Time prepositions in French

October 19, 2015

Man watching clock on wall

French has a number of prepositions to express time. While you may be understood if you say “Je vais partir en 6 heures”, it is awkward sounding to the french ear. By the end of this blog, you will no longer make this mistake!

There are some key prepositions which will put you well on the path of mastering the French approach to time.


A duration, from a time in the past, where the action continues to a specified point (“for” or “since”). That point may be in the present (“have been”) or in the past (“had been”).

J’apprends le français depuis 12 mois.
J’apprenais le français depuis 12 mois quand je suis allé à Paris.

Il y a … que, ça fait … que , and voilà … que are informal equivalents of the first use of “depuis” above.

Depuis que

Depuis qu’il habite ici, il est content.

Il y a

A point in time in the past.

Je l’ai rencontrée il y a longtemps.


A point in time in the future.

Je vais partir dans 6 heures.


The duration of an event.

Il a plu pendant deux jours.

Pendant que

Il fait le babysitting pendant que sa femme travaille.


The duration predicted for an event.

Il sera en centre ville pour quatre heures.


The time required for an event to take place.

Il a achévé le marathon en trois heures.


A limit in time.

Je travaille jusqu’a 14h00.

De … á

From the beginning to the end.


Before a certain time.

Avant de + infinitive

Before doing something.

After an elapse of time.

Après avoir/être + past participle

After having done something.