositions of time, there is a number of other words and phrases which describe time in an independent, stand-along manner:

Habituellement – usually; regulierement – regularly; de temps en temps – from time to time; souvent – often; rarement – rarely, hardly ever; jamais – never; parfois – sometimes; toujours – aways.

In order to express regularity, you can use the word chaque – meaning “every”, e.g. chaque matin – every morning.

All the above prepositions of time are fairly easy to learn and use due to grammatical regularity. Before you finally acquire fluency in the French language, you will be confusing them every now and then. French prepositions of time differ from English prepositions of time and can pose some difficulties in the beginning.

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