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Ainsi, Alors, Donc; Après, Ensuite, Puis - "Then" in French

French terms related to cause/effect and the sequence of events


The English word "then" has two distinct meanings: one related to consequence and the other to time. These two meanings translate differently into French, and the various synonyms further complicate matters:
  • Ainsi, alors, and donc are commonly used to explain the consequences or effect of an action
  • Après, ensuite, and puis are used to indicate the order of events
This lesson should help you to understand the difference between all of these terms and thus use them correctly.

Après - Ensuite - Puis   |   Ainsi - Alors - Donc


1) (preposition) after
    Il a téléphoné après toi
    He called after you (did)

    Après avoir tout lu… (past infinitive)
    After having read everything…
2) (adverb) afterwards, later
    Viens me voir après
    Come see me afterwards

    Qu'est-ce qui s'est passé après ?
    What happened later/afterwards?
Après is not interchangeable with ensuite and puis - those adverbs indicate a sequence of events, whereas après simply modifies a verb to say what will/did happen at a later time. There is no sense of progression from one action to the next when using après.

3) après que (conjunction) - after
    Après qu'il est mort, j'ai déménagé en Belgique
    After he died, I moved to Belgium

    Je vais le faire après qu'il arrivera
    I'm going to do it after he arrives
Après que is followed by the indicative, not the subjunctive. However, when describing something that has not happened yet, the verb after après que is in the future, rather than in the present the way it is in English.


(adverb) then, next, later
    J'ai mangé et ensuite je me suis habillé
    I ate and then I got dressed

    Je suis allé à la banque et ensuite au musée
    I went to the bank and then (to) the museum

    Il m'a dit ensuite que…
    And then he told me…, He told me later that…


1) (adverb) then, next
    J'ai mangé, puis je me suis habillé
    I ate and then I got dressed

    Je suis allé à la banque et puis au musée
    I went to the bank and then (to) the museum

    Puis il m'a dit que…
    Then he told me…
This meaning of puis is interchangeable with ensuite, except for the sense of "later" which only ensuite has. They do not indicate a cause/effect relationship; they simply relate a sequence of events.

2) et puis - and besides, moreover
    Je n'ai pas envie de sortir, et puis je n'ai pas d'argent
    I don't feel like going out, and besides, I don't have any money

    Nous devons étudier, et puis toi aussi
    We have to study, and so do you

Page 1: Ainsi - Alors - Donc
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