How to ask and tell time in french

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

If you are travelling to France or dealing with French people, it is important to know how to ask and tell time in French. Wether you want to say something related to time, make appointments or invite somebody, you then need to master the art of telling time.

You don't know how to tell time in French? Don't worry i'll share with you the way to express it.





The context


Asking about time can happen in several contexts. If i am not wearing a watch i might want to ask the time to somebody else. I might also be asked for the time.

At the train station or airport for example i can ask for the departures or i can here announcements relative to the departure or arrival time.

When inviting, it is important to tell your guests at what time they should show up. In the opposite situation, you can ask for the time if you are invited.

For appointments with the doctor, professional meetings, you need to agree on the time.

Well, the importance is no more to be described. Let's go straight to the point.


How do we tell time in French?


If you want to tell time, the first thing to do is mastering numbers from 0 to 60.

To ask for the time, the basic sentences are :

  • Il est quelle heure? (What time is it?)

  • Quelle heure est-il? This also means "what time is it" but it is more formal.

  • Vous avez l'heure s'il vous plaît? (Do you have the time please?)


To reply, you say the time followed by the minutes. The structure to follow is like this : Il est+Number+heure(s)+minutes.

Example :

1h30 => Il est une heure trente. (it's 1:30)

10h25 => Il est dix heures vingt-cinq. (it's 10:25)


Note that "heure" is a noun and it might take a "S" or not depending wether it is singular or plural.

As you have noticed to abreviate time in French, we use the letter "h" between the hour and the minutes and not ":" like in english.


Let's now discuss about the ways of telling time. There are informal and formal ways of saying time.


1. Formal


It's important to note that French people use the 24 hours clock for formal situation. This is the easiest way as it just requires that you know your numbers from 1 to 60. In the following picture, you have many examples of how to express it.





2. Informal


The 12 hours clock is used for informal situations. To give more precision (am/pm), you can use the moment of the days. Here is how to say the moments of the day :

  • du matin stands for am

  • de l'après-midi is for pm (the afternoon)

  • du soir for pm too (evening)

Example : 2 am => Il est deux heures du matin.


Some notions are also important to know.

  • Demi(e) is used to say half an hour. Il est trois heures et demie.

  • Pile means O'clock. Il est midi pile. (It's 12 O'clock)

  • From 1 to 30 minutes you just say the time by telling the number of minutes after the hour. When it's the time past 15 minutes, we use the exppression et quart.

  • From 31 to 59 minutes you say the next hour minus (moins) the remaining time. When it's 15 minutes to an hour, we use the expression moins le quart.

Example : 8:40 => Il est neuf heures moins vingt.

7:45 => Il est huit heures moins le quart


Note that It's not possible to combine the formal and the informal way. I CAN'T SAY Il est deux heures et demie for 2:30 pm
I CAN SAY Il est quatorze heures trente




Prepositions used to tell time


Some prepositions are useful for speaking about time.


Examples :


  • À quelle heure arrive le train?(At what time the train arrives?)

  • Elle est arrivée vers dix-huit heures (She arrived around 6 pm)

  • Notre magasin est ouvert tous les jours de 09 heures à 20 heures (Our shop is opened from 9am to 8pm everyday.)

  • Il a fini ses devoirs en deux heures. (he finished his homework in 2 hours)

  • Il dort depuis vingt heures. (He is sleeping since 8pm)

  • Le train part dans 30 minutes (the train leaves in 30 mns)

  • Le professeur a parlé pendant deux heures (the teacher has spoken during two hours)

  • Il sera en reunion pour une heure. (He will be in a meeting for an hour)

I hope this was helpful and that you know now how to tell time in French and will not hesitate to use what you've learnt.


For more


Basic French sentences for beginners

Discover 10 must-know newwords in the Larousse2021 Dictionary





Tags : #learnfrench #frenchforbeginners #learntospeakfrench #aprenderfrances



Subscribe our newsletter and get update on our posts

  • Twitter
  • Tumblr
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest

© 2021 by Learn French With Chanty