Où = where AND when (relative pronouns)

Look at these straightforward examples of  as a relative pronoun:

La maison  j'ai grandi a été démolie.
The house where I grew up has been demolished.

La ville il habite a beaucoup de charme.
The town where he lives is very charming.

Here  simply means where and introduces an action taking place in a previously mentioned location.

See also Dans lequel / laquelle : alternative to où with places (relative pronouns)

 

Now look at these sentences using  in a different context:

Le jour  il a gagné le match.
The day (when/that) he won the game.

La semaine ils sont restés à l’hôtel s’est vite terminée.
The week (in which) they stayed at the hotel went quickly.

L’époque il vivait était dangereuse.
The era (in which) he lived was dangerous.
The era he lived in was dangerous.

In sentences where the relative pronoun introduces actions taking place during a previously mentioned time frame, you will also use  to express when or that/in which.

This can lead to completely different ways to express things than in English:

Le jour  j'ai eu vingt ans...
The day (when/that) I turned twenty...

Note that you cannot omit the  the way you can the when/that/which in English.

You can never use quand  or  que in this context!

ATTENTION: 

When used in a question,  always means where? and quand always means when?

vas-tu ce weekend ?
Where are you going this weekend?

Quand vous êtes-vous rencontrés ?
When did you meet?

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

La maison  j'ai grandi a été démolie.
The house where I grew up has been demolished.


Le jour  j'ai eu vingt ans...
The day (when/that) I turned twenty...


La ville il habite a beaucoup de charme.
The town where he lives is very charming.


C'est l'heure tout est sage,
Et l'ombre danse au coin du feu.

It's the time when everyone is good,
And the shadow dances near the fire.


Le jour  il a gagné le match.
The day (when/that) he won the game.



Quand vous êtes-vous rencontrés ?
When did you meet?


L’époque il vivait était dangereuse.
The era (in which) he lived was dangerous.
The era he lived in was dangerous.


vas-tu ce weekend ?
Where are you going this weekend?


La semaine ils sont restés à l’hôtel s’est vite terminée.
The week (in which) they stayed at the hotel went quickly.


Q&A

John

Kwiziq community member

22 July 2018

2 replies

To translate - the day when I go on holiday will be super - do I use où or quand for the word when?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

23 July 2018

23/07/18

Hi John,

The expression is 'le jour ' in French -

Le jour où je suis arrivé(e), il a pluThe day (that) I arrived it rained.

Le jour où je serai à la retraite, sera un jour de bonheur pour moi.The day (that) I retire will be a happy one for me.

In your example-

Le jour où je partirai en vacances, ce sera génial.

Hope this helps!

 

John

Kwiziq community member

23 July 2018

23/07/18

That's perfect, thanks.

John

Kwiziq community member

16 May 2018

5 replies

In my last post, I was concerned about the use of t’ before a. Should it not be s’?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

17 May 2018

17/05/18

Hi John,

it is "l'année... a beaucoup plu à toi", so the 'te' is used.

Hope this helps!

John

Kwiziq community member

17 May 2018

17/05/18

I can't work out what this means in English.  The year ... rained a lot for you?  Surely not.  How would you translate this, please?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

17 May 2018

17/05/18

Hi John,

I can understand your confusion. It comes from the fact that two verbs have the same participle:

pleuvoir -- plu: to rain
plaire (à quelqu'un) -- plu: to please

"Cela m'a plu" doesnt mean "that has me rained" but rather "I liked that." (Literally: that pleased me).

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

17 May 2018

17/05/18

Bonjour John !

This is quite a complex sentence :)

L’année où tu as vécu en France t’a beaucoup plu."

Here, as Chris said, it's the verb plaire in Le Passé Composé.

Literally, the structure is as follows:
"The year [...] you pleased a lot" -> the year [when you lived in France] pleased you a lot.

Here's a link to our lesson explaining how to use plaire:
https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/revision/grammar/how-to-use-plaire-to-express-liking-something-someone

I hope that's helpful!
Bonne journée !

John

Kwiziq community member

17 May 2018

17/05/18

That’s brilliant. Thanks. 

John

Kwiziq community member

16 May 2018

1 reply

"Is the sentence “l’année où tu as vécu en France t’a beaucoup plu” correct. My question relates to the use of t’a before beaucoup, and in particular

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

17 May 2018

17/05/18

Hi John,

In this case it should be 'te a beaucoup plu' and because there's a clash between the vowels 'e' and 'a' , it becomes t'a.

Hope this helps!

Mieke

Kwiziq community member

9 September 2017

2 replies

in present and future tense

Hi, do I understand it correctly that one always uses ou regardless of the tense? Like for example in "the day I will marry" or "today is the day I go skiing for the first time" or something like that?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

10 September 2017

10/09/17

Bonsoir Mieke, So here is the reference part from the lesson with the examples: «Le jour où il a gagné le match. The day (when/that) he won the game. La semaine où ils sont restés à l’hôtel s’est vite terminée. The week (in which) they stayed at the hotel went quickly. L’époque où il vivait était dangereuse. The era (in which) he lived was dangerous.The era he lived in was dangerous. Note that in sentences where the relative pronoun introduces actions taking place during a previously mentioned time frame, you will also use où to express when or that/in which.» So to answer your question, the answer is no because «où» is only used in phrases that begin with a relative pronoun, in this case «où» and the subsequent action took place during a previously mentioned time frame. Example: «où il vivait était dangereuse» here is «où» followed by a verb in l'imparfait (historic action). This was preceded by this time frame: «L’époque» J'espère que ma réponse vous aidera. Bonne chance.

Mieke

Kwiziq community member

13 September 2017

13/09/17

Hi Ron, Thanks for your response. I am still a bit confused though. Initially I thought that one only uses “ou” when it refers to a situation that takes place in the past, because in the examples this is always so. But in the quiz the sentence Le jour ________ j'arrête de fumer, les poules auront des dents is used. That is why I thought that perhaps you can also use “ou” when a description in present or future time is concerned. So how would you translate “the day (that) I will marry? Thanks!

Johnny

Kwiziq community member

10 September 2016

3 replies

When used in a question

You wrote 'When used in a question, "où" always means "where?" and "quand" always means "when?"' but didn't give an example. Does that mean "Le jour où j'ai eu vingt ans" become "Le jour quand ai-je eu vingt ans?" Thanks.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

12 September 2016

12/09/16

Bonjour Johnny ! As you suggested, I added examples to clarify this case. I hope that's helpful! À bientôt !

Johnny

Kwiziq community member

12 September 2016

12/09/16

Ah, so you meant where and when as the subject of the question. I thought you meant in the context of the lesson. So "Was that the day you turned twenty?" is still "Est-ce que c'était le jour où j'ai eu vingt ans?"

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

12 September 2016

12/09/16

Yes, "Was that the day you turned twenty?" is still "Est-ce que c'était le jour où tu as eu vingt ans?"

Carol

Kwiziq community member

14 March 2016

1 reply

"dans laquelle" vs. "ou"

Would it also be correct to say "L'époque dans laquelle il vivait..."?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

14 March 2016

14/03/16

Bonjour Carol, Here you could use 'laquelle' but not with "dans", simply because with "époque" you use the preposition 'à' : "Je suis né à cette époque." (I was born in that time.) Therefore, you could say: "L'époque à laquelle il vivait ...". I hope that's helpful!

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