What is the difference in nuance between these two phrases? I know they both generally mean “around.”

Is “aux environs de” more specific? As in, “the area surrounding”?

2 Answers 2


Aux environs de where environ(s) is a substantive applies to a location or a time:

Aux environs de Paris. (or dans les environs de Paris).

Aux environs de 18 heures.

while environ, which is an invariable adverb, applies to a quantity:

Le super coûte environ 1,57 Euros le litre.

so you cannot say:

Je suis environ à Paris

The expressions might compete in cases like that one:

Il était aux environs de midi quand le téléphone a sonné.

Il était environ midi quand le téléphone a sonné.

The meaning is essentially identical.


They are of two grammatical categories, the first is a noun and the second an adverb. It is not a matter of nuance, that is semantical nuance, but a matter of alternative formulation; here is the idea;

  • Aux environs de midi, elle sort de chez elle et se rend au restaurant.
  • À environ midi, elle sort de chez elle et se rend au restaurant.

There is no difference in meaning. In the firs case whoever is speaking chooses to specify the time by using a noun telling that it is a time near a given point in time (to be made precise, otherwise it's all meaningless, incomplete); in the second they choose instead the precise point in time and specify that it has been chosen approximately, which amounts to the same thing.

I The first is used to specify a place or a time that is found in the vicinity of a precise point in time or a precise location, respectively. You can translate it for instance by "vicinity" or "neighbourhood" or "whereabouts" when place is the concept; when time is the concept you resort usually to an adverb in English, the typical ones being "about", "approximately" and "near", although you can also use the word "time" modified by an adverb ;

  • Aux environs de six heures ce soir la nuit commencera à tomber.
    Near six o'clock, this evening, night will start falling.
  • Il n'est pas conseillé de faire des excès de vitesse aux environs de la capitale car c'est là que la police est le plus dur avec les automobilistes.

II The second, as the grammatical category shows, is used to modify a noun; however it must mostly be an expression for a measure, often used with a determiner ("environ" is then a predeterminer); some nouns can be modified, those are nouns that refer to points in time ( midi, minuit, Pâques, …).
It cannot be used to modify nouns of location except if specified by a measure;

  • Il a environ dix ans, c'est un garçon.
  • Vers environ midi, le marchand ambulant traverse la place.
  • La longueur de ce morceau d'étoffe est environ deux mètres.
  • À une vitesse d'environ 150 km/h les pneus commencent à chauffer. Aux environs d'une vitesse de 150…

  • Il est à environ Paris. Il est dans les environs de Paris.

  • La plateforme est à environ dix mètres de hauteur. La plateforme est au environs de dix mètres.

A couple of points are worth mentioning relative to the nouns refering to points in time ; the adverb can be postponed and sometimes has to be postponed ; in some cases it is preferable not to use the adverb.

  • Ils seront prêt à environ midi. or Il seront prêt à midi(,) environ.
  • Sa tante lui rend visite aux environs de Noël. (à environ Noël; the why of this usage is not clear.)
  • Elle partent pour les pays chauds à la mi-septembre environ. or … aux environs de la mi-septembre.
  • Elle partent pour les pays chauds à environ la mi-septembre. (sounds slightly awkward)
  • Il y en a pour un moment qui durera jusqu'à l'été environ.
  • Il y en a pour un moment qui durera jusqu'aux environs de l'été.
  • Il y en a pour un moment qui durera jusqu'à environ l'été.(The other two forms are preferable.)
  • I think I kind of have a handle on how it works. I’m confused with what you mean by “nouns of measures,” I’m sure it speaks for itself, but if you could clarify a bit more, that would be great. “Measures” seems to be literal in that you’re measuring something, given your examples. But then you used it to describe the bad idea of speeding around the capital, so there’s where I’m confused. Commented May 18, 2019 at 23:22
  • Also, is “vers environ” redundant? Or does it mean something like “around about...”? Commented May 18, 2019 at 23:22
  • @tssmith2425 It seems very few people will say that, it is redundant and I wouldn't use it; however it appears that quite a number of people do use that; I find it can be translated as "about approximately" which is no doubt "around about" ; I'm not familiar with this adverbial locution but I just found out it means "à peu près" and that is "environ" (Soyez à boutique à à peu près huit heures. or Soyez à la boutique à environ huit heures.). You're right about this absurdity relative to measures and nouns; sorry for that; I'll try to make it right, now.
    – LPH
    Commented May 19, 2019 at 5:44
  • Thank you for further explaining. I still find it confusing, but if the meanings are identical, then perhaps I will have to commit to memory the individual uses over time. Commented May 19, 2019 at 13:59
  • What is the meaning of “pour” in your final three bullet points? I translate those phrases as saying “there’s some until about the summer,” but I don’t understand the role of “pour” here. Commented May 19, 2019 at 14:02

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