En vs pendant

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Tom Rune

Kwiziq community member

17 December 2017

7 replies

En vs pendant

I don't understand the difference (if any) between "en" and "pendant" when it comes to duration. Could you say both "j'ai mangé pendant une heure" and "j'ai mangé en une heure" to express "I ate for one hour"? Are there other examples (with duration) where you'd have to use one over the other?

This relates to:
Expressing for + [duration] with either pendant, durant, depuis or pour (prepositions of time) -

Ron

Kwiziq community member

17 December 2017

17/12/17

Bonjour Tom, The most obvious answer to your question is that you are translating from English into French, like word for word. This never works, Ce ne march jamais ! French is not just English translated into French, the French language has a completely different syntax for phrase structure. That being said, the word «en» usage as it relates to time is like this: J'irai à Paris en trois semaines. --> I will go to Paris in 3 weeks. It is used for events in the future, not the past. There are basically 3 forms to use in speaking about duration of an action in the past: depuis, pendant, il y a. J'ai étudié français depuis trois ans. --> I have studied French for 3 years. (with this structure it means that you continue to study French.) J'ai étudié français pendant trois ans. --> I studied French for 3 years. (with this structure it means that you studied French for 3 years but you no longer study French -- one might say that pendant is used in situations of «one and done») J'ai étudié français il y a trois ans. --> I studied French 3 years ago. The only thing I can think of where this phrase «j'ai mangé en une heure» might possibly be used would be a scenario where one is discussing speed eating and one is comparing how quickly they have eaten in the past since the literal translation is along the lines of «I've eaten in an hour» (possibly not a very satisfying meal-time experience, I might add). One key point to keep in mind is the French language is art, it flows like music, it describes like an artist making a painting, and for the most part the syntax describes scenarios in a very beautiful sense unlike our use of English. I hope this is helpful to you.

Tom Rune

Kwiziq community member

18 December 2017

18/12/17

English isn't my native language, so I doubt that that's where the problem lies ;-) The reason I asked about "en" with duration, with eating as an example, is that this very example is used in this lesson: https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/talking-about-time-when-to-use-en-versus-dans-prepositions-of-time Please correct me if I'm wrong, but there seem to be ample examples in this lecture where "en" is used to express duration ("it took this long"), including in the past. Am I missing something? My question, then, is how this works differently than using "pendant". On another note, I don't understand a couple of your examples. Is "J'ai étudié français depuis trois ans" really correct? Shouldn't it be "J'étudie (le) français depuis trois ans"? Present, not passé composé? The other example you use that I don't understand is "J'irai à Paris en trois semaines". Again paraphrasing the lecture https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/talking-about-time-when-to-use-en-versus-dans-prepositions-of-time it says we should use "dans" in this case: "J'irai à Paris _dans_ trois semaines". Are "en" and "dans" interchangable is this particular example, and if so; why?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

18 December 2017

18/12/17

Well, actually, there is a difference between en and pendant when expressing duration of an action.They are very similar in that way but not enirely.

"Pendant" expresses a global duration of an action which might or might not be continued or repeated.
"En" in the temporal context stands for a duration of an uninterrupted action or a time limit is somehow implied.
For example:

1) "Levez les bras et baissez-les. Faites-le pendant cinq minutes."

2) "Levez les bras et baissez-les. Faites-le en cinq minutes."

The first sentence implies that you raise and lower the arms repeatedly during five minutes.
The second sentence says to raise and lower the arms once within five minutes.

So "pendant" is very much like "during" in English. And "en" is "in" in English.

I hope that helps to clarify the situation.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Chris

Kwiziq community member

18 December 2017

18/12/17

Hi Ron, I read your well written reply but I am not sure I agree with some examples you give. here are the ones I see things differently: J'irai à Paris en trois semaines. -- That, to me, does NOT mean that I will go to Paris in three weeks, because in this case you would say "dans trois semaines". If you want to say that you have been studying French for 3 years and are still at it, you would use the present tense in French: Je étudie le français depuis 3 ans. You don't use the passé composé in this case. The sentence "J'ai mangé en une heure." is perfectly OK in French. It means that I ate within one hour, meaning that eating took less than one hour. Kind regards, -- Chris (not a native speaker).

Tom Rune

Kwiziq community member

18 December 2017

18/12/17

Thank you, Chris, this has been my understanding as well. Also, would you agree with the following examples? - J'ai lu le livre en une heure - I read the book in one hour (it took me one hour to finish it) - J'ai lu le livre pendant une heure - I read the book for one hour (there was more left to read after I finished this sitting)

Chris

Kwiziq community member

18 December 2017

18/12/17

Yes, these are good examples, I believe. -- Chris.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

19 December 2017

19/12/17

Bonjour à tous !

Chris and Tom are correct regarding the example "J'irai à Paris en trois semaines.". This sentence would actually mean something like "It will take me three weeks to go to Paris.", as en refers to the duration it takes to accomplish an action.

Tom, your last examples are correct indeed :)

As Tom pointed out, the related lesson would be:
https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/talking-about-time-when-to-use-en-versus-dans-prepositions-of-time
as well as
https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/expressing-for-duration-with-either-pendant-durant-depuis-or-pour

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

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