How to know when to use jour vs journée in French

There is an easy rule to remember to avoid getting these similar words mixed up

Field of lavender in the south of France with inset image of the difference between jour and journée in French
Journée refers to the period of daylight

French is full of little nuances and words that sound similar with different meanings, and sometimes it can be hard to know when to use what word and where. 

When you learn French through conversation, you sometimes miss out on learning the rules and understanding why words are used in certain situations.

Jour and journée are words that can get muddled, but when you know the rules it is actually quite simple to remember. 

Read more: Why you may be struggling with French - and what to do about it 

The same rules apply to an and année and soir and soirée, so here’s a quick guide to using the words in the correct setting.

To begin with, it is important to note the difference in meaning between jour and journée

Jour refers to a 24-hour period and takes into account all the different parts of the day - the morning, afternoon, evening and night. It is also used to talk about a specific calendar day. 

Meanwhile, journée is used to describe the daytime, when there are daylight hours. 

For example, when you say bonne journée, you are wishing someone a good day, while for the evening it becomes bonne soirée

Jour is used to express a simple unit of time and is masculine, while journée is used to emphasise the duration of time and is feminine. 

Read more: Four language tips to help you in everyday French 

For example; 

  • On s’est rencontré il y a trois jours - We met three days ago

  • Le jour de l’an tombe un mardi cette année  - New year’s day falls on a Tuesday this year

  • A chaque jour suffit sa peine ! - Let’s call it a day!

  • Moi je suis disponible toute la journée  - I am available all day

  • Peux-tu animer une réunion dans la journée de vendredi, s’il te plait ?  -Can you lead a meeting at some point on Friday, please?

The rules are similar for an/année and soir/soirée:

An refers to a unit of time while année describes a period of time. 

We use an to describe someone’s age, specify a date or to place an event within time. It is usually used with numbers 

J’ai déménagé en France il y a deux ans - j’y crois pas ! - I moved to France two years ago - I don’t believe it!

Année on the other hand is like journée, and highlights the duration of time or the year in its entirety from January 1 to December 31. It is usually used with adjectives (for example, we say bonne année) and quantifiers.

For example, chaque année je vais en vacances à la même station de ski. - Every year I go on holiday to the same ski resort.

However, they can be interchangeable if followed by an adjective. For example, Je pars au Japon l’an prochain/l'année prochaine. - I’m going to Japan next year. 

The same idea can be applied to soir/soirée and matin/matinée. Soir and matin refer to specific time points while soirée and matinée talk about a duration of time. 

Tu veux manger chez moi ce soir vers 20h ? - Do you want to eat at mine this evening at about 8pm?

J’ai passé une belle soirée avec vous. - I had a great evening with you.

Je préfère faire de l'exercice le matin. - I prefer to do exercise in the morning.

Je t’ai attendu toute la matinée, t’étais où du coup ? - I waited for you all morning, where were you?