Year In French: Best Explanation of An vs. Année

Year in French: An vs année

There are two ways to say year in French: an (pronounced ɑ̃) and année (pronounced ane). In this post we’ll examine the difference between an vs année very with example sentences. In a nutshell, “an” is used for describing units of time and “année” is often attach to other words such as adjectives.

Before we go any further, let’s have a good luck at the pronunciation of both an and année. “An” is simply the nasal “ɑ̃” sound that can be found in both the “en” and “an” in the word “enfant” (child). This page on offers several audio samples of the pronunciation of “an”.

The word année sounds like “ah-nay”. This page on Forvo offers several audio samples of année. My friend, Julien, a star French teacher on YouTube, teaches how to pronounce année in the following video:

An vs. année – Which one should I use?

In French there are two words for year: an (masculine) and année (feminine). Knowing which one to use can cause a lot of confusion, even for more advanced students.

Actually, in some of the examples below you’ll see that you can get away with using both an and année! There’s actually a grey area at times where both are acceptable.

That said, there is an underlying principle which dictates which word to pick: Use “an” when referring to years in the context of “units” of time and “année” when attached to other words, especially adjectives.

When to use “an”

The following section will cover when to use “an”. Again, think of “un an” as a unit of time.

Describing age

To describe somebody’s age in French use “avoir” (to have) plus the number of years. (This page on our site covers avoir in detail).

  • Marc a vingt ans. Marc is 20 years-old.
  • Sylvie a quinze ans. Sylvie is 15 years-old.

For the above two example sentences, using “année” would be wrong. You cannot use “année” when talking about your age.

Use “an” to describe turning a certain age. For example:

  • Thomas va bientôt fêter mes trente ans. I’m going to turn 30 soon.
  • Marie va avoir vingt-cinq ans en mars. Marie will be 25 years-old in March.

This page discuses how to talk about age in French.

Two years-old in French

How many years an action has occurred

Again, think of “an” as a unit of time. Use “an” when talking about how long you’ve been doing something, how long it’s been since an event occurred or when you will do something in the future. For example:

  • Nous habitons ici depuis trois ans. We’ve been living here for three years.
  • Elle est arrivée aux États-Unis il y a cinq ans. She arrived in the United States three years ago.
  • Je pars en France dans un an. I’m going to France in one year.

Using “année” for the above to example sentences would sound very awkward to the French ear.

Last year, next year, etc.

When talking about “last year” or “next year”, use “an”. For example.

  • Je suis allé à Paris l’an dernier. I went to Paris last year.
  • L’an prochain nous partons en Espagne. Next year we’re going to Spain.

That said, you can use the word “année” in both of these situations. You can say “l’année prochaine” to mean next year and “l’année dernière” to mean last year. Isn’t this fun?

To say “this year” you would use “année”. Saying “an” here would sound awkward. For example:

  • Qu’est-ce que tu fais cette année ? What are you doing this year?

Every year

When saying “year” in the context of “every year” you must use “an”. The expression is “tous les ans”. For example:

Suggested Audio Course For All Levels

We have known Camille from Frenchtoday.com for a long time and strongly suggest her audio courses for all levels. She does a great job teaching the "trouble" areas such as pronunciation and verb conjugations. Click here to learn more!

  • Nous partons au Mexique tous les ans. We go to Mexico every year.

When to use année

In general, use the word “année” when it’s attached to another word, such as an adjective. Also use “année” with quantifier words (each, few, many).

Good year, difficult year, etc.

Here are some examples of sentences where the quality of the year is being described with an adjective.

  • Je passe une bonne année. I’m having a good year.
  • Elle passe une année difficile. She’s having a hard year.

Using the word “an” for these sounds would sound awkward to the French year.

This year

To say “this year”, use the demonstrative adjective “cette” plus “année”. For example:

  • Qu’est-ce que vous allez faire cette année? What are you going to do this year?

Again, using “an” wouldn’t sound right.

Referring to a decade

Use the word “année” when referring to a decade, such as the 1970s or 1980s. The following example sentence will include both “an” and “année”. An, as you can recall from above, is referring to a unit of time.

  • J’ai passé un an en France aux années 90. I spent a year in France in the 90s.
  • Les gens apprécient la musique des années 60. People like music from the 1960s.

Ordinal numbers

When counting years with ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc.), use année.

  • C’est la troisième année de notre mariage. It’s the third year of our marriage.

The word annèe can also be used to refer to grades in the Canadian school system. For example:

  • Marc est en cinqième année. Marc in the fifth grade.

Every year

To say “every year” use “chaque année”. For example:

  • Je passe l’hiver dans les Alpes chaque année depuis mon enfance. I’ve been spending the winter in the Alps each year since my childhood.

Several years or a few years

For “several years” use “plusieurs années” and for “a few years” use “quelques années”. For example:

  • Je voudrais passer quelques années en Europe. I’d like spend a few years in Europe.
  • Elle habite a Marseille depuis plusieurs années. She’s been living in Marseille for several years.

So many years, too many years

To express so many years and too many years, use année. For example:

  • Ils se disputent depuis tellement d’années. They’ve been arguing for so many years.
  • Antoine fume depuis trop d’années. Antoine has been smoking for too many years.

How many years

Use “combien d’années” when asking about “how many years”. For example:

  • Depuis combien d’années habitez-vous en France? How many years have you lived in France?

For years

When expressing “for years”, use “des années”. For example:

  • Il est comme ca depuis des années. He’s been like that for years.

Happy New Year!

To say “Happy New Year” in French say, “Bonne année !”. However, the actual holiday, New Years, is “Le Nouvel An”. This page on our site covers words for Christmas and New Years.

Bonne année! Happy New Year!

Expressions with “an” and “année”

There is a large list of expressions which include both “an” and “année”. In this section below we’ve handpicked some useful or frequently occurring expressions.

Expressions with “an”

  • l’an 2000 the year 2000
  • le Nouvel An New Years
  • bon an mal an generally speaking
  • en l’an de grâce in the year of our Lord (AD as opposed to BC)
  • le réveillon du Premier de l’an New Years Eve
  • le jour de l’an New Years Day

Expressions with “année”

There are a lot more expressions with “année”. These are the most common:

  • à l’année year-round
  • année après année year-after-year
  • la fin de l’année the end of the year
  • une année blanche wasted year
  • une année bissextile leap-year
  • année de naissance year of birth
  • année scolaire school year
  • Bonnes fêtes de fin d’année ! Seasons Greetings!
  • d’une année à l’autre from one year to the next
  • en cours d’année during the year
  • tout au long de l’année all year long

Conclusion – year in French: an vs année

As you can see, figuring whether to say “an” or “année” to express the year in French can be quite a challenge! My good friend, Camille, at FrenchToday also provides a lesson covering an vs année on this page. French-Linguistics also provides a nice summary table.

Sign Up For A FREE Trial French Lesson On Skype And Get Instant Access To My French Pronunciation Crash Course.

Get the French Pronunciation Crash Course!

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.

Speak Your Mind

*