Prepositions in Expressions of Time

Here are some simple prepositions used to express time.

Expressions of Time

To translate the English preposition “in”, French uses dans or en, or sometimes au bout de or d’ici.

  • Dans refers to the time in the future, “from now”, at which the action will be performed.
    • Je commencerais à vider la chambre dans une semaine.
    • I’ll start to clear out the room in a week. (in a week from now)
  • En refers to the length of time taken to complete an action.
    • Nous avons fait le trajet en une heure.
    • We did the journey in an hour. (it took an hour)
  • Au bout de is used in formal written style for the narration of actions in the past. It translates to “in ( _ minutes/hours)” meaning ” _ minutes/hours later”.
    • Jacques quitta son petite amie. Au bout d’une heure il revint.
    • Jacques left his girlfriend. In an hour (an hour later) he came back.
  • D’ici is used to refer to a point in the future and means “in…from now”.
    • D’ici cinq jours notre bureau aura déménagé.
    • In five days our office will be moved. (in five days from now)

To translate the English preposition “for”, French uses pour, pendant, or depuis.

  • Pour is normally used with reference to a period of time in the future (relative to the speaker) and conveys an idea of purpose.
    • Je vais m’inscrire à la faculté pour l’année prochaine.
    • I’m going to register at the university for next year.
  • Pendant is used to express the duration of an action, and must be used to translate “for” when it refers to an action in the past.
    • Le boulanger a fermé son magasin pendant trois semaines.
    • The baker closed his shop for three weeks.
  • Depuis is used to refer to an action which “has been __-ing / had been __-ing” for a certain period of time.
    • J’enseigne dans ce lycée depuis trois ans.
    • I’ve been teaching in this school for three years.

“From” can be translated by dedèsdepuis, or à partir de.

  • De is commonly used in conjunction with à (from…to)
    • Ils ont travaillé du matin au soir.
    • They worked from morning to evening.
  • Dès conveys the idea “right from…”.
    • Dès sa nomination, elle sa renseigna sur la ville.
    • From the time of her appointment (as soon as she was appointed), she found out about the town.
  • Depuis conveys the idea “from…onwards”.
    • Depuis sa maladie, ma grand-mère n’aimait pas habiter toute seule.
    • From the time of her illness (onwards), my grandmother did not like living alone.
  • A partir de also conveys “from…on”, but usually refers only to the future, and emphasizes the time at which the new situation starts.
    • A partir de demain vous serez responsable de la section du marketing.
    • From tomorrow you will be responsible for the marketing section.

Hello, readers. I hope you are having a good week. To be honest I wasn’t feeling up to posting. The news of the US presidential election (where I live) has shattered me, but I didn’t want to let you guys down by missing a weekly posting. Keeping busy helps. I sincerely hope you all are well.

Merci à vous,



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