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What’s in a Day? - Un Jour vs. Une Journée

You probably came across the word jour (day) very early on, when you learned the greeting bonjour (hello). But did you know that bonjour has a feminine counterpart, bonne journée (have a nice day)? 

 

And are you aware that there are two words in French not only for "day," but also for "year," "morning," and "evening"

 

                                masculine                    feminine

       day                     un jour                      une journée

      year                      un an                        une année

    morning                le matin                      la matinée 

    evening                  le soir                         la soirée 

 

Is there a difference between the masculine and feminine versions? If so, which one should you choose?

 

The shorter masculine nouns un jour, un an, un matin, un soir refer to a specific point in time, a unit of time, with an emphasis on quantity. The longer feminine nouns une journée, une année, la matinée, la soirée emphasize duration and quality.

 

Although the masculine and feminine versions of each word translate more or less the same way, they have different shades of meaning that are not necessarily conveyed in English and that can be difficult for French learners to grasp.

 

In this lesson, we'll explore the differences between jour and journée (day), and we will cover the remaining words in a future lesson. 

 

So, let’s take a closer look at jour (day) first. As mentioned earlier, the shorter masculine word jour refers to a day as a unit of time, or a point in time.

 

You always use jour when referring to a calendar day, as in: 

 

Quel jour sommes-nous?

What day is it? (literally, "What day are we?")

 

You would never say, Quelle journée somme-nous? 

 

A point in time doesn’t have to be specific. Un jour can also mean "one day" or "someday":

 

Un jour le destin lui donnera une occasion de régler ses comptes.

One day, fate will give her an opportunity to settle her score.

Caption 56, Le Jour où tout a basculé J'ai escroqué mon assurance ! - Part 3

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In any case, jour often does refer to a specific or even a special day. In the example below, Sam explains to his mother that today was a special day: lotto day. 

 

Aujourd'hui, c'était le jour du loto

Today was lotto day

Caption 3, Extr@ Ep. 6 - Le jour du loto - Part 5

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And it’s a special day for his friend Nico too, who picked up two girls in a single day:

 

Ouais. Deux filles en un seul jour.

Yeah. Two girls in a single day.

Caption 17, Extr@ Ep. 6 - Le jour du loto - Part 5

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Note that en une seule journée (in a single day) would be grammatically and semantically acceptable, but maybe not the best choice here. It would mean something like "in the span of a single day." En une seule journée wouldn’t sound quite as striking, as Nico wants to emphasize the record time it took him to pick up two girls!

 

Meanwhile, Annie is celebrating Sacha’s lottery win. She tells her:

 

C'est ton jour de chance.

It's your lucky day.

Caption 4, Extr@ Ep. 6 - Le jour du loto - Part 4

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Unfortunately, her jour de chance turns out to be un jour de malchance:

 

Quel jour de malchance!

What a day of bad luck!

Caption 59, Extr@ Ep. 6 - Le jour du loto - Part 8

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The expression is usually un jour de malchance, since the emphasis is on the unlucky event, but you could say une journée de malchance if you wanted to shift the emphasis onto the duration of the day—perhaps referring to a day filled with unlucky events!

 

It was also un jour de malchance for the mother in the example below, who remembered ce jour-là (that day) as the day when she found out that her baby was switched at birth:

 

Ce jour-là, je savais que ma vie ne serait plus jamais la même.

That day, I knew that my life would never be the same again.

Caption 24, Le Jour où tout a basculé Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 4

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We use the construction ce jour-là (that day) to look back on a significant day, or event.

 

And to convey the passage of time and repetition, we have the expression au fil des jours (day by day/as the days go by):

 

Pourtant, au fil des jours, Edna se laisse peu à peu séduire par René.

However, as the days go by, Edna lets herself be seduced by René little by little.

Captions 15-16, Le Jour où tout a basculé Mes grands-parents sont infidèles - Part 6

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It makes sense to use jours with adjectives of quantity like plusieurs (several) and tous (every), as we are counting the days: 

 

Il s'apprête à passer plusieurs jours en province.

He is getting ready to spend several days outside of Paris.

Caption 25, Le Jour où tout a basculé Espion dans l'immeuble - Part 1

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You also use jours combined with the plural adjective tous (every/all) to explain what you do every day:

 

Et je travaille ici tous les jours.

And I work here every day.

Caption 4, Fred et Miami Catamarans Les Bateaux

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But watch what happens when you use the feminine form of tout, toute (all, whole):

 

Et donc, j'ai passé la journée à faire comme ça. J'ai fait Cluzet toute la journée.

And so I spent the day going like that. I did Cluzet all day.

Caption 74, Alsace 20 Laurent Chandemerle, l'homme aux 100 voix

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By switching to the feminine form, toute la journée (all day/all day long), the emphasis is now on duration rather than a point in time. When describing how you spend your day, you need to use journéeYou would never say tout le jour to mean “all day”: only toute la journée.

 

Just like toute, prepositions of duration like pendant or durant (during) also pair with journée:

 

Deux minutes en moyenne d'attente pendant la journée

Two minutes of waiting on average during the day

Captions 69-70, Adrien Le métro parisien

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And when referring to a day dedicated to a specific cause, such as International Yoga Day, you would also use journée:

 

Donc c'est la deuxième année qu'est célébrée cette Journée Internationale du Yoga

So it's the second year that this International Day of Yoga is being celebrated

Caption 2, Paix et partage Journée Internationale du yoga

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Finally, le jour can also mean "day" as a general unit of time, the opposite of la nuit (night):

 

Une demi-heure dans un simulateur de conduite toutes les quatre heures, de jour comme de nuit.

Half an hour in a driving simulator every four hours, day and night.

Caption 19, Le Journal Apnée du sommeil

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As you can see, jour and journée are so similar, yet so different. The rules are somewhat flexible, but there are certain situations that call for one word over the other.

 

Au fil des jours (over time), by watching Yabla videos tous les jours (every day), you’ll find it easier to choose the correct word!

 

And stay tuned for a lesson on an/année (year), soir/soirée (evening), and matin/matinée (morning) in the future.

 
Vocabulary

It All Sounds the Same to Me! - A Lesson on Homophones

Have you noticed that while some French words have many variations in spelling, they sound the same?

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For example, the words un verre, un ver, vers, and vert(s) share the same pronunciation yet have different meanings. That makes them homophones.

 

Homophones are especially common in French as the letters t, d, and s, when placed at the end of a word, are usually silent.

 

Check out Patricia’s video on homophones and homonyms, which she turned into a fun story.

 

Let’s examine the examples mentioned earlier.

 

Un verre can mean "a glass" or "a drink." The expression boire un verre means "to have a drink." Or, you can say prendre un verre.

 

On est tous là avec juste l'envie de passer un bon moment, de boire un verre

We are all here just with the desire to have a good time, to have a drink

Caption 52, Actu Vingtième Vendanges parisiennes

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Le verre also refers to the material itself. It means "glass," as in English:

 

Nous sommes maintenant chez le souffleur de verre de L'Isle-Adam.

We are now at the L'Isle-Adam glassblower's.

Caption 11, Voyage en France L'Isle-Adam - Part 4

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Speaking of verre, did you know that Cinderella’s slippers might originally have been made not of verre, but of vair (squirrel fur)?

 

Some scholars believe the original fable described pantoufles de vair (squirrel fur slippers), which became pantoufles de verre (glass slippers) in Charles Perrault's famous version. No one knows if he made a mistake or simply chose a new material for the slippers in his version of the fairy tale.

 

From squirrels to worms…. Un ver de terre is an earthworm, a critter that Claire and Philippe remember fondly in their La campagne video.

 

Alors elle prenait le petit ver de terre dans la main.

So she used to take the little earthworm in her hand.

Caption 71, Claire et Philippe La campagne

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And the poetically named ver solitaire (literally, "solitary worm") is the French word for "tapeworm”!

 

If the thought of many vers solitaires turns you off (vers being the plural of ver), let’s turn toward vers, an innocuous word that simply means "toward."

 

In the Actus Quartier video, this young lady is looking toward the future:

 

Je suis tournée vers l'avenir et vers tout ce qu'on va construire... 

I'm looking toward the future and toward all that we're going to build… 

Caption 40, Actus Quartier Fête de la rose au caviar rouge

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Vers also means "around," "about":

 

Plutôt vers deux heures du matin

Instead around two o'clock in the morning

Caption 60, Adrien Le métro parisien

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Now, for a more colorful version of this homophone, you have the word vert, which means "green." 

 

As you probably know, vert, like most adjectives, takes on masculine, feminine, and plural endings. For more information on adjective agreements, refer to previous lessons.

 

As mentioned earlier, -t and -s are often not pronounced at the end of a word. So vert (masculine singular) sounds exactly like verts (masculine plural). However, note that vert will become verte when agreeing with a feminine singular noun, and the t in verte will be pronounced! 

 

Donc, on va écrire "vert". Masculin. Sinon... "verte".

So we're going to write "green." Masculine. Otherwise... "green" [feminine].

Caption 28, Leçons avec Lionel Couleurs

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Now that you’ve acquainted yourself with homophones, you’ll be surprised how many you'll be able to spot! But if you haven't satisfied your appetite for homophones, click here to learn some more.

Inside and Outside

The preposition dans can mean "in," "inside," or "into," depending on context. For example, elle est dans la maison could either be "she is in the house" or "she is inside the house," and elle va dans la maison could be "she goes inside the house" or "she goes into the house." In this lesson, we'll focus on "inside" (and its opposite, "outside"), which has a few other translations besides dans.

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The first is dedans. Unlike dans, which is a preposition, dedans usually functions as an adverb. It can either mean "inside" or "indoors":

 

Là y'a nouveau jeu. Ils doivent deviner combien il y a de bonbons dedans.

There's a new game. They have to guess how many candies there are inside.

Caption 49, Actu Vingtième - Fête du quartier Python-Duvernois

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Je n'aime pas rester dedans toute la journée.
I don't like staying indoors all day.

 

Like "inside," dedans can also be used as a noun:

 

Le dedans de l'église est très sombre.
The inside of the church is very dark. 

 

We could also say l'intérieur de l'église est très sombre (the interior of the church is very dark), or simply il fait très sombre dans l'église (it's very dark inside the church). In fact, l'intérieur is the other word for "inside" in French. You'll often see it in the phrase à l'intérieur (de), which can also mean "within":

 

Maintenant, on va la laisser reposer

Now we are going to let it rest

pour que les levures à l'intérieur puissent permettre à notre pâte d'être aérée.

so that the yeast inside can allow our dough to be airy.

Captions 32-33, Alsace 20 - Grain de Sel: le Lycée hôtelier Alexandre Dumas

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Alors des maisons, c'est très rare d'en trouver, euh...

So [standalone] houses, it's very rare to find them, uh...

à l'intérieur de Paris, je vous le promets.

within Paris, I promise you.

Captions 19-20, Antoine - La Butte-aux-Cailles

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We could easily rewrite these two examples using dedans and dansles levures dedans (the yeast inside), en trouver dans Paris (find them in Paris).

 

Now let's move "outside." Though French has a general word for "in" (dans), it doesn't have one for "out." However, dedans and à l'intérieur (de) do have direct opposites: dehors and à l'extérieur (de)

 

Dehors functions in the exact same way as dedans, as an adverb or noun:

 

Dois-je payer pour ce qu'ils font dehors?

Should I pay for what they do outside?

Caption 20, Alain Etoundi - Allez tous vous faire enfilmer!

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Le dehors de la maison est plus joli que le dedans. 
The outside of the house is nicer than the inside. 

 

There's also the phrase en dehors de, which means "outside of" in both a literal and figurative sense:

 

Parce qu'il y a énormément de personnes qui vont travailler en dehors de Paris.

Because there are so many people who go to work outside of Paris.

Captions 47-48, Adrien - Le métro parisien

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En dehors de ça, je ne vois aucune autre solution. 
Outside of that, I don't see any other solution. 

 

Sometimes you'll see hors de rather than dehors de:

 

J'aurais du mal à vivre hors de Paris maintenant.

I'd have trouble living outside of Paris now.

Captions 38-39, Elisa et sa maman - Comment vas-tu?

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But hors (de) usually means "outside" figuratively, along the lines of "beyond," "without," or "excluding":

 

C'est hors de question!
That's out of the question!

 

Le loyer est de 600 euros hors charges. 
The rent is 600 euros excluding utilities. 

 

Finally, there's à l'extérieur, the opposite of à l'intérieur

 

Ce quartier-là, à l'extérieur, il a quand même une certaine réputation...

This neighborhood, on the outside, it has a certain reputation, nevertheless...

Caption 52, Actus Quartier - Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois

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Ça m'a permis d'aller travailler à l'extérieur de ce pays.

It's allowed me to work outside of this country.

Caption 24, Annie Chartrand - Grandir bilingue

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Il y a des gargouilles sur l'extérieur de la cathédrale.
There are gargoyles on the cathedral's exterior

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Now you know all the ways of saying "inside" and "outside" inside and out! 

Vocabulary

Say When!

There are a few different ways of saying "when" in French, the most basic of which is quand. Like "when," quand can either be an adverb or a conjunction. As an adverb, it's generally used to form questions:

 

Quand seras-tu libre?
When will you be free?

 

Tu l'as inventé quand ce morceau?

When did you compose this piece?

Caption 24, Claire et Philippe - Mon morceau de piano

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À quelle heure is an adverbial expression that's more or less synonymous with quand, albeit a bit more specific. It's the equivalent of "at what time" in English:

 

Enfin, tu commences à quelle heure le travail?

Anyway, what time (when) do you start work?

Caption 70, Elisa et Mashal - Petit-déjeuner

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As a conjunction, quand is synonymous with lorsque:

 

À Paris quand vous sortez le soir,

In Paris when you go out at night,

le métro se termine à minuit trente.

the metro stops [running] at half past midnight.

Captions 15-16, Amal - Vélib

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Lorsque je vous vois, je tressaille

When I see you, I quiver

Caption 19, Bertrand Pierre - Si vous n'avez rien à me dire

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We could easily switch quand and lorsque in those examples:

 

À Paris lorsque vous sortez le soir, le métro se termine à minuit trente.
Quand je vous vois, je tressaille

 

However, you can't use lorsque as an adverb, that is, as a question word. So you would never ask someone, Lorsque seras-tu libre?

 

You'll also see the phrase au moment où ("at the moment when") instead of quand or lorsque:

 

Au moment où le chat sortit en courant,

When the cat ran out,

la calèche royale atteignait le château.

the royal carriage reached the castle.

Captions 33-34, Contes de fées - Le chat botté

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 usually means "where," but sometimes, as in au moment où, it means "when":

 

Les lignes de métro vont s'ouvrir

The subway lines will open [continued to open]

jusqu'à mille neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix,

until nineteen ninety,

dans les années mille neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix,

in the nineteen nineties,

la ligne quatorze fut ouverte.

when line fourteen was opened.

Captions 17-20, Adrien - Le métro parisien

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Le dimanche, les gens ne travaillent pas,

Sunday, when people don't work,

on va prendre le croissant, on va prendre le pain au chocolat.

we'll have a croissant, we'll have a chocolate croissant.

Captions 29-30, Arles - Le petit déjeuner

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BANNER PLACEHOLDER

If you're ever in doubt when to use which word for "when," just go with quand. It has the broadest scope, so you can use it pretty much n'importe quand (whenever).

Vocabulary

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