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The most common time words in French (jusqu’à, pendant, quand…)

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If you’re learning French (or any other language, really), knowing how to say when something happened or will happen is a must. This is why we have collected the most important and most common French time words and expressions that will help you do exactly that!

A single word or a longer expression, it doesn’t matter – all of the phrases below can be used to express time. Note that some of these words, like dans and en, can have additional meanings that are not related to time, so always look for the context.

Oh, and if you’re interested in further time expressions, we have a great selection of those on our site. Check out our wonderful list of time expressions that contain the word temps, or find out all you have to know about the parts of the day in French.

Explanations and examples ahead!

Jump to

  1. How to use dans in French
  2. How to use depuis in French
  3. How to use dès in French
  4. How to use désormais in French
  5. How to use en in French
  6. How to use il y a in French
  7. How to use jusqu’à in French
  8. How to use pendant in French
  9. How to use quand in French

1. How to use dans in French

Dans: meaning “in”, “at”, or “during”

As you can see, dans can have a number of different equivalents in English.

You can use dans to mean “in a certain amount of time” – a period of time we’re counting from a certain point, often from the present:

  • Nous sortons de cours dans cinq minutes. = We get out of class in five minutes.
  • Je serai prêt dans une demi-heure. = I’ll be ready in half an hour.
  • Son avion atterrit dans deux heures. = His/Her plane lands in two hours.

But it can specify any point within a certaintime period, too:

  • Boire du thé noir trop tard dans la journée peut causer de l’insomnie. = Drinking black tea too late in the day might cause insomnia.
  • dans la journée = during the day/ at some point in the day

2. How to use depuis in French

Depuis: meaning “since” or “for”

In French, you can use depuis both to express “since” and “for”. Depuis can be followed by a year, a month, a specific date, or any expression describing a time period.

  • Elle travaille ici depuis 2021. = She’s been working here since 2021.
  • Ils sont emprisonnés depuis six mois. = They’ve been imprisoned for 6 months (now).
  • On est ensemble depuis plusieurs semaines. = We’ve been together for several weeks (now).

3. How to use dès in French

Dès: meaning “starting from”, “once”, “as soon as”

The time word dès indicates a starting point, and it emphasizes the early nature of that start. Dès is often translated as a humble “from” (a certain point in time). That’s completely okay in some cases, but it risks losing out on some of the original meaning in others – the “earliness” of the start.

In French, dès is usuallyintended to convey a sense of immediacy, so the best translation would be“as soon as”, “once”, or even “the minute/ the second that…”.

While you should always pick a translation that suits your exact sentence most, you can’t make a huge mistake by going with “as soon as”.

  • Les réunions commenceront dès demain sur ce sujet. = Meetings on this subject will start as soon as tomorrow.
  • Cette formation peut commencer dès 17 ans. = This course/ training can start right from the age of 17.
  • C’était évident dès le début. = That was evident from the (very) beginning.
dès que possibleas soon as possible
dès que tu pourrasas soon as you can
dès lorsfrom then on

Dès can also mean a starting point not only in time, but other things, too (like prices or a journey):

  • Vous pouvez trouver des télévisions dès 200 € ici. = You can find televisions (starting) from 200 euros here.
  • prendre le bus dès Paris = to take the bus from Paris

4. How to use désormais in French

Désormais: meaning “from now on”, “from this point onwards”, “henceforth”

In some contexts, it can be translated as a simple “now”, too, where the above translations would come off as unnatural.

  • Tu dois désormais être plus prudent. = You have to be more careful from now on.
  • Cet obstacle est désormais levé. = This obstacle is now lifted.
  • Tu entres désormais dans une phase extrêmement importante de ton apprentissage. = You’re now entering an extremely important phase of your learning.

5. How to use en in French

En: meaning “in” a period of time or at a certain point in time

En has two important roles when you use it as a time expression: you use it as a preposition when you describe something that happened (or happens/ will happen) in a certain a year or month.

  • Après s’être fiancés en mai 2017, ils se sont mariés en 2019. = After getting engaged in 2017 October, they got married in 2019.
  • Le tournage de la troisième saison a débuté en juillet 2021. = The filming of the third season started in July 2019.
  • Nous sommes complètement débordés en ce moment. = We are completely snowed under right now. (literally: in this moment)

6. How to use il y a in French

Il y a: meaning “… ago”

Although it looks rather fancy with its three words, il y a simply means “(a certain time) ago”.

  • C’était il y a 30 ans. = That was 30 years ago.
  • Je l’ai commandé il y a 10 jours. = I ordered it 10 days ago.
  • D’autres pays ont adopté des lois similaires il y a des années. = (Some) other countries have adopted similar laws years ago.
  • On s’est rencontrées il y a des années. = We met years ago.

Note: il y a can also be used in the sense of “there is” (with a singular noun) or “there are” (with a plural noun):

Il y a un problème. = There’s a problem.

7. How to use jusqu’à in French

Jusqu’à: meaning “up until” (from jusque + à)

Nothing out of the ordinary here – jusqu’à means “until” or “up until”.

  • Je suis libre jusqu’à lundi. = I’m free until Monday.
  • Je dois seulement patienter jusqu’à Noël. = I’ll just have to wait patiently until Christmas.
  • Le couvre-feu dure jusqu’à 6 heures. = The curfew lasts until 6.

Note: jusqu’à can be used in some other contexts, too. For example, you can use it to emphasize a sense that something is more or goes further than your expectations (both in a positive or negative way). In this case, you’d translate is as “up to” or “even”:

Vous pouvez y taper jusqu’à 25000 caractères. = You can type up to 25000 characters there.

It can also mean “to” (a physical place):

Mon fils prendra le train jusqu’à Brighton. = My son will take the train to Brighton. (He will stay on the train up until the point they reach Brighton.)

8. How to use pendant in French

Pendant: meaning “during”, “for” (a certain time)

  • Je vais vous laisser seul pendant un bref moment. = I’ll leave you alone for a little while.
  • Je travaillerai pendant le week-end. = I’ll be working during/ over the weekend.
  • Pendant quelques secondes, elle n’entendit rien. = For a few seconds, she didn’t hear anything.
  • Laissez tremper pendant 2 heures. = Let it soak for 2 hours.
  • Edith a travaillé dans notre département pendant un certain temps. = Edith worked in our department for some time.

Pendant means “during” or “for” in French in this context, but it also has a couple of other meanings. It’s most interesting as an adjective: it can mean “hanging” / “dangling”, or “pending”/ “ongoing” (it’s a formal expression).

9. How to use quand in French

Quand: meaning “when

Another easy time expression. A good synonym would be lorsque.

  • Je serai chez ma meilleure amie quand tu reviendras. = I’ll be at my best friend’s when you come back.
  • Quand la révolution a éclaté, Jean a fui en Angleterre. = When the revolution broke out, Jean fled to England.
  • Quand je l’ai trouvé, il avait une petite clé à la main. = When I found him, he had a tiny key in his hand.

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