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French Temporal Prepositions

Prépositions de temps

Lesson | Quiz

Many French students are confused by the French prepositions for time. The problem is that there are so many different French temporal prepositions with different uses: à, en, dans, depuis, pendant, durant, and pour (although pour is almost never used to express time).

The following is a quick summary of French temporal prepositions. Click on the links for more detailed explanations of each preposition, with examples and comparisons.

The preposition à expresses the time at which an event occurs:

Nous mangeons à 8h00.   We eat at 8:00.
Il va parler à midi. He'll speak at noon.

En expresses the length of time an action takes or the month, season, or year in which something takes place:

Nous avons mangé en une heure.   We ate in an hour.
Il va parler en hiver. He'll speak in the winter.

Dans indicates the amount of time before an action will begin:

Nous mangerons dans 20 minutes.  We'll eat in 20 minutes.
Il va parler dans une heure. He'll speak in an hour.

Depuis refers to the duration of something that is still going on in the present, or was still going on when something else happened:

Nous mangeons depuis une heure.   We've been eating for an hour.
Il parle depuis 5 minutes. He's been speaking for 5 minutes.
Il travaillait depuis 10 jours quand je l'ai vu. He'd been working for 10 days when I saw him.

Pendant and durant refer to the entire duration of an action (you can't use pour here):

Nous avons mangé pendant/durant une heure.   We ate for an hour.
Il peut parler durant/pendant 15 minutes. He can speak for 15 minutes.

Pour is used only to indicate the duration of an event in the future:

Il va parler pour 15 minutes.   He's going to speak for 15 minutes. 
Note that pour, pendant, and durant are all acceptable here.


Quiz on temporal prepositions     Depuis vs Il y a

More prepositions     Other confusing pairs

Telling time in French     Expressions with "temps"

Temporal adverbs     Temporal words and phrases

French Grammar Lessons


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