Skip to content

Seasons in French: Pick the right preposition

Share the knowledge

Learning how to say seasons in French is a must. Read our comprehensive guide to learn how to express “in the spring”, “last winter”, “next summer” and the like in French. It’s going to involve memorizing some prepositions and exceptions, but by the end of this session you’ll be a pro when it comes to seasons in French.

Jump to

  1. Saying the four seasons in French
  2. In the spring, in the summer, in the fall, in the winter in French
  3. L’été and l’hiver
  4. Last summer, next winter, the following winter…
  5. About months in French
  6. Extra info

1. First things first: How do you say the four seasons in French?

le printempsspring
l’été (m)summer
l’automne (m)fall/ autumn
l’hiver (m)winter

2. How do you say “in the spring”, “in the summer”, “in the fall”, “in the winter” in French?

The answer to this question is not quite as straightforward as you would expect. While we use the same preposition with each season in English, the French language works a little bit differently – you’ll have to remember which preposition to use with each season.

These are the following:

au printempsin (the) spring
en étéin (the) summer
en automne (more common) OR à l’automnein (the) fall
en hiverin (the) winter

As you can see, you can use both en and à with automne, with à being the less common of the two. Printemps, however, only works with à + le printemps = au printemps.

Admittedly, all this is pretty easy to mix up. A little memory aid (un petit aide-mémoire) to the rescue:

(This is not to say that à l’été and à l’hiver don’t exist at all in the sense of “in summer/in winter”. They do! However, these are significantly less common than en été and en hiver and you’d mostly see them in a piece of literary work.)

Again, this is when you mean to say “in winter”. The expressions à l’été, à l’automne, à l’hiver, au printemps are common in the sense of “at the beginning of”.

3. L’été and l’hiver

Instead of “en été” and “en hiver”, you can choose to say l’été and l’hiver.

This can mean summers and winters in general, or one particular summer/ winter.

(Le printemps or l’automne is kind of okay, too, but it’s a lot less common, so I’d rather stick with au printemps and en automne.)

Attention: things change a bit when you don’t stop at saying l’été (“in the summer”) but also specify which summer you’re talking about:

4. Last summer, next winter, last spring, the following winter… in French

If you specify which season you’re talking about (last = dernier, next = prochain, etc.), not only l’été and l’hiver will be okay to use, but all other seasons, too.

l’été dernier = last summer

l’hiver prochain = next winter

le printemps dernier = last spring

l’automne qui a suivi = the following autumn (literally: “the autumn that followed”)

And that’s it! If you know the above rules and options, you won’t run into any trouble while talking about seasons in French.

5. About months in French

Learning the name of months in French won’t take you a long time. With the exception of (maybe) August/ l’août, they are written almost like the English months. That makes it near impossible to mix them up.

Note that unlike in English, the names of months are not capitalized in French. To make that stick, you could deploy a mnemonic along the lines of “in French, months are minute”. It’s silly, it’s cute, and it works like a charm!

Another happy fact: just like with seasons, the name of each month is a masculine noun (they all have the definite article le instead of la), so you won’t have to spend a long time poring over noun genders.

If you want to say “in March/ in July/ in November”, you’ll just need to add “en” before the name of the month. You can also say “au mois de”, which translates to “in the month of”. It’s just a little bit more formal or elegant way of saying the same thing:

en octobre/ au mois d’octobre = in October

en juillet/ au mois de juillet = in July

6. Extra info

How many summers?

Both en été (or en hiver/ en automne/ au printemps) and l’été (or l’hiver – remember from earlier: le printemps and l’automne are far less common) can mean one specific spring/ summer/ fall/ winter OR springs/summers etc. in general. Once again, context is paramount.

En été or pendant l’été, en hiver or pendant l’hiver?

en été = in the summer

pendant l’été = in the summer/ during summer/ during the whole of summer/ at a certain time in summer

The difference is subtle, if there’s any. En été/ en hiver means “in summer/ in winter”, with emphasis on the season itself. Pendant l’hiver can mean a certain point in time in winter but also a longer period, even all of winter.

Using à to say “at the beginning of”

As mentioned above, à l’été, à l’automne, à l’hiver, au printemps can also signify “at the beginning of spring/summer/autumn/winter”. Remember the Context Cat? The context (picked up from surrounding sentences) will tell you which meaning you’re dealing with.

Share the knowledge