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What’s the difference between cours and classe?

The difference between the French nouns cours and classe can be tricky for English-speakers to understand, because they can both be translated as class. However, French makes certain distinctions between these two nouns. Learn when to use cours and when to use classe, then put your knowledge to the test in the exercises.


C’est l’heure du cours de géographie.

Les élèves sont entrés dans la classe et se sont assis à leurs places.

Flora lève le doigt pour répondre à la question du professeur. C’est la meilleure élève de la classe.


The word cours can be translated as class or lesson when referring to an academic subject; at school or college students have cours de français (French class), de mathematiques (maths class), etc.

Le cours de biologie commence à 13 heures.Biology class starts at 1pm.

Cours can also mean the notes and materials from a class.

Louise était absente mardi, alors je lui ai passé mes cours pour qu’elle rattrape son retard.Louise was absent on Tuesday, so I gave her my notes so that she can catch up.


The word classe means the classroom.

Les élèves sont entrés dans la classe et se sont assis à leurs places.The students came into the classroom and sat in their seats.

In addition, classe also refers to the group of students that form a unit. It also refers to year groups and grades: classe de sixièmeyear seven/sixth grade, de terminaletwelfth grade/final year, etc.

Exemples :
—Tu es en quelle classe ?—Which grade/year are you in?
—En troisième.—Ninth grade/Year 10.
Nathalie et Florence sont dans la même classe cette année.Nathalie and Florence are in the same class this year.

To learn about some other confusing nouns in French, check out our pages on magasin/magazine and an/année.