How to Talk About Years in French

Pronounce years à la française

French calendar book
Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

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

Asking About Years

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

   Quelle année est-ce ?   (En) Quelle année sommes-nous?

   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 ?
   (In) 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 or when something happened / will happen, the choice between an and année depends on the type of number you're dealing with. (Of course, if the context is obvious, you can also leave out "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:

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

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

1)Pronounce it like a regular number.
   1999mille neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neufmil neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf** 
 1863mille huit cent soixante-troismil huit cent soixante-trois 
 1505mille cinq cent cinqmil 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 spelling1990 spelling reformation 
 1999dix-neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neufdix-neuf-cent-quatre-vingt-dix-neuf 
 1863dix-huit cent soixante-troisdix-huit-cent-soixante-trois 
 1505quinze cent cinqquinze-cent-cinq 
 1300treize cents***treize-cents 

Writing Years

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


*Why? Because for all of these questions, année is modified by the interrogative quel
(see An vs année, section "duration words," point 2)

**Note that you can spell "thousand" mille or mil for all years up to and including 1999, though mil is less and less common the closer you get to the 21st century. From 2000 and up, mil is extremely rare outside of legal documents.

***Why does only this year have cents with an "s"? See my lesson on French numbers 100+.