Prepositions used in expressions of time - Use of prepositions - Speed Up Your French: Strategies to avoid common errors (2016)

Speed Up Your French: Strategies to avoid common errors (2016)

Chapter 8. Use of prepositions

Prepositions used in expressions of time

1 There are three different ways to translate ‘for’ + time into French, depending on context.

Depuis + present tense is used for an action that began in the past, but is still continuing at present, e.g.

J’apprends l’italien depuis six mois.

(I have been learning Italian for six months and am still learning it.)

Depuis + imperfect tense is used for an action that had begun some time previously, but was still continuing at a particular point of time in the past, e.g.

J’apprenais l’italien depuis six mois quand on m’a demandé de traduire cet article.

(I had been learning Italian for six months when I was asked to translate this article.)

Pendant is used for actual periods of time and can refer to the past or future, e.g.

Elle a travaillé à Pau pendant trois mois.

(She worked in Pau for three months.)

Je vais travailler en Écosse pendant deux ans.

(I am going to work in Scotland for two years.)

Pour is used for intention, usually referring to the future, e.g.

Nous sommes là pour huit jours.

(We are here for a week.)

Je vais à Paris pour quinze jours.

(I’m going to Paris for a fortnight.)

However, with the future of the verb être, use pendant, e.g.

Nous serons à Rome pendant trois semaines.

(We will be in Rome for three weeks.)

Note that you should not use any preposition with the verb rester, e.g.

Je pense rester un an à Madrid.

(I’m thinking of staying for a year in Madrid.)

Je suis restée trente ans à Aberdeen.

(I have stayed for thirty years in Aberdeen.)

2 ‘in’ + time

Distinguish between:

Dans + an expression of time, which is used for a deadline, the time after which something will occur, e.g.

Je dois rendre mon mémoire dans deux jours.

(I have to hand in my dissertation in two days’ time from now.)

En + an expression of time, which is used for the duration of time taken to complete a task, e.g.

Je l’ai écrit en deux jours.

(I wrote it in two days.)


Mnemonic device

Remember that dans begins with ‘d’ for a deadline.

Note the idiomatic expression: sous peu (in a little while, before long).

3 Use of prepositions in other common expressions of time

Note and learn the following useful expressions:

à ce moment-là

then (referring to past or future time)

en ce moment

now, at the present moment

à temps

in time

dans le temps

in those days; at some time in the past

de temps en temps

from time to time

de mon / leur temps

in my / their day or time

en ce temps-là

at that time, in those days

en même temps que

at the same time as

en temps de guerre

in wartime

en temps de paix

in peacetime

Remember that ‘in the morning / evening’ is le matin and le soir with no preposition.

La réunion est le matin / le soir.

(The meeting is in the morning / evening.)

See also Chapter 7 on problem nouns (time).



EXERCISE 2a. Complete the following sentences with the appropriate preposition: depuis, pendant, pour, dans, en, sous, or leave a blank if appropriate.

1 ______ combien de temps travaillez-vous ici?

2 On se reverra ______ peu.

3 Je t’ai attendu ______ des heures.

4 Nous sommes restés ______ un mois en Espagne.

5 Il sera absent ______ trois jours.

6 Elle sera de retour ______ une heure.

7 ____ un moment tout a été fini.

8 Elle le connaissait ______ longtemps, mais elle ne savait pas où il habitait.

9 Il va à Rome cet été ______ huit jours.

10 Elle va rester ______ un an à Paris.

EXERCISE 2b. Complete the following sentences with expressions of time chosen from the list at the end of the section above.

1 __________ (Then) il y aura bien des plaintes.

2 __________ (In their day), ils étaient sportifs.

3 Elle est arrivée __________ (at the same time) que lui.

4 Je suis très fatiguée __________ (at the moment).

5 ________ (In those days) on n’avait pas l’électricité.

6 Ils se revoient _______ (from time to time).

7 Cela se fait surtout ________ (in wartime).