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Telling Time In French

Telling Time In French

In this lesson we’ll explain how to tell time in French. We’ll explain both the 12-hour and the 24-hour clock, which is commonly used in French. We’ll cover the pronunciaiton of Quelle heure est-il? (what time is it?) and look at lots of time-related vocabulary. Keep reading!

Telling time in French

Telling time in French

How to ask the time

Before we go any further, let’s have a closer look at the pronunciation of “Quelle heure est-il?” (What time is it?).

Video source: @pronouncewithme

In French, there are eight more common ways of asking the time:

  • Il est quelle heure? (informal)
  • Tu as l’heure? Do you have the time? (informal)
  • Avez-vous l’heure? What time is it? (formal)

Vocabulary for telling time

To tell time, you’ll need to know the French numbers 1-60, which we cover on this lesson. To say the time, you use an impersonal expression “Il est + hour”. For example:

  • Il est une heure. It’s 1 o’clock
  • Il est cinq heures. It’s 5 o’clock.
  • Il est huit heures. It’s 8 o’clock.

This table gives examples of different times of the day. We’ve followed the table with explanations of vocabulary for telling time. We’ve also included the times using the 24-hour clock, which we’ll also explain below.

TimeQuelle heure est-il?Time in French
6:00amIl est six heures (du matin)6h00
6:30amIl est six heures et demie (du matin)
Il est six heures trente
9:15amIl est neuf heures et quart9h15
10:45amIl est dix heures quarante-cinq.
Il est onze heures moins le quart.
10:50amIl est dix heures cinquante.
Il est onze heures moins dix.
12:00pmIl est midi12h00
11:50amIl est midi moins dix
Il est onze heures cinquante
1.00pmIl est une heure de l'après-midi
Il est treize heures
3.20pmIl est est trois heures vingt de l'apres-midi
Il est quinze heures vingt
6.00pmIl est six heures du soir
Il est dix-huit heures
11.00pmIl est onze heures du soir
Il est vingt-trois heures
12.00amIl est minuit0h00
11.45pmIl onze heures quarante-cinq du soir
Il est minuit moins le quart

This table covers 15 minutes past the hour, 30 minutes past the hour and quarter to the hour.

15 minutes past the houret quartIl est une heure et quart.
It's 1:15
30 minutes past the houret demieIl est six heures et demie.
It's 6:30
quarter to or 45 minutes past the hourmoins le quartIl est dix heures moins le quart.
It's quarter to ten.

Noon and midnight

In French, do not say“il est douze heures”. Use the words midi (noon) and minuit (midnight). Noon and midnight would be written out as follows:

  • 12h00 -> Noon. Say “il est midi”.
  • 24h00 or 00h00 -> Midnight. Say, “il est minuit”.

French 24-hour clock (military time)

The 24-hour clock, or military time is commonly used in France. This can cause a lot of confusion for English speakers who aren’t familiar with it. Basically, from 1.00pm onwards you add twelve. Hence 1.00pm becomes 13h00.

For times in the morning until noon there’s nothing to add. For 8.00am, for example you can say:

  • Il est huit heures du matin. -> You can add “du matin” to specify “in the morning”.

For times in the afternoon from 1.00pm through 6.00pm you can either add “de l’après-midi” or use the 24-hour time. For example:

  • Il est trois heures de l’après midi. It’s 3.00pm.
  • Il est quinze heures. It’s 3.00pm.

The same goes for the evening. To say ‘in the evening’ you can add “du soir“. For example:

  • Il est huit heures du soir. It’s 8.00pm.
  • Il est vingt heures. It’s 8.00pm.

Conversion table for military time

The following table shows the conversions between standard time and the 24-hour clock.

Standard time24-hour clock
1.00pm: Il est une heure de l'après-midi.13h00: Il est treize heures.
2.00pm: Il est deux heures de l'après-midi.14h00: Il est quatorze heures.
3.00pm: Il est trois heures de l'après-midi.15h00: Il est quinze heures.
4.00pm: Il est quatre heures de l'après-midi.16h00: Il est seize heures.
5.00pm: Il est cinq heures de l'après-midi.17h00: Il est dix-sept heures.
6.00pm: Il est six heures du soir.18h00: Il est dix-huit heures.
7.00pm: Il est sept heures du soir. 19:00: Il est dix-neuf heures.
8.00pm: Il est huit heures du soir. 20h00: Il est vingt heures.
9.00pm: Il est neuf heures du soir.21:00: Il est vingt-et-une heures.
10:00pm: Il est dix heures du soir.22h00: Il est vingt-deux heures.
11:00pm: Il est onze heures du soir.23h00: Il est vingt-trois heures.


Et voila ! Now you you should have a better understanding of how to tell time in French. You may now check out this lesson on our site explores the word heure (hour) in detail.

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on FrenchLearner, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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