How to Express Seasons in French

Now that we’re heading straight into winter, at least in the northern hemisphere, it might be nice to talk about seasons in French, to remind us that there are four of them and that the longer and longer nights will soon change course and become shorter and shorter – even as the weather gets colder. For some of us, winter means hibernation – and for others, especially those who love to go hiking in the mountains – it means that there is little worry of running into bears while seeing beautiful majestic cliffs and canyons.

Seasons in France

In France, there are four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall, or autumn, as it is sometimes called, after the Latin autumnus. The French use the word automne, which has the same origins, as well as hiver, printemps, and été to designate the three other seasons. Seasons are masculine, but since three out of four begin with vowel sounds, you will often see them preceded by the preposition en. Otherwise, we use the preposition au before printemps, the preposition more often associated with masculine words.

There are corresponding weather patterns for each season, with the winter being cold and even snowy in parts of France, spring being less cold, but chilly and damp, summer being hot and sunny, and autumn being mild and very colorful, with leaves turning brilliant warm hues before their eventual shedding. Speaking about the weather is always a useful topic, whether (nice conjunction here – get it?) it is to determine which clothing to wear, or to avoid brawls, fist fights, or a glass of champagne thrown in one’s face at holiday gatherings because of some remark about politics, someone’s bossy personality, or how much money a donor gave to a hospital wing. I definitely do not need anything dehydrating on my face during the winter season.

Useful Words and Phrases for Each Season

If you’d like to ask about the weather, you can say “Quel temps fait-il ?” To ask about seasonal preferences, you can say “Quelle saison préférez-vous ?” The word faire is used quite a bit in expressions involving the weather. Generally, you would say “Il fait” to introduce an observation about the weather, such as “Il fait beau” (“It’s nice out”) or “Il fait moche” (“The weather is bad”). The word faire is also used for many seasonal activities in which you can participate. Here are some useful words and phrases for each season:

⛄️ Hiver (Winter)

English
French
It’s cold. Il fait froid.
It’s snowing. Il neige.
There’s a snowstorm. Il y a une tempête de neige.
There is black ice. Il y a du verglas.
There’s frost. Il y a du givre.
It’s grey.
(This is really useful if you’re in Paris.)
C’est gris.

Activities for Winter

English
French
to go skiing faire du ski
to go snowmobiling faire de la motoneige
to go ice skating faire du patin à glace
to make a snowman faire un bonhomme de neige
to go snowboarding faire du surf des neiges, faire du snowboard, faire de la planche à neige (Canada)
to play (ice) hockey jouer au hockey (sur glace)
to sit by the fireplace se reposer près de la cheminée

🌱 Printemps (Spring)

English
French
It’s raining. Il pleut.
It’s windy. Il y a du vent.
It’s chilly. Il fait frais.
It’s cloudy. C’est nuageux.
It’s hailing. Il grêle.
There’s a rainbow. Il y a un arc-en-ciel.

Activities for Spring

English
French
to go cycling, biking faire du vélo
to go horseback riding monter à cheval
to garden faire du jardinage
to go on a picnic faire un pique-nique

🏖 Été (Summer)

English
French
It’s hot. Il fait chaud.
It’s sunny. Il y a du soleil.
It’s humid. C’est humide.
It’s stormy. C’est orageux.
There are thunder claps. Il y a des coups de tonnerre.
I’m sweating. Je transpire.
We’re going through a heat wave. On est en période de canicule.
The heat is killing us. On crève de chaud.

Activities for Summer

English
French
to go camping faire du camping
to go to the seaside aller au bord de la mer
to swim nager
to go surfing faire du surf
to go windsurfing faire de la planche à voile
to go scuba diving faire de la plongée sous-marine
to go on a cruise partir en croisière
to go sailing faire de la voile
to sunbathe, to tan se bronzer
to take a nap faire une sieste

🍂 Automne (Fall / Autumn)

English
French
It’s misty. Il y a de la brume.
It’s foggy. Il y a du brouillard.
The leaves are changing color. Les feuilles changent de couleur.
The leaves are falling. Les feuilles tombent.

Activities for Fall

English
French
to go hiking faire une randonnée
to do handiwork (DIY) faire du bricolage
to go for a walk faire une promenade
to go grape-stomping fouler le raisin aux pieds
to go on a hot-air balloon ride faire une balade en montgolfière
to go rock-climbing faire de l’escalade
to explore the Catacombs
(underground ossuaries in Paris whose passages match the streets aboveground)
explorer les Catacombes

You can see that whatever the season, there are plenty of ways to describe the weather, as well as plenty of activities in which you can participate. Luckily, France has a varied geography, with weather patterns that differ from region to region, so if you are into winter sports, you can head up to the Alps, and if you are more of a beach person, you can head over to the Mediterranean Sea. Of course, it is not possible to do each and every activity year-round, such as grape-stomping, which is why it is nice to be able to experience France in all of its seasons.

Seasonal activities also provide good topics of conversation at holiday gatherings, along with travel plans, which can create a diversion from more stressful or contentious topics, and can even provide points of common interest (“Vous avez fait une ballade en montgolfière ? Mais moi aussi !”). One can, of course, be opinionated about the weather, attributing any great shifts to climate change, or changement climatique. In this case, it is a good idea to be armed with terms such as élévation du niveau de la mer, gaz à effet de serre, and feu de forêt, or feu de brousse. These can be artfully slipped into social and political discussions – just be sure your physical reflexes are as developed as your linguistic ones. And good luck dodging that flying champagne.


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