Temps Vs Fois

One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen over the years since I’ve been teaching French online is confusing the two words for time: le temps and la fois.

The reason is that in English there’s only one word for time: time! In French temps and fois have different meanings and usages.

“Le temps” describes the time as in “having the time” or not having enough time. Here are some examples:

EXAMPLES OF TEMPS

  • J’ai beaucoup de temps. I have a lot of time.
  • Je n’ai pas de temps. I don’t have any time.
  • Ça fait combien de temps que tu apprends le francais? How long have you been learning French?

Temps also means weather:

  • Quel temps fait-il? How’s the weather?

Temps is also used in the expression:

  • De temps en temps from time to time

EXAMPLES OF FOIS

The word “fois” means time in the sense of how many times you did something. It’s an indefinite unit of time. Examples:

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  • Je suis allé en France trois fois. I’ve been to France three times.
  • J’ai déjà appris ce mot deux fois. I’ve already learned this word two times.
  • Combien de fois est-ce que tu as voyagé en France? How many times have you traveled in France?
  • Il était une fois… Once upon a time…

Here are some common mistakes I’ve seen in my lessons:

  • J’ai vu le film deux temps. -> WRONG! It should be: J’ai vu le film deux fois. I’ve seen the movie two times.
  • Je suis allé quelques temps. -> WRONG! It should be: Je suis allé quelques fois. I’ve been a few times.
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About David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site, FrenchLearner.com, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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