Using an/année, matin/matinée, jour/journée, soir/soirée : time unit vs duration

In French, there are two words to talk about the different moments of the day (matin/matinée, soir/soirée), days (jour/journée) and years (an/année), and to know which one to use, it depends on the way you consider these periods as whole units of time, or in their durations.

1.

Je prends le train le matin.
I take the train in the morning.

J'ai eu plein de cadeaux le jour de mon anniversaire.
I had a lot of presents on the day of my birthday. 

Le soir, je bois un verre avec mes amis.
In the evening, I have a drink with my friends

J'ai passé un an en Espagne quand j'avais dix-neuf ans.
I spent a year in Spain when I was nineteen.

When we talk about this time of the day or the day or the year as a precise moment, a time unit in which an action took place, we use the masculine forms: un an (a year), le jour (the day), le matin (the morning), le soir (the evening).

 

2.

J'ai travaillé toute la matinée.
I worked the whole morning.

Cette soirée s'est très bien passée.
That evening went very well.

Les chauve-souris dorment pendant la journée.
Bats sleep during the day / daytime. 

Pendant son année sabbatique, il a voyagé autour du monde.
During his sabbatical year, he travelled around the world.

 

When we consider that part of the day or this day or year in its duration, when we emphasise the length of time, we use the feminine forms: une année (a year)la journée (the day), la matinée (the morning), la soirée (the evening)

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources


Pendant son année sabbatique, il a voyagé autour du monde.
During his sabbatical year, he travelled around the world.


J'ai passé un an en Espagne quand j'avais dix-neuf ans.
I spent a year in Spain when I was nineteen.


duration


Les chauve-souris dorment pendant la journée.
Bats sleep during the day / daytime. 


J'ai travaillé toute la matinée.
I worked the whole morning.


Cette soirée s'est très bien passée.
That evening went very well.


precise moment


J'ai eu plein de cadeaux le jour de mon anniversaire.
I had a lot of presents on the day of my birthday. 


Je prends le train le matin.
I take the train in the morning.


Le soir, je bois un verre avec mes amis.
In the evening, I have a drink with my friends


Q&A

Heather

Kwiziq community member

12 March 2019

3 replies

thanks Chris

Thank you for your response, so if in my head i can say '' the whole'' of the day, year etc, then use the feminine. but what still stumps me is the two examples using years. during his sabbatical he travelled etc, and i spent a year in Spain etc. Both are saying one year, not two or three years, so a precise moment no? Is there a way to differentiate between these two examples ?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

13 March 2019

13/03/19

Hi Heather, 

In the first example - 

'J'ai passé un an en Espagne quand j'avais dix-neuf ans'

It is a unit of time, the person speaking didn't spend weeks, months, two years , probably about a year is implied...

In the second example- 

'Pendant son année sabbatique ....'

This is clearly a very definite year long period and 'année' is required here.

There are a few exceptions to the rule, 'chaque année' rather than 'chaque an' springs to mind, because it sounds too much like 'chacun' and is hard to say I presume...

Hope this helps

Chris

Kwiziq community member

14 March 2019

14/03/19

The way I understand and use it, has to do with counting things (male form) and focusing on the duration (female versions).

I spent one year in Spain. -- This is a counting thing, hence un an.

During his sabbatical year... -- Focus on the duration, hence année

Heather

Kwiziq community member

15 March 2019

15/03/19

Thanks to both Chris and Cécile, very much appreciated. I also have have found articles on Thoughtco.com, that have been helping. I guess it's practice and faith that one day it will be so obvious I will wonder how it ever confused me.

Heather

Kwiziq community member

9 March 2019

1 reply

Duration of time versus a precise moment

I am having trouble with a duration of time vs a precise moment. I thought that the sentence, THAT evening went very well, as a precise moment and therefore masculine. Why is it CETTE soirée s'est très bien passé ?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

11 March 2019

11/03/19

Hi Heather,

the example refers to the entire evening not just the evening as a point in time. The evening in its duration went well. Therefor "soirée" and not "soir".

 

Gunter

Kwiziq community member

25 January 2019

1 reply

"Pendant son année sabbatique, il a voyagé autour du monde." Should that not be "sa"?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

25 January 2019

25/01/19

Well, yes and no. You are correct that année is feminine and therefore it ought to be sa. But as it starts with a vowel, it is son nevertheless, for purely phonetic reasons. 

Robin

Kwiziq community member

6 November 2018

0 replies

I'm having trouble with this lesson - all durations of time

I am not understanding this lesson.Someone traveled in Europe for a year (masculine); someone who traveled when they were 19 (feminine).  Then also "the evening went well" (masculine) but an evening with friends (feminine)?  Requesting additional clarification please, thank you.

Johnny

Kwiziq community member

25 July 2016

4 replies

J'ai passé

I'm so confused. Why is it "J'ai passé un an en Espagne" but "J'ai passé la journée avec Martin"? Why is one talking about the duration while the other is not?

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

3 August 2016

3/08/16

Bonjour Johnny, It has to do with feeling. When you say that you spent the day with someone, you're typically talking about quality time, emphasizing that you spent the whole day together. In contrast, when you spend a year somewhere, that's more of a factual kind of thing - I spent a year in Spain, and then moved to Italy. There's no emphasis on the fact that it was a whole year, every single day. Does that help?

John

Kwiziq community member

3 August 2016

3/08/16

Thanks, Laura. Does that mean it's subjective? If I say I spent the day at work, nothing special. Would that be le jour? Or spending the day always be la jounée?

isabelle

Kwiziq community member

15 October 2016

15/10/16

J'ai passé la journée au travail - J'ai travaillé toute la journée- ( you probably mean the entire day)

Jabari

Kwiziq community member

16 July 2018

16/07/18

Even more explanation here: https://www.thoughtco.com/an-annee-jour-journee-matin-matinee-1371085

Susan

Kwiziq community member

2 June 2016

2 replies

I'm having trouble with this lesson. Why is 'that evening went very well' not masculine?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

2 June 2016

2/06/16

Bonjour Susan ! Thanks for reporting that lesson: there was indeed a mix up in the text of it, that had been inverted ! Words like "matinée", "soirée", "journée" and "année" are feminine, and "matin", "soir", "jour", and "an" are masculine. It's now been fixed, please have a look: https://french.kwiziq.com/my-languages/french/view/3086 Merci et à bientôt !

Susan

Kwiziq community member

2 June 2016

2/06/16

Thank-you Aurélie, I was beginning to feel really stupid.
I'll be right with you...