The French Calendar: Speaking of Days, Weeks, Months and Seasons

How to talk about today's date, the four seasons and once in a blue moon

calendar on refrigerator
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A most basic topic of conversation, apart from the weather, is the time we live in—the day, the month, the season, the year. We mark time, literally, by the words for these signposts. So anyone seeking to speak French, or any other language, will want to know how to speak of such basic demarcations.

Days of the Week

Let's begin with the days of the week, les jours de la semaineThe French week begins on Monday so that's where we'll start.

Note that the names of the days are not capitalized unless they start a sentence.

The Definite Article 'Le'

When you are discussing days of the week, use the definite article le before each name, when you are talking about something that happens repeatedly on a certain day. To make each day plural, add an s.

  • Je vois Pierre le lundi. > I see Pierre on Mondays.
  • Nous travaillions le samedi. > We used to work on Saturdays.
  • On y va tous les mercredis matin / soir. (NB: Matin and soir here are adverbs and so don't agree.) > We go there every Wednesday morning / evening.

If you're talking about the day of a unique event, do not use an article, nor should you use a preposition equivalent to "on."

  •   Je l'ai vu dimanche. (I saw him on Sunday)
  •   Il va arriver mercredi. (He'll arrive on Wednesday).

    Origins of Day Names

    Most names for days derive from Latin names for heavenly bodies (planets, moon and sun), which in turn were based on gods' names.

    Lundi is based on Luna, the ancient Roman moon goddess; mardi is the day of Mars, ancient Roman god of war; mercredi is named after Mercury, winged messenger of the ancient Roman gods; jeudi is devoted to Jupiter, monarch of the ancient Roman gods; vendredi is the day of Venus, ancient Roman goddess of love; samedi derives from the Latin for "Sabbath"; and the last day, though named in Latin for Sol, the ancient Roman sun god, became dimanche in French based on the Latin for "Lord's day."

    Months of the Year

    The French names for months of the year, les mois de l'année, are based on Latin names and ancient Roman life.  Note that months are not capitalized either.

    The Four Seasons

    The passing of the four seasons, les quatre saisons, has inspired many an artist. Antonio Vivaldi's famed concerto grosso may be the benchmark. These are the evocative names the French bestowed on the seasons:  

    Expressions related to the seasons:

    Talking About Specific Dates

    Questions: 

    "What's the date?"

    Quelle est la date ?
    Quelle est la date aujourd'hui?
    Quelle est la date de (la fête, ton anniversaire...)?
    What date is (the party, your birthday...)?
    (You cannot say "qu'est-ce que la date" or "qu'est-ce qui est la date," because quelle is the only to way to say "what" here.)

    Statements:
    In French (and in most languages), the number must precede the month, like this:

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

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

    Exceptionally, the first day of the month requires an ordinal number1er or premier for "1st" or "first":

    •    C'est le premier avril. C'est le 1er avril. > It's the first (1st) of April.
    •    C'est le premier juillet. C'est le 1er juillet. > It's the first (1st) of July.

    For all of the above statements, you can replace C'est with On est or Nous sommes. The meaning is essentially the same in each case and all can be translated with "It is....."

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

    To include the year, add it at the end of the date:

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

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