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The Year in French

How to talk about years and pronounce years à la française

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Saying what year it is or when something happened can be a bit tricky because French has two different words that mean "year." In addition, for certain years, there are two different ways to say the actual numbers.

Asking about years

To ask what year it is, the year something happened or will happen, or the year something is from, you need the word année.*

   Quelle année est-ce ?   (En) Quelle année sommes-nous ?
   What year is it?

   C'était en quelle année ?
   What year was that (in)?

   Cela s'est passé en quelle année ?
   What year did that happen?

   En quelle année es-tu né ?   Quelle est l'année de ta naissance ?
   What year were you born?

   En quelle année vas-tu déménager ?   Tu vas déménager en quelle année ?
   (In) What year are you going to move?

   De quelle année est le vin ?   Le vin est de quelle année ?
   What year is the wine (from)?
 

Saying years

When talking about what year it is or when something happened / will happen, the choice between an and année depends on the type of number you're dealing with. (Of course, if the context is obvious, you can also leave out "year" entirely.)

With round numbers (those ending in 0), you need l'an:
    C'est l'an 2010. It's 2010.
En l'an 900. In the year 900.
With all other numbers, use l'année:
C'est l'année 2013. It's 2013.
En l'année 1999. In 1999.
Era specification
av. J-C
AEC
avant Jésus-Christ
avant l'ère commune
BC
BCE
Before Christ
Before the Current/Common Era
ap. J-C
EC
après Jésus-Christ
ère commune, notre ère
AD
CE
Anno Domini
Current Era, Common Era

 
Pronouncing years

How to say the year itself depends on the century in question. When talking about years up to and including 1099, or from 2000 and up, the year is stated the same as any other number:
 
    752 sept cent cinquante-deux
1099 mille quatre-vingt-dix-neuf mil quatre-vingt-dix-neuf**
2000 deux mille
2013 deux mille treize
   
For years between 1100 and 1999, there are two equally valid options:
1) Pronounce it like a regular number.
    1999 mille neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf mil neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf**
1863 mille huit cent soixante-trois mil huit cent soixante-trois
1505 mille cinq cent cinq mil cinq cent cinq
1300
 
mille trois cents***
 
mil trois cents
 
2) Use the centaines vigésimales (or vicésimales) counting system: break the year into two pairs of two-digit numbers, and place the word cent between the pairs.
Traditional spelling 1990 spelling reformation
1999 dix-neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf dix-neuf-cent-quatre-vingt-dix-neuf
1863 dix-huit cent soixante-trois dix-huit-cent-soixante-trois
1505 quinze cent cinq quinze-cent-cinq
1300 treize cents*** treize-cents

 
Writing years

In official documents and on monuments, years are often expressed with Roman numerals.


Notes

*Why? Because for all of these questions, année is modified by the interrogative quel
(see An vs année, section "duration words," point 2)

**Note that you can spell "thousand" mille or mil for all years up to and including 1999, though mil is less and less common the closer you get to the 21st century. From 2000 and up, mil is extremely rare outside of legal documents.

***Why does only this year have cents with an "s"? See my lesson on French numbers 100+.

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