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I've seen plenty of articles trying to explain the difference between quand and lorsque (e.g.   http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/quand-vs-lorsque.htm  )

Perhaps there is also a third alternative. In my grammar book, I found:

    Le jour où je suis arrivé ...     (The day I arrived ...) 

Would the meaning of such a sentence change if  où  was replaced by quand or lorsque

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"le jour quand " is far less common and I do think it changes the meaning.


I am only guessing but I think it is because it is less common and more unusual that it seems to give an extra emphasis to the events described after the "quand"


"Le jour où " trips off the tongue whereas I feel the "quand" slows the sentence down.


I don't think "le jour lorsque " is possible.

Ok, that makes sense, thank you.

To some extent, it's a bit like asking what the difference is between "if" and "whether": there are cases where the two words are essentially synonyms, and then some circumstances where only one is possible.

So: "quand", but not "lorsque", can be used to ask a direct question: "Quand viens-tu?", but not "Lorsque viens-tu?". Similarly, "quand" is used to mark an indirect question: "Je ne sais pas quand il viendra", but not "Je ne sais pas lorsqu'il viendra".

That essentially leaves other uses of "quand" as a conjunction (i.e. when it means "at the time when" or "whenever"). In such cases "lorsque" is essentially a synonym, but it's more formal. Some speakers also seem to perceive "lorsque" as a bit more precise, as though it means "at the specific time/point when".

You'll find "lorsque" in e.g. the expression "Lorsqu'il s'agit de..." meaning "When it comes to...". I think you can argue that this either fits in with or contradicts the previous point...!

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