Telling Time

Telling Time in French

In this tutorial you will learn how to tell the time in French. To use this lesson click on any of the times below and listen. Before doing this lesson you can review my numbers lesson here. To ask somebody what time it is say: Quelle heure est-t-il? That literally means, “What time is it?”. Then, to answer say: “Il est + THE NUMBER + heure.”

To learn to tell time in French in addition to this site I also recommend’s lesson telling time. You can find on Lesson 12 of the online course À Moi Paris. What’s great about the lesson is that Teacher Camille gives lots of time related expressions and exercises. See page 124 of the Study Guide.

Basic Ways of Telling Time

The most basic way of telling the time is to literally say the numbers. To write the time the French use the following: 5h15, or five fifteen. Here are some examples.

Une heure dix
Cinq-heures trente-deux
deux-heures cinquante-deux
Deux-heures quinze
Six-heures quarante-cinq
Dix-heures vingt-cinq
Trois-heures cinquante
Sept-heures vingt
Onze-heures quinze
Quatre-heures vingt-six
Huit-heures zéro cinq
Douze-heures trente

While this system is easy there is one problem: You do not know if it is the morning, afternoon, evening or night. So, to clarify this you must say: The time + DE + LE/LA + time of day. Here are the expressions you will need to know:

  • De l’après-midi = in the afternoon
  • Du matin = in the morning
  • Du soir = in the evening
  • De la nuit = in the night

Example times:

Huit-heures zéro cinq du matin
Une-heure de l’après-midi
Sept-heures du soir
Cinq-heures quarante-cinq du matin

French Ways of Telling Time

  • 24-clock

There are a few instances where the French use a different system to English speakers. First one is the use of the 24-hour clock (this is also called military time). Basically, this makes it so you do not have to use AM and PM. To use this system all of the hours between 1am and 11am 12pm are the same as the English system. However, for the hours 1pm through 11pm you must add twelve hours. For example: 1pm becomes 13h and 6pm becomes 18h. Here are some practice hours:

1:30PM (13.30)
Treize heures trente
5:45PM (17.45)
Dix-sept quarante-cinq
8:50PM (20.50)
Vingt-heures cinquante
11:15PM (23.15)
Vingt-trois heures quinze
2:15PM (14.15)
Quatorze heures quinze
6:00PM (18.00)
Dix-huit heures
9:40PM (21.40)
Vingt-et-un heures quarant
4:10PM (16.10)
Seize-heures dix
4:50PM (16.50)
Seize heures cinquante
7:30PM (19.30)
Dix-neuf heures trente
10:20PM (22.20)
Vingt-deux heures vingt
8:20PM (20.20)
Vingt-heures vingt
  • 15 Pass, 30 Past & The “Moins” Construction (play the fourth podcast)

There are a few more particularities to telling time in French that you will have to learn. Here they are:

  1. To say “quarter past” or “15” you will use the word “et quart”, which means “and 1/4 (one-fourth)”. For example, to say 5:15 you say: “Cinq-heures et quart”.
  2. To say “half past” or “30” you will use the word “et demi”, which means “and 1/2 (half)”. For example, to say 6:30 you say: “Six-heures et demie.”
  3. The moins rule: For the minutes between 31 and 59 you say the COMING hour plus the word MOINS then subtract the number of minutes to go before that coming hour. For example, to say 9:40 you say, “Dix heures moins vingt”. To say 6:50 you say, “Sept-heures moins dix”. To say 4:45, you say “Cinq-heures moins quart”.

Back To Main Vocabulary Page | Related Lesson: Dates | Months | Next Lesson: Countries

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