Learn how to talk about the 4 seasons in French

Learn how to talk about the 4 seasons in French

by Anne-Lise Vassoille

Updated August 9, 2022

While you may not need it as frequently as the days of the week and the months in French, especially for the expression of dates, the vocabulary around the four seasons of the year in French is still very useful. Seasons set the pace of the year in France, and there are various celebrations and activities scheduled throughout the year to commemorate the changing seasons . The solstice d’été (summer solstice), for example. has been chosen for the annual Fête de la musique (Music Day), while the sports d’hiver (winter sports) remain extremely popular from the Alps to the Pyrénées mountains. 

Even if you are still at a beginner or elementary level, learning the words, the grammatical points and a few useful expressions around the seasons in French will extend your vocabulary, but also your understanding of the way of life and culture in France.

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How to say the 4 seasons in French

Let’s start with the basics: how to say the four seasons in French.

FrenchEnglish
le printempsspring
l’étésummer
l’automnefall
l’hiverwinter

Thankfully, the pronunciation of the four seasons is fairly straightforward and with only a little practice, you should easily get it right!

A few grammar points about seasons in the French language

Now that you know the words for the four seasons, let’s look at the grammar you’ll need to remember in order to use them in sentences.

The grammar gender of the seasons

Funnily enough, if la saison (the season) is a feminine word, the actual seasons in French are all masculine, as you can easily tell when they are used with an adjective:

FrenchEnglish
un printemps douxa mild spring
un été chauda hot summer
un automne pluvieuxa rainy fall
un hiver froida cold winter

What prepositions do you need with the seasons in French?

Aside from talking about the weather, the seasons serve to express the time of the year, which involves using a preposition. Since the words for the seasons are all masculine in French, you might expect the same preposition to be used. 

However, another factor comes into play: the first letter of the word. Three seasons out of four, namely été, automne and hiver, start with either a vowel or an h + vowel (the letter h is not pronounced in French). This is why the definite article is l’ rather than le for these three seasons, as you can see in our first table above.

This also impacts the preposition to be used, with printemps needing a different one from été, automne and hiver:

FrenchEnglish
au printempsin spring
en étéin summer
en automnein fall
en hiverin winter

A few expressions involving the seasons of the year in French

With the seasons setting the tempo of life, they are often used in expressions to describe the time of the year. Let’s look at a few common ones.

5 phrases to describe the various seasons in France

Rather than using the actual words of the four seasons, a few expressions can be used to embody what these seasons stand for:

FrenchEnglishMeaning
la saison des amoursthe season of loveWith the sunny weather and the holidays, summer is the perfect season for love.
la belle saisonthe beautiful seasonFor the same reasons, summer is also known as the beautiful season.
la mauvaise saisonthe bad seasonOn the other end of the spectrum, the bad season can refer either to fall or winter.
la saison froidethe cold seasonAs expected, winter is also known as the cold season.

9 phrases relating to seasonal activities and trends

Seasons are also marked by specific activities, from agricultural tasks to holidays and tourism.

FrenchEnglishMeaning
la saison des vendangesthe grape harvest seasonHappening around September, students and seasonal workers often help with the grape harvest season before heading back to university or other temporary jobs.
la saison des récoltesthe harvest seasonFor other agricultural products, summer is the main harvest season.
la saison touristiquethe tourist seasonDepending on the French region, between the seaside and the mountains, the main tourist season may be either summer or winter.
la haute saisonthe high seasonThe high season is another way to talk about the main tourist season for a specific region.
la basse saisonthe low seasonThe low season often refers to spring and fall.
la morte-saisonthe dead seasonthe off seasonThis expression often refers to fall, to describe both the weather and the low tourism, but can extend to winter. 
la saison des soldesthe sales seasonThere are two main sales seasons, taking place over several weeks in January and July.
les vêtements de saisonthe seasonal clothesWith the sales, comes seasonal fashion…
la saison d’une sériethe season of a seriesTV series also have their seasons, even in our age of instant streaming.

9 phrases that include specific French seasons

Rather than the more generic saison, several phrases use the words of specific seasons in French:

FrenchEnglishMeaning
été comme hiversummer as winterThis phrase has the same meaning as en toute saison (in every season), to refer to something happening throughout the year or at any time of the year.
l’heure d’étésummer timeJust as in many other parts of the world, French people set their clocks forward one hour towards the start of spring.
l’heure d’hiverwinter timeWith the return of fall and winter, French people also set their clocks back one hour.
les vacances d’étésummer holidaysSummer is the main season for holidays, with children being out of school throughout July and August.
les vacances d’hiverwinter holidaysWith the ski season, Christmas and the New Year celebrations, the winter holidays are also very popular in France.
le tube de l’ététhe summer hitWith the holiday season and music festivals throughout the country, a summer hit often tops the music charts.
l’hiver de la viethe winter of lifeThis image refers to old age.
le printemps de la viethe spring of lifeThis phrase refers to youth. 
Une hirondelle ne fait pas le printemps.one swallow does not a summer makeEven though the swallow mentioned in both the French and English saying is the same, the season is not. The French saying mentions spring, while the English one mentions summer. But the intended meaning is the same.

Learn the four seasons in one day in French

There you have it: not just the words for the four seasons in French, but also a few grammar points to use them correctly in sentences, as well as a wealth of common turns of phrases and sayings. Through them, you even get an inkling of a year in the life of an average French person.

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Anne-Lise is a translator and copywriter working for various industries, such as hospitality and travel, as well as health and well-being. Settled down in London since the end of her university years, she cannot get enough of the exceptional cultural life in the English capital city, starting with theater, be it to see a new West End show or to roll up her sleeves with her amateur drama group. She is also interested in photography, as her Instagram profile shows. She indulges her passion for languages in a translation blog she writes with other linguist friends. Go to her Linkedin page to know more about her background and her professional experience.

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