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

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.


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.


Q&A Forum 12 questions, 28 answers

LizC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Same question

The year IN WHICH Napoleon was crowned. Dans lequel and I was marked wrong. I don’t agree that où is correct even if it can mean when or where. Two choices seem to be clearly available in these cases according to the notebook info. Advice? Thanks!

Asked 2 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Alan,

I don't have access to the quiz in question but I am assuming that 'où' was the answer required in Liz's case.

It is true that 'dans lequel' doesn't sound right but you could say 'pendant lequel' instead of 'où'.

Just to recap,

1. with expressions of time like époque, siècle, semaine -

you could use 'où' or 'pendant lequel/laquelle' 

2. with words like 'jour' or 'moment', 'you would normally only use 'où' because of the brevity implied but could use 'au cours duquel' instead in the case of 'jour'.

In everyday speech, 'où' would be more natural.

Hope this helps!

 

 

CécileKwiziq team member

Hi Liz,

I don’t have the full context but could it have been marked wrong because it should be -

‘L'année dans laquelle ...’   Rather than lequel?

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Hi Cécile,

Perhaps it should have been laquelle, but the question is actually whether it's correct to use dans lequel/laquelle for a time period rather than a location. Do you agree with Marie's answer to Jennifer's question below? 

LizC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Thanks Cécile. Yes, it should have been dans laquelle. 

CécileKwiziq team member

HI Alan,

I have had a look at Marie's answer to Jennifer and I do agree with her.

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I don't understand, Cécile. I thought that your answer was inconsistent with Marie's. Aren't you saying that "L'année dans laquelle" is correct, but Marie is saying that "Le siècle dans lequel" is wrong, and only can be used for time periods?

Same question

The year IN WHICH Napoleon was crowned. Dans lequel and I was marked wrong. I don’t agree that où is correct even if it can mean when or where. Two choices seem to be clearly available in these cases according to the notebook info. Advice? Thanks!

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JenniferC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Le siècle ________ la bombe H et les antibiotiques ont été inventés est le XXème siècle.

I had written 'dans lequel', but received a wrong answer.

In reading the lesson, it stated that after a noun 'dans lequel/le' can be used instead of 'où'.

Why is 'où' the only answer here?

thank you. Jennifer

Asked 6 months ago
MarieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Jennifer,

"" in French can be used to translate "Where" or "When". 

In the example you mention, you cannot use "dans lequel" as "" was used to express "when". See below a quick recap:

 

"" means "where":

You can use "dans lequel" to introduces an action taking place in a previously mentioned location. ("The town where I lived"/"La ville j'ai vécu"/"La ville dans laquelle j'ai vécu")

 

"" means "when":

When "" refers to actions happening in a time frame, it will be used to translate "when". ("The day when I won"/"Le jour j'ai gagné")

JenniferC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

merci Marie...

Le siècle ________ la bombe H et les antibiotiques ont été inventés est le XXème siècle.

I had written 'dans lequel', but received a wrong answer.

In reading the lesson, it stated that after a noun 'dans lequel/le' can be used instead of 'où'.

Why is 'où' the only answer here?

thank you. Jennifer

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TedC1Kwiziq community member

où vs dans laquelle etc

The week (in which) they stayed at the hotel went quickly.

?....La semaine pendant laquelle ils sont restés...?

Asked 1 year ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

is a relative pronoun that can also mean "when". That doesn't necessarily mean that everytime you use où in French, "when" is the best way to translate it in English, however.

For example: La semaine ils sont restés à l'hôtel... -- The week they stayed in the hotel...

In this example, you wouldn't ordinarily use "when" in English, although you could.

Here is a page with some more detail: https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/relative-pronoun-ou/

où vs dans laquelle etc

The week (in which) they stayed at the hotel went quickly.

?....La semaine pendant laquelle ils sont restés...?

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ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Is it that pronom 'où' is followed by a noun or subject pronoun? As seen in above examples. Thanks a lot

Require an answer from an expert 

Pls help

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Varsha,

You could say -

C'est la maison où Jeanne a habité dans  les années soixante = That's the house where Jeanne lived in the sixties 

C'est le jour où Bertrand a marqué un butIt's the day when Bertrand scored a goal

Hope this helps!

 

ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Merci Madame

I was not clear about this case.It really helped me

Is it that pronom 'où' is followed by a noun or subject pronoun? As seen in above examples. Thanks a lot

Require an answer from an expert 

Pls help

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ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Bonjour Aurélie

Is it that pronom 'où' is followed by a noun or subject pronoun?

As seen in above examples.

Thanks a lot 

Asked 1 year ago

Bonjour Aurélie

Is it that pronom 'où' is followed by a noun or subject pronoun?

As seen in above examples.

Thanks a lot 

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ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Is it that pronom 'où' is followed by a noun or subject pronoun?

Asked 1 year ago
ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

As realised in the above examples in the lesson

Pls confirm.

Is it that pronom 'où' is followed by a noun or subject pronoun?

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JohnC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

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!

 

JohnC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
That's perfect, thanks.
JohnC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Hi Cecile,

You give the example of “le jour où je serai marié” or “le jour où je serai à la retraite, sera un jour de bonheur” as a example of the use of où as a relative pronoun. But Ron, in another post, has said the où can only be used to mean “when” in the context of a time frame that has passed. In your example the time frame is in the future.  Is Ron mistaken?

Thanks

John

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

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JohnC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi John,

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

Hope this helps!

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

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).

AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

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://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/revision/grammar/how-to-use-plaire-to-express-liking-something-someone

I hope that's helpful!
Bonne journée !

JohnC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
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?
JohnC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
That’s brilliant. Thanks. 

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

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JohnC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

"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

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

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!

"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

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MiekeC1Kwiziq community member

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?
Asked 2 years ago
RonC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
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.
MiekeC1Kwiziq community member
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!

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?

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JohnnyC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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.
Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Johnny ! As you suggested, I added examples to clarify this case. I hope that's helpful! À bientôt !
JohnnyC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
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?"
LauraKwiziq team member
Yes, "Was that the day you turned twenty?" is still "Est-ce que c'était le jour où tu as eu vingt ans?"
Sumesh C1Kwiziq community member

Why we haven't use dans laquelle why only  Où is correct

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.

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CarolB2Kwiziq community member

"dans laquelle" vs. "ou"

Would it also be correct to say "L'époque dans laquelle il vivait..."?
Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
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!

"dans laquelle" vs. "ou"

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

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