My son is learning French, and in his school book there are example sentences for the words he has to learn. For the word dernier/dernière that sentence is:

Lundi dernier, j'ai eu 20 à mon devoir !

We can't make sense of that sentence. It seems to say, "I have had 20 to[wards]/of my homework." But what does that mean?

à means a situation ("in"), a direction ("towards"), a time ("at [4 o'clock]"), ownership ("of [someone]"), attribution ("to [someone]"), and so on, in general something like a direction towards a point in time or space or a person or thing.

So does it mean here, "I have had 20 [exercises] as/for my homework"?


2 Answers 2


As Jlliagre said, Tests in France are often graded on 20. So "20" is short for "20/20" ("vingt sur vingt").

I'll add that "devoirs" (plural) is homework, but "un devoir" is a test or a graded assignment, often called "devoir maison" (or "DM") when it's to be done at home.

The singular "devoir" is almost never used for ungraded homework anymore.

Note: this answer is only about France French. Vocabulary may vary in other countries.

  • 1
    I don't think anybody in Belgium uses "DM" but it's been a long time since I was in school so maybe this changed. Note also that while the assumption the max grade is 20 is very plausible, but still an assumption...
    – Laurent S.
    Mar 3, 2020 at 15:32
  • DS is much more frequent then DM. In my experience devoir is used by default (no M) to mean DM (devoir maison), whereas DS (devoir sur table, i.e. a graded paper done in school) is always used as such when referred to.
    – None
    Mar 4, 2020 at 7:42
  • @None DS stands for Devoir Surveillé, not Devoir sur Table. I've heard people in some schools call them DST for Devoir sur Table though. Mar 4, 2020 at 9:45

The meaning is:

I got a 20 on my homework/assignment. (i.e. I got an A+)

Traditional homework/assignment rating in French schools is based on a score ranging from 0 to 20 so this is (in theory1) the best possible score.

In France, this grading is the official one from the middle school up to the universities and grandes écoles. Primary schools might use a grading from 0 to 10, letters A to E, or an acquisition status: A, ECA, AR, NA. See https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Note_scolaire for more details.

1In theory because there are teachers that never give a 20, especially in non scientific subjects and those not based on MCQs, but it used to be more the case in the past. On the other hand, sometimes the compound grade might be higher than 20 because extra points can be earned with optional questions / subjects. See https://www.orientation-education.com/article/21-33-de-moyenne-au-bac-un-record

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