I've been trying to explain the difference between "soir" and "soirée" in a simple way to my students but I must admit I find it quite tricky. How would you for example explain why you say:

"Ce soir je vais sortir" and "le soir je dîne souvent avec ma copine"


"C'est sa première soirée à Paris"? and "la soirée a vraiment été merveilleuse"

Merci d'avance!

2 Answers 2


The adding of "ée" to a noun generally indicate the contents (concrete or abstract) of the original noun: For example, une "assiettée" means the contents of a plate, meanwhile "assiette" is the plate itself. Une "fournée" means the contents of the oven ("le four"), une "charretée" means a cartload, contents of the cart ("la charrette"). On the abstract point, the principle is the same: the "matinée" is the duration of the morning ("matin"), meanwhile "matin" is the position in the order of the day, but not a duration. the same for an/année, jour/journée and so on. But it is true that through the centuries, the difference between "matin" and "matinée", for example, is not consciously established for most people, so they often use one for the other.

  • Thanks a lot for you answer! Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 9:25

Just like the similar pairs jour/journée, an/année, matin/matinée, nuit/nuitée, the short form refers to a unit of time, a calendar element while the second one refer to the matching period of time, something that span over that period. A similar relationship exist between bouche and bouchée, duc and duché etc.

Soir and soirée might be interchangeable in rare cases, but often, only one of them is idiomatic.

If the sentence is about "when" something happens, the short form is used:

J'y vais chaque soir.

Je n'y passerai pas ce soir.

If the sentence is also about "how long" something happens, the form with -ée is used:

J'y serai toute la soirée.

J'y passe mes soirées.

Note that both C'est ma première soirée à Paris and c'est mon premier soir à Paris are possible and that the first form can be ambiguous, as une soirée is also used to mean a party.

The suffix -ée comes from the Latin suffix -ata through the old French -ade.

See also Étymologiquement, d'où vient la différence entre « an » et « année », « jour » et « journée », etc. ?

  • Thanks a lot for you answer! Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 9:24

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