Like many cultures, the French divide up the year into four seasons, each with its own cultural ramifications.
Let’s learn how to say the seasons in French and what the seasons mean to the French – including which one is France’s favorite!
What are the seasons called in French?
The four seasons in French are:
What gender are the seasons in French?
In French, all of the seasons are masculine. Sadly, things aren’t totally simple: the word for “season” itself is feminine: une saison.
Do you capitalize the seasons in French?
You typically don’t capitalize the seasons in French, unless they’re at the start of a sentence or maybe part of a title.
When do you use an article with French seasons?
You will often use an article with the seasons in French. For instance, in English you might say “The French’s favorite season is summer.” In French that would be: L’été est la saison préférée des Français.
When saying “in”a season, though, French seasons don’t need an article. For example: Son livre sera disponible en automne. (His book will be available in the fall.)
Words like ce/cet (“this”) can also replace an article: Cet hiver elle apprendra à skier. (This winter, she’ll learn to ski.)
As with that last example, most other cases will be similar to English. Take, for instance, the phrase “over/during the spring”. That would be translated as pendant le printemps.
Can the French seasons be plural?
The seasons in French can be plural, depending on the context. For instance: On se voit tous les étés. (We see each other every summer) but this isn’t very common and you will mostly hear people say “chaque été” if they mean “every summer.”
As in English, the seasons are often kept singular. For example, you’d say L’hiver est ma saison préférée (Winter is my favorite season).
Adjective forms of the French seasons
If you want to use a season as an adjective in French, you have two choices: Either use an adjective derivative or de + season:
- hivernal(e) or d’hiver
- printanier/printanière or de printemps
- estival(e) or d’été
- automnal(e) or d’automne
On prévoit un temps hivernal (We’re expecting winter weather.)
Je me suis acheté une robe d’été. (I bought myself a summer dress.)
In general, you could say that:
● the adjective derivative tends to be paired with words that are specifically associated with a season. For instance, “winter weather”.
● de + season tends to be used with a word that isn’t necessarily associated with a particular season. In the example above, for instance, a dress isn’t inherently made for summer.
This is just a general rule, and don’t worry – if you choose an option that’s technically wrong, French people will still understand what you’re trying to say.
Another bit of good news is that the more familiar you get with French, the more you’ll come across phrases with these adjectives or de + season forms, so you’ll get used to using many of them.
Which prepositions do you use with the seasons in French?
You can use several prepositions with the seasons in French, including au/en or du/d’.
Il est né en hiver. (He was born in the winter.)
Le 21 septembre est le premier jour d’automne. (September 21 is the first day of autumn.)
If you want to say “in a season” in French, three of the seasons take the preposition en.
Spring is different, and I guess that makes sense, what with its showy flowers and all. So to say “in (the) spring”, you use the preposition au: au printemps.
As this helpful article explains, the reason for this is probably due to sonority. The seasons that begin with a vowel couldn’t be paired with au on a sound level; en works better.
Here’s a quick list of how to say “in” and each season:
How to talk about past, current, and future seasons in French
As in English, you can use words like “last,” “this”, and “next” to talk about past, present, and future seasons.
Nous y avons loué un bateau l’été dernier. (We rented a boat from there last summer)
Le musée ouvrira ce printemps. (The museum will open this spring.)
On va déjà réserver pour l’hiver prochain. (We’ll reserve for next winter right now.)
What do the seasons mean to the French?
In general, you could say that the French see the seasons this way:
A cold, dreary time to slog through. Many people try to take a vacation during this time, either to go skiing or somewhere warm.
Le printemps (Spring)
There’s truth to the legendary beauty of springtime in Paris. Most French people love spring wherever they live, as it means warm weather is coming, although in many places, it can still be chilly. Still, people begin to emerge and savor the sunshine.
According to a 2018 poll, summer is French people’s favorite season, with 45% of respondents saying it’s the time of year they love the most. This doesn’t surprise me at all. Everyone seems thrilled to bask in the sun on cafe terraces, in parks, and of course on the beach.
Summer is also a time of relaxation. The majority of French people go on vacation in the summer months. For instance, a recent poll showed that, despite uncertainties and travel restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic, 67% of the population plans to travel this summer. Because of this, many French businesses shut down entirely or operate more slowly in summer, especially in August, the most popular vacation month.
The French love of summer has always surprised me, since the country isn’t particularly well-equipped to deal with global warming. Still, even when there’s a massive heatwave, you’re less likely to hear people complaining about that than about rain or cold weather!
Autumn is associated with what’s known as la rentrée: back to school, back to work, back to the routine after the hot, heady days of summer.
Growing up in America, autumn was like this for me, but it was also an exciting time, with holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving to look forward to. The French have no major fall holidays, although there is a two-week school vacation, les vacances de la Toussaint. It’s not a particularly festive season; the French keep their noses down and work hard so that they can enjoy the end-of-year holidays.
With all of this in mind, you probably won’t be surprised that in the survey that I cited above, spring was the French’s second-favorite season, with 41% of participants’ votes; autumn was in third place, with just 7% of votes, and winter in fourth, with a chilly 5%.
If you’d like to learn more about the seasons in France, feel free to read my article about what a year in Paris is like. You can also read our in-depth article on summer in France and check out our lesson on the days of the week in French for more cultural context and additional grammar tips.
Some other useful French seasons vocabulary
Here are a few common seasons-related French phrases and expressions:
de saison – seasonal
être de saison – to be in season (for fruits and vegetables)
un temps de saison – seasonal weather. Ex: Demain il fera 24 degrés, un temps de saison. (Tomorrow it will be 24 degrees Celsius, seasonal weather.)
les quatre saisons – the four seasons.
la haute saison – high season/peak season. Ex: A cette station balnéaire, la haute saison est de juin au septembre. (For this coastal city, high season is from June to September.)
la basse saison – low season
fêter ses [age] printemps – to celebrate __ springs (a fancy way to celebrate another youthful year). Ex: La princesse a récemment fêté ses 16 printemps. (The princess recently celebrated her 16th spring (her 16th year)).
avoir [age] hivers – to have lived ___ winters. This is the opposite of the previous expression, in that it denotes age. Ex: Mamie aura 90 hivers cette année. (Grandma will have lived 90 winters this year.) This expression could also be used ironically, to show that a person seems wiser than they are or thinks so, anyway.
Une hirondelle ne fait pas le printemps – A single swallow does not mean spring is here. This common French idiom means that you shouldn’t draw conclusions based on just a single piece of evidence.
une cuisine d’été – An outdoor kitchen where people can prepare food and eat in warm weather. This is a common feature of many houses in the South of France.
été comme hiver – as in summer and winter (in other words, “year ‘round”). Ex: Notre parc d’attractions est ouvert été comme hiver. (Our theme park is open year ‘round.)
un été indien – Indian summer (warm autumn weather)
heure d’été – daylight saving time (literally, “the hour of summer”). Ex: Ce samedi on passe à l’heure d’été. (We change the clocks for daylight saving time this Saturday.)
heure d’hiver – standard time (literally “the hour of winter”)
les sports d’hiver – winter sports
un vent d’hiver – a winter wind
Now you know all about the French seasons. What’s your favorite season? What season do you think would be the best time to visit France?