You might have heard that “The date is reversed in French.” But how does it work? What are the exceptions? And how can you sound fluent (and not awkward) when saying the date in French?
Knowing how this tricky part of written and spoken French works is very important if you want to effortlessly navigate everyday French conversations and situations.
For example: if you want to make a reservation to see a play at the theater La Comédie française in Paris for Tuesday, December 15th, how would you say that date in French?
If your train ticket to Carcassonne says: 02/01/2020, what does it mean?
Let’s find out!
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1) Saying the date in french: Days of the week, numbers and months
Dates in French follow much easier rules than other parts of the French language, but you still need to learn them at some point.
In order to say “Tuesday, December 15th,” you need to know how to say… well, “Tuesday,” “December,” and “Fifteen” !
If you already know your French days, months and numbers sur le bout des doigts (= perfectly, or “on your fingertips” as we say in French), skip ahead to section 2 of this lesson.
A French week is made of:
- Lundi = Monday
- Mardi = Tuesday
- Mercredi = Wednesday
- Jeudi = Thursday
- Vendredi = Friday
- Samedi = Saturday
- Dimanche = Sunday
Numbers are more complicated, there’s more of them! For example:
- Un = 1
- Deux = 2
- Six = 6
- Onze = 11
- Douze = 12
- Quinze = 15
- Trente = 30
- Trente-et-un = 31
French months are easier, as there are only 12 to remember:
- Janvier = January
- Février = February
- Mars = March
- Avril = April
- Mai = May
- Juin = June
- Juillet = July
- Août = August
- Septembre = September
- Novembre = November
- Décembre = December
Learn how to talk about time with more context (like when referring to the time of day, “yesterday”, or “tomorrow”…) with the lesson:
Learn more about French numbers with these lessons:
Learn more about French months with this lesson:
2) Saying the date in French: Rules, examples, and practice exercises
Une date in French is never a romantic date. It’s always a day of the year.
Here are some examples of dates in French:
- Mardi 15 décembre = Tuesday, December 15th
- Le 15 décembre = December 15th
- Le 15 décembre 2020 = December 15th, 2020
- “On se voit le mardi 15 ?” = Can we meet on tuesday the 15th?
We generally express the date as:
- Day of the week / Number / Month (+ Year) → le mardi 15 décembre (2020)
- “Le” + Number (+ Month / Year) → le 15 = le 15 décembre = le 15 décembre 2020
Normally, the numbers are all “cardinal” (like 1, 2, 3, 4) and not “ordinal” (1st, 2nd, 3rd…).
But there is one key exception: The first day of the month is le 1er (“le premier”) = the 1st.
- Le 1er février = February 1st
And now you understand how to read or say a date in French!
Even with abbreviations, the order remains the same:
Jour / Mois / Année = Day / Month / Year
For example: 15/12/2020 = December 15th, 2020
- Le 6 avril = April 6th
- Mercredi 11 mars = Wednesday, March 11th
- 12/06/2020 = le 12 juin 2020 = June 12th, 2020
- 30-oct.-1983 = le 30 octobre 1983 = October 30th, 1983 (This abbreviation style is unusual but you might find it in some administrative paperwork)
Congratulations! Now you’re ready to use the date in French with all the other numbers, months, and days of the week!
Want to go even further? Learn more with these other lessons:
À tout de suite !
I’ll see you in the next lesson.
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