How to say and write the date in French

How to say and write the date in French

by Audrey Sivadier

Updated December 29, 2022

You might think you can skip some of the basics when it comes to French, but don’t! When it comes to learning languages, it’s important to get confident with numbers. Not only are they very useful for giving your date of birth or planning an appointment, but they are also essential if you just want to say the date in French. So what do you need to know to be able to say the date in French? Here are the steps to follow!

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How to count in French

French numbers 1 to 31

This is the first step: as the months have a maximum of 31 days, you have to memorize the numbers in French up to 31. These are the numbers you probably already know, the so-called cardinal numbers (unlike the ordinal numbers used in English).

2 = deux
3 = trois
4 = quatre
5 = cinq
6 = six
7 = sept
8 = huit
9 = neuf
10 = dix
11 = onze
12 = douze
13 = treize
14 = quatorze
15 = quinze
16 = seize
17 = dix-sept
18 = dix-huit
19 = dix-neuf
20 = vingt
21 = vingt-et-un
22 = vingt-deux
23 = vingt-trois
24 = vingt-quatre
25 = vingt-cinq
26 = vingt-six
27 = vingt-sept
28 = vingt-huit
29 = vingt-neuf
30 = trente
31 = trente-et-un

There’s only one exception: it’s number one. In French, we use the ordinal number “premier” and not the cardinal number “un” this time, for example:

  • 1er mai: Labour Day in France (a public holiday in France, there are lots of strikes and demonstrations in the streets).
  • 1er avril: the day when everyone makes jokes, children but also the media who have fun putting fake news in their newspapers.

Days of the week in French

The days of the week in French are composed a bit in the English way with the suffix “-di” at the end (which comes from Latin and means “day”). However, it is not capitalized.

Monday — lundi

Tuesday — mardi

Wednesday — mercredi

Thursday — jeudi

Friday — vendredi

Saturday — samedi

Sunday — dimanche

The Romans gave the days of the week the names of the seven stars they knew:

lundi → Day of the Moon (la Lune) 

mardi → Day of Mars

mercredi → Mercury

jeudi → Jupiter

vendredi → Venus

However, with the Christianization of Gaul, Saturn disappeared in favor of the Sabbath, hence samedi (sambati dies), while the day of the Sun was replaced by the day of the Lord (dies dominicus) which became dimanche. The Anglo-Saxon countries have kept the original forms for the last two days of the week.

Months of the year in French

January — janvier

February — février

March — mars

April — avril

May — mai

June — juin

July — juillet

August — août

September — septembre

October — octobre

November — novembre

December — décembre

The months in French are quite similar to the month in English, but like the days of the week, they are not capitalized. Be careful with pronunciation, however, some months are more difficult to pronounce than others.

Years in French

To say the year in French, you’ll need to know all the numbers! Because the French pronounce the year as an entire number, for example:

1998: mille-neuf-cent-quatre-vingt-dix-huit

This is a year dear to the French, as the national football team won its first world cup!

14 juillet 1789: quatorze juillet mille-sept-cent-quatre-vingt-neuf

Hope you’re not in a hurry… it’s long and there’s no way to shorten it. Unless you’re talking about your year of birth, we can say:

« Je suis née en 86 (quatre-vingt-six). »  – I was born in ’86 (eighty-six).

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How to say the date in French, but in order

This is one of the most common doubts: in what order should the date be said in French? 

Let’s take the same example, the day of the French Revolution, which is now the French national holiday: 14 juillet 1789

When you give a date in French, you have to start with the day, then the month and finally the year. Nothing else is added. 

Articles and prepositions in the date

To say the date, you’ll need the article “le”:

 “le” + (day) + number

  • « Nous sommes le mardi 3 avril. » – Today is Tuesday, April 3rd.
  • « Nous sommes le 3 avril. » – It is April 3rd.

To say the day, you also have several possibilities:

Aujourd’hui, c’est lundi. – Today is Monday.

Aujourd’hui, on est lundi.

And you have to distinguish the meaning of these two sentences:

Lundi, je me lève à 6h.                  Le lundi, je me lève à 6h. (I get up at 6 o’clock)

Samedi, je vais au cinéma.           Le samedi, je vais au cinéma. (I go to the movies.)

>> Lundi : this Monday (only)       >> le lundi : every Monday. (regular activity)

For the months, you still have two ways to announce them:

En janvier, en août… Or Au mois de janvier, au mois d’août…

For the years: only one preposition: “en”.

Je suis née en 1986. (I was born in 1986.)

Questions to ask for the date

The questions will depend on what you want to know. If you want to know:

The full date:

  • Quelle est la date d’aujourd’hui ? (What’s today’s date?)
  • Nous sommes le lundi 20 décembre 2022. 

The day of the week:

  • Quel jour sommes-nous aujourd’hui ? (What day is today?)
  • Nous sommes mercredi.

For a more informal way of speaking, you can replace “nous sommes” with “on est”, which is more widely used in oral communication.

There, you are now able to talk about your birth, your appointments… And when is your next class with Lingoda scheduled? Prep for your classes with our 60 second French videos on YouTube.

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Audrey has been a French teacher for more than ten years now, and a cheese-lover all her life. She comes from the west of France, and after living 2 years in Spain and 4 years in Oxford in England, she has just settled in the heart of France, in Auvergne, a land of cheese, rugby, Michelin tires and ancient volcanoes. Audrey definitely prefers the first one. She speaks French, Spanish and English, and just started German, nothing better to understand her students who tremble at the French grammar! When she is not teaching, she tries to find time to cook or sing in a choir. She loves to invite people to her house to feed them and trap them with musical blind tests designed and adapted to her guests! Find out more about her on her website and LinkedIn.

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