Years

Years in French
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Ans, années

What year is it?

While this may seem like a simple question, it’s kind of complicated in French. In addition to two different words for "year," French has two different ways to pronounce certain years.

What year, In what year, When …

Asking when (what year) something happened or will happen requires en quelle année.

Par exemple…

En quelle année est-on ?
En quelle année sommes-nous ?
  What year is it?
C’était en quelle année ?   What year was that (in)?
Cela s’est passé en quelle année ?   What year did that happen?
En quelle année est-elle arrivée ?   When (What year) did she arrive?
Il va obtenir son diplôme en quelle année ?
En quelle année va-t-il obtenir son diplôme ?
  When (In what year) is he going to graduate?

But to talk about the year something began or was created, you need de quelle année:

De quelle année est la voiture ?
La voiture est de quelle année ?
  What year is the car (from)?
De quelle année date ce service ?
Ce service date de quelle année ?
  What year did this service begin?

It’s (the year), In (the year) …

There are two ways to answer the above questions. The easy way is with just the year itself preceded by the appropriate preposition (if any):

C’est 2020.
En 2020.
  It’s 2020.
In 2020. 
C’était 2005.
C’était en 2005
  It was 2005.
It was in 2005.
C’était 1870
C’était en 1870
  It was 1870.
It was in 1870.
Elle est de 2019.   It’s from 2019.
It’s a 2019 (car model).
Il date de 2005.   It dates back to 2005.

 However, if you want to include the word "year" when answering en quelle année questions, the actual number of the year dictates whether you need to use an or année.

1) Years ending in 0 require l’an:

C’est l’an 2020.
En l’an 2020.
  It’s 2020.
In 2020. 
C’était l’an 2000.
C’était en l’an 2000.
  It was 2000.
It was in 2000.
C’était l’an 1990.
C’était en l’an 1990.
  It was 1990.
It was in 1990.

2) All other numbers are used with l’année:

C’est l’année 2019.
En l’année 2019.
  It’s 2019.
In 2019.
C’était l’année 2005.
C’était en l’année 2005.
  It was 2005.
It was in 2005.
C’était l’année 1968.
C’était en l’année 1968.
  It was 1968.
It was in 1968.

How to Pronounce and Write Years

The vast majority of years – everything up to and including the year 1099, and everything from 2000 and later – are pronounced like normal numbers:

412 quatre cent douze
888 huit cent quatre-vingts  
1099 mille quatre-vingt-dix-neuf mil quatre-vingt-dix-neuf**
2000 deux mille
3019 trois mille dix-neuf

 However, each year from 1100 to 1999 has two correct pronunciations, and each of those has two correct spellings.**

1) These years can be pronounced like normal numbers, as above:

1112 mille cent douze mil cent douze
1444 mille quatre cent quarante-quatre mil quatre cent quarante-quatre
1800 mille huit cents mil huit cents***
1975 mille neuf cent soixante-quinze mil neuf cent soixante-quinze
1999 mille neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf mil neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf

** The French equivalent of "thousand" can be spelled mille or mil, but the latter is somewhat archaic. The closer the year is to the modern day, the more likely it is to be spelled mille.

2) Or they can be stated with the centaines vigésimales (aka centaines vicésimales) counting system, with the year broken into pairs of two-digit numbers, separated or followed by the word cent(s).***

  Traditional spelling 1990 spelling reform
1112 onze cent douze onze-cent-douze
1444 quatorze cent quarante-quatre quatorze-cent-quarante-quatre
1800 dix-huit cents dix-huit-cents
1975 dix-neuf cent soixante-quinze dix-neuf-cent-soixante-quinze
1999 dix-neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf dix-neuf-cent-quatre-vingt-dix-neuf

*** Why does cent sometimes end in -s? See Numbers 100 and up.

 In addition, years are often written as Roman numerals, especially in official documents and ornaments (buildings, plaques).

As in English, years in French can be differentiated with one of two common notation systems.

 Related features

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Talking about the year in French

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