Dates in French - La Date

French National Day
Le 14 juillet (July 14), la Fête Nationale Française (French National Day). © Philippe Lejeanvre / Getty Images

Knowing how to talk about the date is essential for making reservations and appointments. Dates are a little bit different in French and English, but they're not difficult once you learn the rules and formulas.

Asking the Date in French

The basic question, "What's the date?" is very simple:

   Quelle est la date ? (click to hear it pronounced)

You can also ask for a more specific date:

   Quelle est la date aujourd'hui ?

   What's today's date?

   Quelle est la date de (la fête, ton anniversaire...) ?
   What date is (the party, your birthday...)?

Note that quelle is the only way to translate "what" here; you cannot say things like "qu'est-ce que la date" or "qu'est-ce qui est la date."

Saying the Date in French

To say what the date is, the most important thing to remember is that the number must precede the month. Use this construction:

C'est + le (definite article) + cardinal number + month

   C'est le 30 octobre.
   C'est le 8 avril.
   C'est le 2 janvier.

The first day of the month is a little different - you have to use the ordinal number: premier (first) or 1er (1st):

   C'est le premier avril, C'est le 1er avril.
   C'est le premier juillet, C'est le 1er juillet.

Informally, for all of the above, you can replace C'est with On est or Nous sommes:

   On est le 30 octobre.
   Nous sommes le premier juillet.

If you want to include the year, just tack it on to the end:

   C'est le 8 avril 2013.
   On est le 1er juillet 2014.
   Nous sommes le 18 octobre 2012.

Idiomatic expression: Tous les 36 du mois - Once in a blue moon

Writing the Short Form of Dates

When writing the short form of the date in French, it is more important than ever to remember that the day goes first, followed by the month. This is easy for British English speakers, since they use the same format as the French, but can be very confusing for American English speakers!

   le 15 décembre 201215/12/12                                                                        
 December 15, 201212/15/12
 le 29 mars 201129/3/11
 March 29, 20113/29/11
 le 1er avril 20111/4/11
 April 1, 20114/1/11
 le 4 janvier 20114/1/11
 January 4, 20111/4/11

Asking and Answering

There are a few different formulas you need to know in order to talk about the day of the week in French.

French has three different ways to ask "What day (of the week) is it?"

  • Quel jour est-ce ?
  • Quel jour est-on ?
  • Quel jour sommes-nous ?

To answer, simply un-invert one of the verb-subject pairs above and then say the day of the week. So "It's Saturday" can be said:

  • C'est samedi.
  • On est samedi.
  • Nous  sommes samedi.

To say "Today is Thursday," say Aujourd'hui, followed by any of the above phrases.

  • Aujourd'hui, c'est jeudi.
  • Aujourd'hui, on est jeudi.
  • Aujourd'hui, nous  sommes jeudi.

When is ___?

To find out "what day" or "when" something will happen, ask Quel jour est ... ? or Quand est ...? Then to answer, say ... est + the day of the week.

   Quel jour est la fête ? La fête / Elle est samedi.
   What day is the party? The party / It is on Saturday.

   Quand est le repas ? Le repas / Il est lundi.
   When is the meal? The meal / It is on Monday.

When asking which day an annual event will fall on, say Quel jour / Quand tombe ... cette année ? (Note that this question is for when you know the date of the event.)

   Quel jour tombe ton anniversaire (cette année) ? C'est dimanche.
   What day is your birthday (this year)? It's (on) Sunday.

   Quand tombe Halloween (cette année) ? C'est mercredi.
   When (What day) is Halloween this year? It's (on) Wednesday.

Definite Articles

When talking about the day of the week something happened or will happen, you may or may not need a definite article, depending on how far the event is in the past or future and whether it is a one-time event.

1) For an event that occurred last week or will occur next week, you do not need an article. Generally speaking, this is equivalent to using the word "this" in English:

   Il est arrivé samedi.
   He arrived on Saturday, He arrived this Saturday.

   Nous allons faire des achats mercredi.
   We're going to go shopping on Wednesday, this Wednesday.

2) If it occurs further in the past or future, you do need an article. In the English translation, you're likely to need the word "that":

   Il est arrivé le samedi (de cette semaine-là).
   He arrived that Saturday, He arrived that week on Saturday.

   Nous allons faire des achats le mercredi (avant la fête).
   We're going to go shopping that Wednesday (before the party).

3) You also need the definite article when talking about something that occurred, occurs, or will occur on that same day more than once:

   Il arrivait le samedi.
   He used to arrive on Saturdays, every Saturday.

   Nous faisons des achats le mercredi.
   We go shopping on Wednesdays.

   Je ne vais plus travailler le vendredi.
   I'm not going to work on Fridays any more.

Day of the Week + Date

When including the day of the week in answer to the question "what's the date?", there's one slightly tricky aspect to be aware of in French: the day of the week should be placed between the definite article and the numeric date.

   On est              + le + day + date + month (+ year)
   Nous sommes

   C'est le samedi 8 avril.
   It's Saturday, 8 April / the 8th of April / April 8th.

   Nous sommes le lundi premier octobre 2012.
   It's Monday, October 1st, 2012.

Or if you really want to say the day of the week first, just be sure to pause before following with the date.

   On est mardi... le 16 juillet.
   It's Tuesday... July 16th.