French Lessons

Topics

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)? 

 

banner PLACEHOLDER

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

On dirait une leçon sur "on dirait"!

In our last lesson, we discussed the expression on se croirait (literally, "one would believe oneself"), which means "it feels like." Now we'll take a look at a similar expression: on dirait. Both are impersonal expressions using a verb in the conditional. On dirait literally means "one would say," but it's also a synonym of il semble (it seems/looks like). 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

When introducing a clause, on dirait is followed by que:

 

On dirait que les gens sortent de la terre

It looks like people are coming out of the ground

Caption 31, Lionel - En studio d'enregistrement

 Play Caption

 

But when it comes before a standalone noun ("it looks like x"), you don't need the que:

 

On dirait un serpent à pattes.

It looks like a serpent with paws.

Caption 16, Il était une fois: les Explorateurs - 10. Amerigo Vespucci

 Play Caption

 

You can also use on dirait by itself, without introducing a noun or clause:

 

C'est ton jour de chance, on dirait.

It's your lucky day, it seems.

Caption 11, Marie & Jeremy - Monopoly

 Play Caption

 

Je suis rouge de colère.

I'm red with anger.

On dirait pas.

It doesn't look like it.

Captions 1-2, Sophie et Patrice - Les couleurs

 Play Caption

 

Depending on context, on dirait can mean something more specific than "it seems/looks like":

 

On dirait que t'as huit ans

You act like an eight year old

Caption 45, Mika - Elle me dit

 Play Caption

 

On dirait... on dirait Cluzet!

It sounds... it sounds like Cluzet [French actor]!

Caption 71, Alsace 20 - Laurent Chandemerle, l'homme aux 100 voix

 Play Caption

 

And sometimes it comes closer to its literal meaning:

 

Belle, c'est un mot qu'on dirait inventé pour elle...

Beauty, it's a word you could say was invented for her...

[Beauty, it's a word that seems to have been invented for her...]

Caption 64, Alsace 20 - Laurent Chandemerle, l'homme aux 100 voix

 Play Caption

 

But be careful: dire is a very common verb, so you'll just as often encounter on dirait used in a literal sense.

 

On dirait pas "as-tu", axe verbe en premier, sujet en deuxième...

We wouldn't say "have you," verb in first position, subject in second...

Caption 31, Le Québec parle - aux Français

 Play Caption

 

On dirait que cette leçon est terminée!

 

Avoir Beau

At the end of the second installment of Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils, Sarah uses an interesting construction to express remorse about something she did at work: 

 

Et j'avais beau me dire que je l'avais fait pour Nino,  j'avais vraiment honte.

And even though I told myself that I'd done it for Nino, I was really ashamed.

Captions 54-55, Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils - Part 2

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Beau means "beautiful" or "handsome," but the expression "avoir beau + infinitive" doesn't have anything to do with beauty. It can mean a variety of things depending on context, but it generally describes a failed effort or something done in vain. Sometimes it's just a synonym of bien que, malgré, or quoique ("even though" or "although"), as in the example above: 

 

T'as beau le travailler, ça ne vient pas.

Even though you work at it, it doesn't come.

Caption 67, Alsace 20 - Laurent Chandemerle, l'homme aux 100 voix

 Play Caption

 

Ça a beau être une pizzeria, nos prix sont assez élevés pour le commun des mortels.

Although it's a pizzeria, our prices are pretty high for the everyday mortal.

Caption 5, F&F Pizza - Chez F&F - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Or it can correspond to the English expressions "no matter what" or "no matter how hard": 

 

Elle a beau faire, son copain la critique toujours. 
No matter what she does, her boyfriend always criticizes her. 

 

J'ai beau trimer, sans toi ma vie n'est qu'un décor qui brille, vide de sens.

No matter how hard I slave away, without you my life is just decor that shines, empty of meaning.

Caption 19, Indila - Dernière danse

 Play Caption

 

When used with the verb essayer (to try), it means "try as one might":

 

Et j'ai eu beau essayer de le convaincre d'arrêter ses enfantillages, rien à faire.

And try as I might to convince him to stop his childish games, it was useless.

Captions 6-8, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Mes grands-parents sont infidèles - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

And when used with être (to be), the expression is often translated as "may be" or "may well be": 

 

Yseult a beau être jeune, elle sait bien où elle veut aller.

Yseult may be young, [but] she knows exactly where she wants to go

Caption 5, Watt’s In - Yseult : La Vague Interview Exclu

 Play Caption

 

Tu as beau être désolé, tu m'as blessé profondément. 
You may well be sorry, but you hurt me deeply.

 

Note that, while the English requires a "but" in both of these sentences, there's no need for a mais in the French. So you wouldn't say: Yseult a beau être jeune, mais elle sait bien où elle veut aller. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

Expressions

You May Also Like