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En vs dans (prepositions of time)

When talking about time or durations introduced by in - in two hours, in 1876,... - in French you will either use dans or en.

Here is how to know which one to use :


En une heure = (With)in an hour

Nous avons mangé en 40 minutes.
We ate in forty minutes.

Ils ont fini ce marathon en quatre heures quarante minutes. 
They finished that marathon in four hours and forty minutes.

Léonard de Vinci a peint la Joconde en quatre ans.
Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa in four years.

En expresses the length of time something takes to be done.

 

Dans une heure = In an hour

Nous mangerons dans une heure 
We will eat in an hour's time

Je serai là dans deux semaines.
I will be there in two weeks.

Votre colis sera livré dans cinq jours ouvrés.
Your package will be delivered in 5 working days.

Dans indicates the time until something will happen.

 

En 1998 / En octobre = In 1998 / In October

En 1815, Napoléon fut vaincu.
In 1815, Napoleon was defeated.

En quelle année vous êtes-vous rencontrés?
In what year did you meet?

Mon fils est né en septembre.
My son was born in September.

Il part toujours en vacances en juillet.
He always goes on holiday [US: vacation] in July.

En is used with years and months

You will never say : dans 1998   /  dans octobre

See also how to pronounce years in French : Expressing dates in French

 

See also À + [heure] = At + [time]
and After / before versus in front of / behind (prepositions of time and place)

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Mon fils est né en septembre.
My son was born in September.


Ils ont fini ce marathon en quatre heures quarante minutes. 
They finished that marathon in four hours and forty minutes.


En 1815, Napoléon fut vaincu.
In 1815, Napoleon was defeated.


Léonard de Vinci a peint la Joconde en quatre ans.
Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa in four years.


Je serai là dans deux semaines.
I will be there in two weeks.


Votre colis sera livré dans cinq jours ouvrés.
Your package will be delivered in 5 working days.


En quelle année vous êtes-vous rencontrés?
In what year did you meet?



Il part toujours en vacances en juillet.
He always goes on holiday [US: vacation] in July.


Il est né en 1765.
He was born in 1765.


dans


Nous mangerons dans une heure 
We will eat in an hour's time


en


Nous avons mangé en 40 minutes.
We ate in forty minutes.


Q&A

CrystalMaiden

Kwiziq community member

25 April 2018

1 reply

So can dans be replaced with apres to mean the same thing here?

We will eat in an hour's time/after an hour,
" Nous mangerons dans une heure/apres une heure. "

If so, saying this would make the lesson easier to grasp, because dans and en mean practically the same thing when en means in in my head.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

26 April 2018

26/04/18

Dépêche-toi, on va manger dans 5 minutes. -- Hurry up, we are going to eat in 5 minutes.


This sentence wouldn't really work with après, just as in English you wouldn't really say, "we'll eat after 5 minutes."


You are right that dans and en come close in meaning but they aren't really interchangable.


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Shruti

Kwiziq community member

2 April 2018

2 replies

Dans means the time is still taken to do a task ?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

2 April 2018

2/04/18

I don't understand what you mean by that. Did my reply to your previous post answer your question?


-- Chris.

Shruti

Kwiziq community member

3 April 2018

3/04/18

Yes It Is. Thankyou :)

Shruti

Kwiziq community member

2 April 2018

3 replies

En means the total duration of time has been taken to do a task.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

2 April 2018

2/04/18

Hi Shruti, yes, you are right.


Boivez un verre d'eau en 5 minutes. -- Drink a glass of water within 5 minutes.
Boivez un verre d'eau dans 5 minutes. -- Drink a glass of water in 5 minutes.


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

17 May 2018

17/05/18

Hi Shruti,


The only thing I would add is 'en' is normally in (within)+ time and 'dans' is in +time (+ time)


e.g. Boire un verre de vin en 5 minutes n'est pas recommandé = To drink a glass of wine in (within) 5 minutes is not a good thing


Nous allons manger dans 20 minutes =we're going to eat in 20 minutes (time)


Hope this helps!


 

Shruti

Kwiziq community member

17 May 2018

17/05/18

D’accord. Merci. Ça m’aider 

Tom Rune

Kwiziq community member

18 December 2017

4 replies

Can "en" ever express waiting?

I understand the examples given in this lecture (although I'd have like "en" to be contrasted with "pendant" as well), but can "en" ever mean "in" as in "I'll leave in one hour"? Or should I forget completely about using "en" in that sense?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

18 December 2017

18/12/17

I'll leave in one hour is "Je pars dans une heure."
I believe that "en" cannot be used in this context.


-- Chris.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

19 December 2017

19/12/17

"Je pars en une heure" would mean I leave within one hour.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Tom Rune

Kwiziq community member

19 December 2017

19/12/17

Yes, that makes sense. Thank you.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

19 December 2017

19/12/17

Bonjour Tom and Chris !

Actually, "Je pars en une heure" would be closer to something like "It's taking me an hour to leave.", in a very awkward way.


You cannot use en in the sense of in + [a future duration], it will always be dans :)

Bonne journée !

Sherry

Kwiziq community member

17 January 2017

2 replies

How do you say "within an hour"?

"Dinner will be served within an hour" was the wrong choice on the test for "le dîner sera servi dans une heure". If I wanted to be less precise than "in an hour's time", how would I express that?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

18 January 2017

18/01/17

Bonjour Sherry !

To say "Dinner will be served within an hour" you would have to say "Le dîner sera servi *en* moins d'une heure" (literally: within less than an hour / comprised in one hour) or "Le dîner sera servi *dans* moins d'une heure" (literally: in less than an hour's time).

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Tom Rune

Kwiziq community member

18 December 2017

18/12/17

I'm a bit confused about the possibility for "en" in this context. Does that mean that "en" can express future actions as well?

Charles

Kwiziq community member

29 August 2016

1 reply

Doing something in a specific evening

How about "in the evening" or "in the morning" as a one-time event? I understand that if one does something every evening the term is "le soir" (Tu ne lis que le soir). But what if I'm referring to a specific evening, for example: On est partis tôt et on est arrivés à la maison (in the evening). While I'm asking, how would one modify that to express "early in the evening."

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

14 September 2016

14/09/16

Bonjour Charles !

1- To say "We come home in the evening (specific day)", you would use "dans la soirée" in the sense of "at one point in the duration of that evening", OR "le soir-même" to emphasise "that very evening":
- Nous sommes arrivés dans la soirée/matinée.
- Nous sommes arrivés le soir-même / le matin-même.

2. To add "early/late in the evening", you will only use " dans la soirée", as such:
- Nous sommes arrivés tôt dans la soirée.

I hope that's helpful!

John

Kwiziq community member

8 August 2016

1 reply

En vs Dans

I think the British and American English are a bit different, so I'm still not quite clear on this. So does "Nous avons mangé en 40 minutes" means we ate for 40 minutes? The duration of our meal was 40 minutes? It took us 40 minutes to eat? And "Nous mangerons dans une heure" means we will have to wait for another hour before we can eat, right?

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

8 August 2016

8/08/16

I think it's the same in US and UK English:

Nous avons mangé en 40 minutes = "Over the course of 40 minutes, we ate." All of the sentences you wrote mean the same thing as this.

Nous mangerons dans une heure = yes, we will eat in an hour from now.
I'll be right with you...