an/année

What’s the difference between an and année?

French has two words for year: an and année. It’s easy to mix up these two nouns as they basically have the same meaning (un an or une année = 12 months). However, an and année are not always interchangeable. Keep reading to learn the difference between an and année, then put your knowledge to the test in the exercises.

Example

Il y a quelques années, Sébastien a fait le tour de France à vélo. Il avait 21 ans.

C’est cette année-là qu’il a rencontré Léa. Elle aussi faisait un tour à vélo. Ils sont mariés depuis 3 ans.

an

An regards a year as a unit of time. Use an to express someone’s age, specify a precise date or situate an event in time. It is almost always used with a cardinal number.

Examples:
J’ai 32 ans.I’m 32 years old.
Louis XIV est né en l’an 1638.Louis XIV was born in the year 1638.
Sidonie a déménagé il y a deux ans.Sidonie moved two years ago.

An cannot be used with the demonstrative determiner cet (cet an).

année

The noun année views the year as a period of time. It refers to the whole year in its entirety (from 1st January to 31st December) and thus emphasises the duration (e.g., the whole year, all year long).

Examples:
Je te souhaite une bonne année.I wish you a happy New Year.
= happiness the whole year long
Est-ce que tu travailles encore à l’agence de voyage cette année ?Are you still working at the travel agency this year?
= from the beginning to the end of the year

Année can be used with the demonstrative determiner cet (cette année).

When are an and année interchangeable?

In general, an and année are interchangeable when they are followed by an adjective.

Examples:
Je pars au Japon l’an prochain.I’m going to Japan next year.
Je pars au Japon l’année prochaine.I’m going to Japan next year.

Remember! An is masculine but année is feminine, so the adjective changes its ending.

Example:
Ben a passé son bac l’an dernier.Ben did his baccalaureate last year.
masculine adjective ending
Ben a passé son bac l’année dernière.Ben did his baccalaureate last year.
feminine adjective ending

jour/journée, soir/soirée, matin/matinée

The difference between an and année also applies to the words jour and journée, soir and soirée, and matin and matinée.

  • The word jourday refers to the days of the week as individual units of time (lundi, mardi, etc.), whereas the word journée refers to the day in its entirety from morning to night.
    Examples:
    Ma voisine fait du yoga tous les jours.My neighbour does yoga every day.
    = le lundi, le mardi, etc.
    Paul ne pourra pas venir, il travaille toute la journée.Paul can’t come, he’s working all day long.
    = all day long
  • The word soirevening refers to a specific time point somewhere between 7pm and midnight (approximately). In contrast, soirée expresses the duration of the evening in its entirety.
    Examples:
    Est-ce que tu veux aller au cinéma ce soir ?Do you want to come to the cinema tonight?
    = at a specific moment in the evening
    J’ai passé une très bonne soirée !I had a lovely evening.
    = the evening was nice from start to finish
  • Matinmorning refers to the specific moments in the morning (from 6am to 11am, approximately), whereas matinée expresses the morning period in its entirety.
    Examples:
    Catherine n’aime pas se lever tôt le matin.Catherine doesn’t like getting up early in the morning.
    = at a specific time in the morning
    J’irai faire les courses dans la matinée.I’m going shopping in the morning.
    = I’m going to spend the whole morning shopping

Learn more about this grammar topic in our section on nouns in French grammar. To learn about some other confusing word pairs, check out our pages on parler/dire or avant/devant.