How To Talk About Years

If you are involved in planning – especially if you work in a company – you need to refer to years, and important times in the year.

Here are essential words and phrases so that you can talk about years in English, time periods, and also historical time.

Types Of Years

a leap year = this is a year when there are 366 days rather than 365 days. The extra day is on 29 January. A leap year occurs once every four years.
“When’s the next leap year, do you know?”

a light year = the distance that light travels in a year
= a long distance or great amount (better than something else)
“They’re light years ahead of us in terms of green energy.”

an academic year / a school year = the period of the year when students go to university or school (usually September to June).
“When does the school year start in your country?”

a calendar year = from January 1st to December 31st
“There are 52 weeks in a calendar year.”

the financial year (also known as the tax year or fiscal year) a 12-month period starting 6 April and ending 5 April of the following year (in the UK)
“Personal tax allowances will go up in the next financial year.”

Time Periods In A Year

a quarter = three months
A year is divided into four quarters, known as the first, second, third and fourth quarter – or Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4
“The business did really well in the first quarter.”

a semester / a term (British English) = the school year is divided into three terms or semesters
“The exams are in the summer term.”

a fortnight = two weeks
“I’ll see you in a fortnight!”

annual = happening every year
“It’s time for our annual party!”

Note: we can use time periods as adjectives:
an annual party (= a party that happens once a year)
a yearly holiday (= a holiday every year)
a monthly meeting (= a meeting every month)
a weekly schedule (= a schedule every week)
a fortnightly appointment (= an appointment every two weeks)
a daily catch-up (a catch-up every day)

Historical Time

BC = before Christ
“Julius Caesar got to Britain in 35BC.”

AD = “anno domini” / after the birth of Christ
“Or was it 35 AD?”

century = 100 years
“I was born in the last century.”

Note: When we talk about centuries, we look forward. So the year 1990 was in the twentieth century, while 2019 is in the twenty-first century.

00s = hundreds
In the 1900s (nineteen hundreds) travel took a lot longer than nowadays.

a decade = a period of ten years
“He spent decased working for that company.”

We can also refer to decades like this:

fifties (1950-1959)
“The fifties were a great era for rock and roll.”

sixties (1960 – 1969)
“I would have loved to have been in London in the Swinging Sixties.”

seventies (1970-1979)
“The seventies weren’t famous for cool fashion.”

the millenium = a thousand years (such as Year 2000)
“Who was the first baby to be born in the new millenium?”


How To Talk About Years

Hi! I’m Clare – the founder of this site. I want to help you become more fluent in English by using the real expressions that native speakers use.

My program Real English Conversations  gives you the phrases you need to speak fluently and confidently in everyday situations. Check it out below!