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Dès, Depuis, à Partir – French Starting Times

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Salut !

You want to describe something, an action with a starting point in time.
But the French language has several different words for this set up!
“Dès”, “depuis”, “à partir”… Like items in a toolbox, each one has a different use.

Let’s untangle these words.

Et toi ?
Did you know the difference between Dès and Depuis?
>> Can you write 2 French sentences, one with each of these words in the comment area below?

That’s a challenge! :)

J’ai hâte de te lire.

Bonne journée,


Bonus Material: Download the Transcript

Salut c’est Géraldine, bienvenue sur Comme une Française TV, Sound French, even to the French.

Some French words are almost synonyms, but not quite – and we use each one differently. For a native speaker it seems natural, but for someone who wants to learn the language, the rules are blurry. I want to help you untangle those words, and as a starting point, let’s start… with the starting points – and the French words to set them up. Dès, depuis, à partir, and their friends. They have a similar meaning : they mark a cut in the past when a change happened, or they set up a point in the future when things will happen.

However, even if they have a global common point, these words are used differently in French language.

Let’s dive in.

1 – Dès

“Dès” mostly means as soon as. It must be followed by something – a condition or a starting point, in the past or even the near future. It can be an action, with a verb :

Je me suis levée dès que le réveil a sonné : I got up as soon as the alarm went off Dès que j’arrive à la maison, je me fais couler un bain : As soon as I get home, I run myself a bath

You can also use a simple noun – then it’s trickier to translate, but it means as early as : Vous pourrez plonger dans la piscine dès votre arrivée à l’hôtel : You’ll be able to dive in the pool upon arrival at the hotel / you can dive in the pool as early as your arrival at the hotel (?) Je suis occupée aujourd’hui, mais je te rappelle dès demain : I’m busy today, but I’ll call you back as early as tomorrow.

It’s also the word we use to translate as soon as possible : Dès que possible ...But strangely, we still frequently use the English acronym ASAP anyway.

The accent, going down from left to right, l’accent grave, is important : without it, it becomes the short words des, the plural for un / une, which doesn’t exist in English. Un lapin, des lapins Une maison, des maisons

And with un accent aigu, going up from left to right, it becomes the plural for dice. Un dé à six faces, plusieurs dés à six faces A six-sided dice, several six-sided die.

Finally in Dès, the s is always silent : if you pronounce it, it becomes the name of a Swiss singer for children, Henri Dès—who is amazing! Check him out.

2 – Depuis

Depuis is used to express something that’s always in the past, but followed by an action or a state that’s still in effect in the present.

It mostly means since, or for, in that way.

After Depuis you need something else. It can be a verb or an action, a starting point – then we use depuis que : Tout a changé depuis qu’elle est partie -> Everything has changed since she left. Depuis que je regarde les vidéos de Comme Une Française, j’ai beaucoup progressé en français. -> Since I’ve been watching Comme Une Française videos, my French has improved a lot.

You can also a simple noun, as a starting point, or even a duration : Depuis mon arrivée à Paris, je suis émerveillée : Since my arrival in Paris, I’ve been amazed. J’apprends le français depuis deux ans : I’ve been learning French for two years

If you want to use depuis followed by a duration, you can also use Ça fait… que : Ça fait [duration] que [action]

Ça fait trois heures que je regarde des épisodes de Comme une Française : It’s been three hours that I’m watching CUFTV episodes Ça fait trois heures que je regarde des épisodes de Comme une Française = Je regarde des épisodes de Comme une Française depuis trois heures : I’ve been watching CUFTV epsiodes for three hours now.

...That’s a long time, my friend. Be careful :-)

Depuis also means from a location in space instead of time :
Il nous appelle depuis Paris He’s calling us from Paris. In that meaning, you can use a simple de instead of depuis : Il nous appelle de Paris : He’s calling us from Paris

3 – À partir de

À partir de means literally starting from. It has several meanings, and one of them is close to Depuis and Dès.

Je vais à la gym à partir de demain : I’ll go to the gym, starting tomorrow You could say Je vais à la gym dès demain : I’ll go to the gym as early as tomorrow But à partir de makes it clearer that you want to keep going to the gym after tomorrow as well.

If someone tells you : Le livreur arrivera dès demain, the delivery man will arrive as early as tomorrow, they insist on the fact that it will happen tomorrow and that it’s already really soon.

When they tell you : Le colis sera disponible à partir de demain, the package will be available starting from tomorrow (?), tomorrow is just a starting point – it may happen a bit later than that.

If you want to know more precisely when you should be at home, to meet the delivery man, you can ask : Entre quand et quand ? / Entre quelle heure et quelle heure ?

Which is one last useful sentence : Entre [starting point] et [ending point] In French, this information is called : Une fourchette, a range – literally, a fork. So don’t worry if people want to give you forks randomly : Une fourchette horaire, une fourchette de prix Are only a time range, and a price range

Formally, it’s also called une approximation, une estimation – an approximation, or an estimate Casually, there would be an adverb : Approximativement / à peu près – approximately, roughly But on a friendly basis, we also use en gros / à la louche – literally “with a ladle," informal french for “roughly speaking” or “basically."

Et toi ? Did you know the difference between Dès and Depuis? Can you write 2 French sentences, one with each of these words below?

Share your experience (in French if you dare!) in the comments below. We can all learn from your story. The comment section is the best place to start discussions and ask questions! Don’t hesitate to comment if you liked this video, or if you have something you want me to talk about - I’ll read all your comments.

--- If you liked this video, share it with your friends on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest! Help me spread the word about Comme une Française. Merci !

Love France? Dream of sounding French, even to the French? Learn how with me, Geraldine, on Comme une Franç and subscribe to my email updates for exclusive tips on Real Life in France every Tuesday PLUS an exclusive video lesson: “Introduce yourself in French.” It's FREE!

Merci for watching Comme une Française TV, sound French, even to the French.

Allez, salut !

Bonus Material: Download the Transcript

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