French Language Blog

L’heure de la sortie / Quitting Time Posted by on May 17, 2016 in Culture, Grammar, Music, Vocabulary

Listening to one of my old favorites in the car the other day, I got to thinking about French expressions for time and in particular the difference between some very common expressions that, while not exactly confusing, can trip up the novice and experienced language learner alike. You see, the French have two words for many common times that are generally (though as you’ll see, not always) covered in English by just one.

What are these words? Well, the English word “year” can be an or année. Day is either le jour or la journée. Morning, le matin or la matinée. And evening? le soir or la soirée. What’s going on? Good luck finding the answer in a dictionary or online. The best most sources agree on is that the masculine forms (l’an, le jour, le matin, le soir) are specific times on the calendar/schedule, while the feminine forms (l’année, la journée, la matinée, la soirée) generally refer to more general “states” of time … though of course, there are exceptions and no one quite seems to be able to nail down the exact difference/definition.

After much research, I think the best way to master these “tricky” terms is to share examples. Dictionaries (including the always amazing le Petit Larousse) are helpful but sometimes the best way to understand what a word means (in French, in English, or in any language!) is to see how it’s used. So with that in mind, here is a non-exhaustive-but-hopefully-helpful list of examples (and the video for that song that set me on this path!).

L’an / l’année (these two aren’t always interchangeable, but are much more “flexible” than the rest of the pairs)

J’ai 47 ans / I am 47 years old (always use “ans” . . . you can’t say “j’ai 47 années”)

Bonne Année / Happy New Year (always “année”)

L’an dernier / last year (literally “the last year” . . . 2015 . . . the calendar year that precedes this one)

L’année dernière /  this past year (can mean the last 12 months as well as “last year”)


le jour / la journée

Les jours de la semaine sont: lundi, mardi, mercredi, jeudi, vendredi, samedi, et dimanche / the days of the week are: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (notice that in French the days of the week are not capitalized, and also that Monday is the first day of the week)

Bonjour / Hello

Bonne journée / Good day (to you), Have a good day

Il a passé trois jours a New York. / He spent three days in New York.

Elle travaille pendant la journée. / She works during the day(time).


le matin / la matinée

Demain matin / tomorrow morning

Demain dans la matinée / Tomorrow during the morning(time)

Il va au supermarché demain matin / He is going to the supermarket tomorrow morning

Demain, il va passer la matinée au parc / Tomorrow, he’s going to spend the morning at the park


le soir / la soirée

Le soir après le travaille il va au restaurant / In the evening after work, he goes to the restaurant

Il passe ses soirées au cinéma / He spends his evenings at the movies


L’heure de la sortie (Don’t miss the awesome dance moves on the escalator!)

Nous sommes un groupe / We are a group
Une petite troupe / A little troop
D’amis fidèles qui nous entendons bien / Of friends who get along well
Et nous travaillons tous soir et matin / And we work all evening and day
Afin de gagner notre pain quotidien / To earn our daily bread
Des secrétaires, des couturières / Secretaries, Seamstresses
Et des vendeurs dans les grands magasins / And sales people in department stores (Like the Galleries Lafayette which you can see in the video and read about here .)
Mais que l’on soit photographe ou mannequin / But whether it’s photographer or model
On est tous d’accord sur un point / We all agree on one point

L’heure de la sortie / Quitting time
Tout au long d’l’année / All throughout the year
L’heure de la sortie / Quitting time
C’est l’meilleur moment d’la journée / It’s the best time of the day

Pourtant nous sommes / And yet really we’re
Ravis en somme / Overall happy
D’avoir choisi un métier qui nous plaît / To have chosen careers we enjoy
Faudrait pas croire que toute la journée / It wouldn’t do to think that all day
On n’ait qu’une idée : aller se promener / We only have one idea: to go out for a stroll
Mais quel dommage / But what a shame
Que d’être en cage / To be in a cage
Lorsqu’on aperçoit le soleil dehors / When you can see the sun outside
Et qu’il faut finir le travail d’abord / And you still have to finish work first
On doit vraiment faire un effort / You really have to put in the effort

L’heure de la sortie / Quitting time
Tout au long d’l’année / All throughout the year
L’heure de la sortie / Quitting time
C’est l’meilleur moment d’la journée / It’s the best time of the day

Quand l’heure approche / As the time approaches
J’entends la cloche / I hear the bell
Et je sais bien qu’au coin de la rue, là-bas / And I know that on the street corner out there
Il y a un garçon qui m’attend déjà / There is a boy who is already waiting for me
Et qui regarde l’horloge comme moi / And who like me is watching the clock
C’est lui que j’aime / It’s he who I love
Toujours le même / Always the same one
Je me souviens / I remember
Quand j’allais avec lui / When we went him and me
Chanter dans la rue : l’école est finie / Through the streets singing: school is out!
Rien n’a vraiment changé depuis / Not much has changed since (then)

L’heure de la sortie / Quitting time
Tout au long d’l’année / All throughout the year
L’heure de la sortie / Quitting time
C’est l’meilleur moment d’la journée / It’s the best time of the day

If you liked that one, here’s another song from Sheila. L’ecole est fini / School is out was Sheila’s first big hit in 1962 referenced as you can see above in l’heure de la sortie!


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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Since my first trip to France at 16, I have been a passionate francophile. I love the language, food, music, art, people, and more that make France and la Francophonie in general such an amazing part of our global community. Having lived in France and studied the language and culture for over 35 years, it is my great pleasure to be able to share a little bit of my deep love with you through this blog.


  1. Errol:

    Very interesting and helpful, as always. Many thanks.