J’ai passé la matinée à lire des épreuves.
zhay paa-say lah maa-tee-nay ah leer day zay-PRUHV. Click below to hear this.*
I spent the morning proofreading.
Q. How do you spend time?
A. By using the verb passer.
To spend money is dépenser de l’argent. But to spend time calls for a different verb altogether, passer, plus some expression of time such as la matinée, trois heures, l’année 68, and so on.
That’s how we got the English word pastime. It’s an activity that occupies you while you pass the time away. The corresponding word in French is un passe-temps.
What I was doing this morning wasn’t for my own amusement, however. I was proofreading files for a client. There’s no special word for proofreading in French; you have to say lire des épreuves, to read proofs. And these are nowhere near as certain as a mathematical proof, although the work is just as painstaking. No, une épreuve is a test or trial run, so the whole point is to find and correct the mistakes.
And note that after J’ai passé la matinée, in order to say what you were doing, you have to add the preposition à plus a verb in the infinitive. No -ing form, as we use in English. Of course, you could use an expression of place, instead or in addition, such as à la bibliothèque or à Paris (yes, I wish!), but time is what I had on my mind just now.
*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file: