How to Talk About Years in French

Man reading a French newspaper in Paris with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

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Saying what year it is or when something happened in French can be a bit tricky because this language has two different words that mean "year." For certain years, there are also two different ways to say the actual numbers.

Asking About Years in French

To ask what year it is, the year something happened, the year something will happen, or the year something is from, you need the word année.

Quelle année est-ce?/Quelle année sommes-nous? (less common)
What year is it?​
C'était en quelle année?
What year was that (in)?​
Cela s'est ​passé en quelle année?
What year did that happen?​
En quelle année es-tu né?/Quelle est l'année de ta naissance?
What year were you born?​​
En quelle année vas-tu déménager?/Tu vas déménager en quelle année?
What year are you going to move?​
De quelle année est le vin?/Le vin est de quelle année?
What year is the wine (from)?

Saying Years

When talking about what year it is, when something happened, or when something will happen, the choice between an and année depends on the type of number you're using. Of course, if the context is obvious, you can leave out the word "year" entirely.

With round numbers (those ending in 0), you need l'an

C'est l'an 2010. It's 2010.
En l'an 900. In the year 900.

With all other numbers, use l'année:

C'est l'année 2013. It's 2013.
En l'année 1999. In 1999.

Era specification

av. J-C
avant Jésus-Christ
avant l'ère commune
Before Christ
Before the Current/Common Era
ap. J-C
après Jésus-Christ
ère commune, notre ère
Anno Domini
Current Era, Common Era

Pronouncing Years

How to say the year itself depends on the century in question. When talking about years up to and including 1099, or from 2000 and up, the year is stated the same as any other number:

752 sept cent cinquante-deux
1099 mille quatre-vingt-dix-neuf mil quatre-vingt-dix-neuf
2000 deux mille
2013 deux mille treize

For years between 1100 and 1999, there are two equally valid options

1) Pronounce it like a regular number.
1999 mille neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf mil neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf
1863 mille huit cent soixante-trois mil huit cent soixante-trois
1505 mille cinq cent cinq mil cinq cent cinq
mille trois cents
mil trois cents
2) Use the centaines vigésimales (or vicésimales) counting system: break the year into two pairs of two- digit numbers, and place the word cent between the pairs.
Traditional spelling 1990 spelling reformation
1999 dix-neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf dix-neuf-cent-quatre-vingt-dix-neuf
1863 dix-huit cent soixante-trois dix-huit-cent-soixante-trois
1505 quinze cent cinq quinze-cent-cinq
1300 treize cents treize-cents

Writing Years

In official documents and on monuments, years are often expressed with Roman numerals.

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Team, ThoughtCo. "How to Talk About Years in French." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Team, ThoughtCo. (2023, April 5). How to Talk About Years in French. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "How to Talk About Years in French." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).