How To Say 'When' In French (Quand, Lorsque And Others)

  • Adrien Renault
    Written byAdrien Renault
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How To Say 'When' In French (Quand, Lorsque And Others)

‘When’ is a crucial word that you’ll need to understand early on in French.

‘When will the bus arrive?’, ‘I will go when I’m ready’, ‘Do you know when my package be delivered?’… There are so many occasions when the word ‘when’ is required.

But, did you know that there are numerous ways to say the word ‘when’ in French?

If you’re studying a French course and haven’t come across the many ways to say ‘when’ in French, you will need this guide.

I’ll explain which word is required for different contexts. It’s important to familiarise yourself with these.

How do we say ‘when’ in French?

To say ‘when’ in French, you have two main options — you can either say quand or you can use the word lorsque. There are some subtle differences between these two, however.

Keep reading and I’ll explain how they work.

When do we use the word quand in French?

We use the word quand for three main reasons:

1. Quand is used when you’re asking a question. You’ll hear it used in a whole range of interrogative questions as an interrogative adverb.

For example:

Listen to audio

Quand irons-nous à la plage?

When will we go to the beach?
Listen to audio

Quand pars-tu?

When are you leaving?

2. We also use quand to indicate a correlation of two events that occur at the same time.

For instance:

Listen to audio

Nous sommes partis quand il pleuvait.

We left when it was raining.
Listen to audio

Il y avait beaucoup de trafic quand nous sommes revenus.

There was a lot of traffic when we came back.

3. And you’ll need to use quand if two events occur at the same time repeatedly. In this case, quand sort of means ‘whenever’.

Here are some examples:

Listen to audio

Quand je choisis de prendre le bus, j’arrive en retard au travail.

Whenever I choose to take the bus, I arrive late to work.
Listen to audio

Marie est heureuse quand il fait beau.

Marie is happy whenever the weather is nice.

When do we use the word lorsque in French?

The word lorsque is used in similar but slightly different contexts when compared to quand.

Though you wouldn’t normally hear it used in interrogative French phrases in the same way quand is, there are two main uses of the French word lorsque.

1. Lorsque is used in formal contexts when you’re describing two events that correlate (or happen at the same time) like one of the cases above for quand.

For example:

Listen to audio

Lorsque le gouvernement a augmenté les impôts, les citoyens ont quitté le pays.

When the government increased taxes, citizens left the country.
Listen to audio

La guerre du Golfe venait de se terminer lorsque le philosophe français Baudrillard a publié ‘The Gulf War Did Not Take Place’.

The Gulf war had just finished when the French philosopher Baudrillard published The Gulf War Did Not Take Place.

2. We use the word lorsque to describe two opposing or contrasting events that occur at the same time. For instance:

Listen to audio

Elle a étudié la philosophie lorsque elle aurait dû faire des > sciences.

She studied philosophy when she should have done science.
Listen to audio

Les politiques gouvernementales es stoppent la croissance économique lorsque ceux au pouvoir devraient aider les citoyens.

Government policies halt economic growth **when** those in power > should help citizens.

Other ways to say ‘when’ in French (top synonyms)

There are a few other synonyms you can use in place of quand and lorsque if you want to say ‘when’ in French. So, here are two examples.

Contexts that require the French phrase alors que

Alors que can be used in place of quand. It’s a conjunction that means when, or while.

Here are a couple of examples of alors que being used in context:

Listen to audio

Mon cousin adore étudier alors que je préfère regarder la télévision.

My cousin loves to study while I prefer watching television.
Listen to audio

Je dois travailler alors que il fait beau.

I have to work when the weather is nice.

Contexts that require the French word pendant

Just like alors que, the word pendant is also a synonym of quand. It means ‘during’ and can be used in similar contexts.

Take a look at our examples:

Listen to audio

Pendant qu’elle dormait, j’ai fait son petit déjeuner.

While/when she was sleeping, I made her breakfast.
Listen to audio

Pendant qu’il était malade, je l’ai aide.

While/when he was sick, I helped him.

Practising saying ‘when’ in French: two key tips

I hope that helps you.

Here are two key ways to start using this range of words that mean ‘when’ in French.

  1. If you want to be successful at learning French, regular usage is key. So, try to have many one-to-one dialogues with a close friend (or a teacher on italki) and use as many interrogatives as possible. Interrogatives typically feature the word quand, and they can be a great way to get used to maintaining a conversation.
  2. In your spare time, use flashcards or Memrise to help your memory when it comes to the synonyms of quand and lorsque. Write down as many synonyms on your flashcards, take one from the stack and try to create a sentence using the flashcard you receive.

Keep practicing as often as you can.

Have I missed any important synonyms of quand or lorsque?

Share them below!

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