How to Tell Time in French

Telling time in French is not very difficult, but it requires a little bit more thought than telling time in English. That said, the vocabulary needed to tell time in French is simple and can generally be put into a simple sentence structure.


  1. Image titled Tell Time in French Step 1
    Know French numbers from 1-59. To tell time, you'll need to know all of the possible hours and minutes in French. Check this phonetic list for a quick refresher if needed. At minimum, you should know:
    • 1-12: une, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix, onze, douze.
    • 15, 30, 45: quinze, trente, quarante-cinq.
  2. Image titled Tell Time in French Step 2
    Use "Quelle heure est-il" to ask what time it is. Pronounced -- "kell eurh eh-teel" -- this the basic translation of "What time is it?"
    • The word "temps" means "time spent somewhere," not "the time." The word for time is "heure," which is also the word for "hour."
    • For informal situations, you can also use "avez-vous l'heure," or "do you have the time?"
  3. Image titled Tell Time in French Step 3
    Use "Il est______ heure," to tell the hour. To say it is one o'clock, you would say "Il est une heure" (eel eht euhn eurh). While we often omit the words "o'clock" in English, you cannot do this in French. You must always add "heure" after the hour.
    • Make time plural when there is more than one hour. For example, two o'clock is "deux heures, and five o'clock is "cinq heures.
  4. Image titled Tell Time in French Step 4
    Add minutes after "heure." In French, the literal translation of 2:15 is "two hours fifteen." Thus to say 2:15 in French you would say, "il est deux heures quinze." or "Il est deux heures et quart." This works for any number of minutes.
    • 4:27 -- Il est quatre heures vingt-sept.
    • 10:12 -- Il est dix heures douze.
    • 7:30 -- Il est dix heures trente.
  5. Image titled Tell Time in French Step 5
    Learn shorthand terms for common times. Much like in English, the French have other vocabulary for common times, like half-hours ("demie") and quarter hours ("quart"). You add these after "heure" along with "et" (the French word for "and"). Thus you could say 4:30 in French as, "il est quatre heures et demie."
    • Just like in English, no way is "wrong." There are just different ways to say each time.
  6. Image titled Tell Time in French Step 6
    Use "moins" to denote the minutes until an hour. In English, we might say 6:45 as, "it is quarter-to five," or 12:50 as, "10 'til one." The French do the same thing using the word "moins," which means "minus" in English. So, to say 6:45, we might say, "Il est sept heures moins le quart." or "Il est sept heures moins quart." (without "le") which literally translates to "It is seven o'clock minus fifteen."
    • Many french speakers use this structure instead of saying larger, more complex numbers like 45 or 50.
  7. 7
    Note morning and night with "du matin," and "de l'après-midi." The French do not use AM or PM to note time. After the "heure," add "du matin" for morning and "de l'après-midi" for the afternoon. So, 3:00 AM would be "il est trois heures du matin," whereas 3:00 PM would be "il est trois heures de l'après-midi."
    • You can also use "du soir" to indicate the phrase, "at night."
    • However, most French speakers use 24-hour time. 3:00 PM would be viewed as 15:00, or "quinze heures."
  8. Image titled Tell Time in French Step 8
    Learn the vocabulary for noon and midnight. You do not need to use the full expression "il est douze heures" for midnight and noon. Instead, say "il est midi" for "It is noon" and say "il est minuit" for "it is midnight."
    • You cannot add minutes to this. It is incorrect to say "il est midi quinze" for 12:15 PM.


  • Pronunciations cannot be exactly represented in writing; it is always to best to have a French-speaking person repeat them for you, or to obtain a CD or a podcast of French phrases to assist you in practicing.
  • The French use 24-hour clocks, so it is important to note this. 1 o'clock is 13:00 hours, 2 o'clock is 14:00 hours, and so on.


  • The French spoken in Quebec and Montreal (Canadian French) is different from the French spoken in France, though they will understand this system.

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Categories: French