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"spent a day" vs. "spent the day"

Michael T.C1Kwiziq community member

"spent a day" vs. "spent the day"

How do you say the following in French? 

a) I spent a day with Martin. 

b) I spent the day with Martin.

My guess is:

a) J’ai passé un jour avec Martin. (following the example of "spent a year" indirectly)

b) J’ai passé la journée avec Martin. (following the quiz answer directly)

Am I correct? If so, why are the two different? Can I just remember "a" vs. "the" means one is a unit of time and one is emphasizing the duration? Thank you. 

Asked 3 years ago
Chris W.C1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

Maarten is correct, of course. Still, when using un as a numeral, un jour is more natural because it is counting days instead of referring to a duration. On the other hand, the definite article more often than not refers to the timespan. Again, this is not a hard and fast rule, just a hint.

I spent one day with Martin. -- J'ai passé un jour avec Martin. (counting)
I spent the day with Martin. -- J'ai passé la journée avec Martin. (duration)

Maarten K.C1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

No, you can't use the English definite/indefinite article to determine the French vocabulary - French can have un an or une année, le jour or la journée etc (The time units are all masculine, the durations feminine, but that doesn't help choose which to use either). It is necessary (even if difficult) to get your head around the difference being between 'time unit' and duration. Reading a different description of the same concept may help - I have linked  one https://www.thoughtco.com/an-annee-jour-journee-matin-matinee-1371085

"spent a day" vs. "spent the day"

How do you say the following in French? 

a) I spent a day with Martin. 

b) I spent the day with Martin.

My guess is:

a) J’ai passé un jour avec Martin. (following the example of "spent a year" indirectly)

b) J’ai passé la journée avec Martin. (following the quiz answer directly)

Am I correct? If so, why are the two different? Can I just remember "a" vs. "the" means one is a unit of time and one is emphasizing the duration? Thank you. 

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