An vs Année
While “an” and “année” both describe “year,” there are different ways in which to use both. In spoken French, the difference is not always clear, and sometimes you can use these words with the same meaning.
“An” is a point in time, whereas “Année” is a duration of time.
An is used with age:
- Elle a 20 ans. – She is 20 years old.
- Dans 10 ans, je suis à la retraite. – In 10 years I will be retired.
A moment in time :
- L’an dernier, l’an prochain. – Last year, next year.
- Le nouvel an. – New year.
Année is used for durations of time:
- L’année 2016 comporte 366 jours. – 2016 gets 366 days.
When both can be used interchangeably:
- J’ai été malade l’année dernière. – I was sick last year. (Noting : during a large part of the year.)
- J’ai été malade l’an dernier. – I was sick last year. (Noting : some days of the year.)