If you travel to a French speaking country, chances are that you’re going to have to deal with the time in French. Admittedly, there are many ways to tell the time in French, so it can be a bit confusing…
But fear not! My free lesson will teach you to understand and tell the time in French in… no time at all!
And thanks to my audio recordings, you will know the difference between “deux heures” and “douze heures” and won’t miss your train!
1 – How Do You Say Hour In French?
This article features audio recordings. Click the blue text next to the headphone to hear me say that word or sentence in French.
Note that when applicable, I used a modern spoken French pronunciation.
Repeating the Word Hour
In French, when you tell the time, you always have to repeat the word “heure(s)”.
The word heure(s) is pronounced in the same breath as the number, as if it were a weird ending to it.
12 Hour Clock French Pronunciation
Since it starts with a silent H, you will have many liaisons and glidings.
- Il est une heure = eel lay Tu Neur (note there is no S at heure since there is only one)
- Il est deux heures = eel lay deu Zeur
- Il est trois heures = eel lay troa Zeur
- Il est quatre heures = eel lay ka Treur
- Il est cinq heures = eel lay sin(nasal) Keur
- Il est six heures = eel lay see Zeur
- Il est sept heures = eel lay say Teur
- Il est huit heures = eel lay wuee Teur
- Il est neuf heures = eel lay neu Veur
- Il est dix heures = eel lay dee Zeur
- Il est onze heures = eel lay on(nasal) Zeur
- Il est douze heures = eele lay doo Zeur
So you see, the word heure becomes neur, zeur, treur, keur, teur with the liaisons and glidings.
Now, to tell the time efficiently and understand it, you need to first learn how to say the numbers in French. In this lesson, I’m going to concentrate on the expressions and pronunciation differences but I won’t go over how to say the numbers 0 to 59. Please follow this link to my free French number lesson with audio.
2 – How do you Write the Time in French?
Note: in writing, the word “heure” is abbreviated as “h”, not the English “:”.
We don’t write nor say the word “minute” when we say the time, but if you need to abbreviate the word minute, it would be “mn” in French.
3 – Time in French – 24 Hour Clock
In French, all the official schedules (TV, radio, trains, planes etc…) use what you call “military time”.
Based on a 24 hour clock, you say exactly the number of hour, then the number of minutes.
Note that we don’t say “hundred” for a round hour like you do in English: in French, we just say the hour number. But don’t forget to say the word heure(s)!
Check out my French number audiobook. Over four hours of clear explanations, and random number drills recorded at several speeds. Click on the link for more info, a full list of content and audio samples.
This 4+ hours audiobook goes in-depth on how to construct the numbers and how to properly pronounce them with all the modern glidings and elisions that can sometimes completely change the number from it’s written form!
I also cover many French expressions that use numbers as well as how to properly say the time and prices.
All throughout the audiobook, you will find extensive audio drills recorded at 3 different speeds and featuring numbers out of order so you really get a true workout!
4 – Time in French: Minutes Past and to the Hour
This pretty much works as in English.
- 1 h 45 = il est deux heures moins quinze / il est une heure quarante-cinq.
Note: It’s common in French to say the minutes to the hour when you are rounding up the time ;
- une heure moins vingt,
- trois heures moins cinq.
No one would say il est une heure moins vingt-deux.
When you need to be precise, use the minutes past the hour or the official time.
And following the same logic, you cannot use minutes to the hour with the official time.
5 – French Expressions of Time
When we are not using the official time, we use these very common expressions:
|and a quarter||et quart|
|quarter to||moins le quart|
|and a half||et demie|
|in the morning||du matin|
|in the afternoon||de l’après-midi|
|in the evening||du soir|
So we have our equivalents of noon and midnight :
- il est midi (noon),
- il est minuit (midnight).
Note that these 2 expressions do not require the word heure since their position in the day is self-implied.
I strongly recommend that you use these, since douze heures sounds a lot like deux heures when you make the liaison...
Otherwise, in official time midi is “douze heures” and minuit is “zéro heure” (no S at heure).
How To Say Quarter Past in French?
We say “et quart”.
Note the difference between quart (pronounced car) et quatre (4).
How To Say Quarter To in French?
We say “moins le quart” (quarter of – pronounced car)
Note: don’t forget to say the following hour : THREE forty five is quarter to FOUR.
You also want to glide your “le” as much as possible – it almost disappears in modern spoken French pronunciation.
How To Say Half Past in French?
We say “et demie “(and an half, half past the hour)
Note: we glide over the first “e” of demie = dmee in spoken French.
5 – More French Time Expressions
Let’s see more useful French time expressions. Please press play on the audio player to hear my audio recordings. I left enough time for you to repeat out-loud and I encourage you to do it!
- Quelle heure est-il ? = what time is it?
- Il est quelle heure ? = what time is it? (street French)
- Auriez-vous l’heure, s’il vous plaît ? = would you tell me the time, please?
- Tu peux me donner l’heure ? = can you give me the time (street French)
- C’est à quelle heure ? = at what time is it?
- Il est neuf heures pile, neuf heures précises = it’s nine sharp.
- Il est presque minuit = it’s almost midnight
- Il est moins dix = it’s 10 minutes to whatever hour it is now…
- Mon cours commence à la demie = my lesson starts at – whatever hour it is now – thirty.
- C’est ouvert de quelle heure à quelle heure ? = it’s open from what time to what time?
- Le concert est à quelle heure? = at what time is the concert
- Il arrive dans trois quarts d’heure = he’ll be there in 45 minutes.
- Ce magasin est ouvert 24 heures sur 24 = this shop is open all day and all night long (a concept almost unheard of in France :-)
6 – How Should I Tell the Time in French?
So, which method should you use to tell the time in French?
It’s really up to you. Pick one, stick to it when you speak… but you need to understand all of them so you understand the French when they speak to you!