A simple guide on mastering how to tell the time in French

Learning how to tell the time in French is one of the most important skills you can acquire, especially if you’re planning to visit France or a French-speaking country soon.

You see, we all have smartphones, a watch, or some kind of device that will let us know what time it is. But what happens when you need to schedule a business meeting, make plans, or book a table at a delicious bistrot?

We need to communicate specific times and ask questions about the time on a daily basis. Learning how to do this in French will make your day-to-day life so much easier.

The best part is that telling time and asking time-related questions in French is universally understood across the French-speaking world! So, with a little practice and a few vocabulary words, you’ll be able to make arrangements in French with people from France, Québec, Haïti, and more in no time (*wink*)!

Time to get started! On y va !

Woman catching train to learn how to tell the time in French.

Why learn how to tell the time in French?

Never misunderstand the time again

French can be a tricky language to learn no matter whether you're an adult or a child whose learning French. That's because some words can sound very similar. Unfortunately, this includes numbers. It might be easy to misunderstand someone if they say sept heures douze (7:12 AM) as it sounds very similar to sept heures deux (7:02 AM).

Learning how to tell time will help you become more keenly aware of these subtle differences in the language. Once you’ve mastered how to tell time, you won’t be late (or early!) to any meeting because you misunderstood the time ever again.

Make appointments more easily

Telling the time is incredibly important if you are a busy business person, a social butterfly, or just someone with places to go and people to see. When you learn how to tell the time, you’ll be able to:

  • Schedule a business meeting with your French-speaking colleagues.
  • Call your favorite restaurant and ask for a table.
  • Ask for a store’s opening hours.
  • Make plans with your friends.
  • Call a museum and ask what time they open tomorrow.
  • And many, many more things!

So, if you are visiting one of the francophone countries soon (or are already there!), you should definitely take the time to learn how to tell the time in French as soon as possible.

Be prepared if your phone dies

We all carry our phones with us wherever we go. In addition to letting us make calls and browse social media, our phone has become our go-to device for finding out what time it is.

However, it’s easy to forget about your phone’s battery when you’re out having a busy day as a tourist in Paris, Montréal, or Genève. What will you do if your phone dies and you need to know the time to make your dinner reservations on-time?

Well, in this situation, it’s totally acceptable to ask a passer-by for the time. Don’t, however, assume that they will speak English and be able to help you. Depending on where you are, they may or may not be able to speak English. Regardless, asking for help in their native language would be more polite and would also ensure that you’ll find someone able to help.

Woman asking for the time in French.

What time is it in French?

We've put together a worksheet to help you practice your time telling skills! Once you've completed the worksheet you can then use your mobile phone to scan the QR code for the correct answers. Good luck!

Free downloadable worksheet to help you learn how to tell the time in French.

How to tell the time in French

The first thing you should know about telling the time in French is how to say “hour.” That’s because, when asking for the time in French, you don’t actually ask for the time—you ask for the hour.

So, instead of asking, “what time is it?” you ask, “what hour is it?”

In French, “hour” is heure (its pronunciation may be tricky for English speakers—try euhr).

Next, you should know that heure(s) also replaces “o’clock.” So, all you really need to know to tell the time in French is the word heure and the numbers in French. If you don’t feel too confident about the numbers in French, check out our blog post on the topic to brush up.

Lastly, you should be aware that the 24-hour clock is much more prevalent in most French-speaking countries. Don’t be surprised if you ask for the hour and you’re hit with a dix-neuf heures (nineteen o’clock)!

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty now. We’ll break down the time into different subsections and provide you with tables that include English, French, the IPA spelling, and the pronunciation. All so you can start telling the time like a native right away. Allons !

How to ask what the time is in French

Now that you know the basics, asking for the time in French won’t be too difficult. We’ve created the table below with a few ways to ask what time it is in French, but first beginning with how to say time in French.

English French IPA Spelling Pronunciation
Time Le temps lə tɑ̃ Luh tah
Hour L’heure lœʁ Leuhr
What time is it? Quelle heure est-il ? kɛl‿ œʁ‿ ɛtil | Quell euhr eh-teal
Do you have the time? Avez-vous l’heure ? avevu lœʁ | Ah-vay voo leuhr
Do you have the time? Tu as l’heure ? ty a lœʁ | Too ah leuhr
Would you happen to have the time? Auriez-vous l’heure ? oʁjevu lœʁ | Oh-ree-ay voo leuhr
At what time…? À quelle heure…? a kɛl‿ œʁ ‖ Ah quell euhr
At what time is it? C’est à quelle heure? sɛt‿ a kɛl‿ œʁ ‖ Say ah quell euhr

How to tell the time on the hour

As we mentioned earlier, telling time in a 24-hour format is much more common in France. The table below shows how to tell the time on the hour, for every hour of the day.

English French IPA Spelling Pronunciation
It’s one o’clock (AM) Il est une heure il‿ ɛt‿ yn‿ œʁ Eel eh oon euhr
It’s two o’clock (AM) Il est deux heures il‿ ɛ døz‿ œʁ Eel eh deuce euhr
It’s three o’clock (AM) Il est trois heures il‿ ɛ tʁwaz‿ œʁ Eel eh troo-ahs euhr
It’s four o’clock (AM) Il est quatre heure il‿ ɛ katʁ‿ œʁ Eel eh katruh euhr
It’s five o’clock (AM) Il est cinq heures il‿ ɛ sɛ̃k‿ œʁ Eel eh sahnk euhr
It’s six o ‘clock (AM) Il est six heures il‿ ɛ siz‿ œʁ Eel eh seez euhr
It’s seven o’clock (AM) Il est sept heures il‿ ɛ sɛt‿ œʁ Eel eh set euhr
It’s eight o’clock (AM) Il est huit heures il‿ ɛ ɥit‿ œʁ Eel eh wee euh
It’s nine o’clock (AM) Il est neuf heures il‿ ɛ nœv‿ œʁ Eel eh noff euhr
It’s ten o’clock (AM) Il est dix heures il‿ ɛ diz‿ œʁ Eel eh deez euhr
It’s eleven o’clock (AM) Il est onze heures il‿ ɛ ɔ̃z‿ œʁ Eel eh ohnze euhr
It’s twelve o’clock (PM) Il est midi il‿ ɛ midi Eel eh mee-dee
It’s one o’clock (PM) Il est treize heures il‿ ɛ tʁɛz‿ œʁ Eel eh trayz euhr
It’s two o’clock (PM) Il est quatorze heures il‿ ɛ duz‿ œʁ Eel eh dooz euhr
It’s three o’clock (PM) Il est quinze heures il‿ ɛ kɛ̃z‿ œʁ Eel eh kanz euhr
It’s four o’clock (M) Il est seize heure il‿ ɛ sɛz‿ œʁ Eel eh sayz euhr
It’s five o’clock (PM) Il est dix-sept heures il‿ ɛ dissɛt‿ œʁ Eel eh dee-set euhr
It’s six o ‘clock (PM) Il est dix-huit heures il‿ ɛ dizɥit‿ œʁ Eel eh dee-suite euhr
It’s seven o’clock (PM) Il est dix-neuf heures il‿ ɛ diznœf‿ œʁ Eel eh deez-noff euhr
It’s eight o’clock (PM) Il est vingt heures il‿ ɛ vɛ̃ œʁ Eel eh vahnt eughr
It’s nine o’clock (PM) Il est vingt et une heures il‿ ɛ vɛ̃ e yn‿ œʁ Eel eh vahnt eh oon euhr
It’s ten o’clock (PM) Il est vingt-deux heures il‿ ɛ vɛ̃tdø œʁ Eel eh vahn-deuce euhr
It’s eleven o’clock (PM) Il est vingt-trois heures il‿ ɛ vɛ̃ttʁwa œʁ Eel eh vahn-troo-ahs euhr
It’s twelve o’clock (AM) Il est minuit il‿ ɛ minɥi Eel eh mee-noo-ee

Note that 1:00 AM is the only time when the singular heure is used as opposed to the plural heures. That’s because that’s the only time of day when there’s only one hour. Although we know heure and heures are pronounced the same, this is neat to know so you can write like a true native!

And speaking of writing, you should keep in mind that most people will just use 18h instead of dix-huit heures when writing. This is true for every hour, so don’t be surprised if you see 9h or 17h30 on a flier, advertisement, or text message.

How to say half past, quarter past and quarter to

Usually, we don’t need to be too precise when telling the time. If it’s 3:29 PM, for example, we may say “it’s half past three” insead of “it’s three twenty-nine,” as the former sounds more casual. In French, we can do the same. Check out these helpful words in our table below.

English French Pronunciation Example
It’s half past Et demie e dəmi Il est sept heures et demie, (7:30 AM)
It’s quarter past Et quart e kaʁ Il est dix heures et quart (10:15 AM)
It’s quarter to Moins le quart mwɛ̃ lə kaʁ Il est sept heures moins le quart

One thing to note is that French grammar rules state that you can only use demie, quart, and moins le quart with the 12-hour clock. If using the 24-hour clock, you cannot use these words past the 12-hour mark. Instead, you must use trente, quince, and quarante-cinq, respectively.

Take this with a grain of salt, as official grammar rules and day-to-day language use don’t always match up. Many French people still use demi and quart when using the 24-hour clock, so you may still hear something like il est dix-neuf heures et demie.

How to say the time of day in French

Sometimes, the time itself is not really relevant to what you need to say. “I have class in the morning” is a completely acceptable way of telling someone what time you go to school, without needing to go into the details of your schedule.

In French, you’ll want to be acquainted with the following times of day.

English French IPA Spelling Pronunciation
Morning Le matin lə matɛ̃ Luh mah-tah
Afternoon L’après midi lapʁɛ midi Lah-pray mee-dee
Evening Le soir lə swaʁ Luh swar
Night La nuit la nɥi La noo-ee
Midday/Noon Le midi lə midi Luh mee-dee
Midnight Le minuit lə minɥi Luh mee-noo-ee
Dusk Le crépuscule lə kʁepyskyl Luh cray-poos-kul
Dawn L’aube lob Lobe
Bedtime L’heure du coucher lœʁ dy kuʃe Leuhr doo coo-shay
Naptime L’heure de la sieste lœʁ də la sjɛst Leuhr duh la see-est
Lunchtime L’heure du déjeuner lœʁ dy deʒœne Leuhr doo deh-zho-neh
Dinnertime L’heure du dîner lœʁ dy dine Leuhr doo dee-nay
At around... Vers… vɛʁ Ver

How to tell exact minutes in French

If you need to catch a train or schedule an important appointment, you’ll want to know the exact minutes as well as the hour. To ask for the exact time, you would simply add exactement at the end of how we normally ask for the time: Quelle heure est-il, exactement?

To tell the time with the corresponding minutes, all you have to do is plug in the hour before heure(s) and the minutes immediately after: Il est cinq heures vingt.

It’s a little different from how we say the time in English, but the only thing you need to be careful of is to not forget heure(s). In English, we sometimes leave out “o’clock,” and say things like “It’s ten.” In French, you cannot leave out heure(s). See few examples in the table below:

Time French IPA Spelling Pronunciation
9:05 AM Il est neuf heures cinq il‿ ɛ nœv‿ œʁ sɛ̃k Eel eh noff euhr sahnk
2:30 AM Il est deux heures trente il‿ ɛ døz‿ œʁ tʁɑ̃t Eel eh deuce euhr trahnt
4:12 PM Il est seize heures et douze minutes il‿ ɛ sɛz‿ œʁ‿ e duz minyt Eel eh sayz euhr eh dooz mee-noot
2:20 PM Il est quatorze heures vingt il‿ ɛ katɔʁz‿ œʁ vɛ̃ Eel eh kah-torce euhr vah
5:13 AM Il est cinq heures treize il‿ ɛ sɛ̃k‿ œʁ tʁɛz Eel eh sahnk euhr trayz
11:21 AM Il est onze heures vingt-et-un il‿ ɛ ɔ̃z‿ œʁ vɛ̃teɛ̃ Eel eh oonz euhr vah-tay-uh
6:25 AM Il est six heures vingt-cinq il‿ ɛ siz‿ œʁ vɛ̃tsɛ̃k Eel eh seez euhr vah-sahnk

Other time-related phrases in French

Beyond just being able to tell the time, you’ll definitely want to expand your French vocabulary with other time-related words and phrases.

From points in time to temporal prepositions, we have compiled a list of some of the most useful time-related vocab below.

English French IPA Spelling Example Sentence
Day Jour ʒuʁ Quel est le jour ?
Week Semaine səmɛn La semaine prochaine je rentre à l’école.
Month Mois mwa Aujourd’hui est le premier jour du mois
Year Année ane L'année dernière a été mémorable.
Yesterday Hier iɛʁ J'étais au travail hier.
Today Aujourd’hui oʒuʁdɥi Aujourd'hui c'est vendredi
Tomorrow Demain dəmɛ̃ Demain sera samedi
Last year L'année dernière lane dɛʁnjɛʁ Il a obtenu un emploi l'année dernière
This year Cette année sɛt‿ ane Il se marie cette année.
Next year L'année prochaine lane pʁɔʃɛn Notre premier anniversaire est l'année prochaine
Next time La prochaine fois la pʁɔʃɛn fwa Je paierai la prochaine fois.
Last month Le mois dernier lə mwa dɛʁnje Il a voyagé le mois dernier.
This month Ce mois sə mwa Ce mois est froid.
Next month Le mois prochain lə mwa pʁɔʃɛ̃ Le mois prochain sera chaud.
Take your time Prenez votre temps pʁəne vɔtʁə tɑ̃ Prenez votre temps pour manger votre nourriture
Once upon a time Il était une fois il‿ etɛ yn fwa Il était une fois dans un pays lointain…
A long time Ça fait longtemps sa fɛ lɔ̃tɑ̃ Ça fait longtemps qu'on ne s'est pas vu
Sometimes Quelquefois kɛlkəfwa Quelquefois, la nourriture de la cafétéria n'est pas si mauvaise
Occasionally Parfois paʁfwa Je prends parfois le petit déjeuner avec ma grand-mère
From time to time De temps en temps də tɑ̃z‿ ɑ̃ tɑ̃ Je vais à la plage de temps en temps
Have a great time Amuse-toi bien amyztwa bjɛ̃ Amuse-toi bien à la fête !
The next time we see each other On se verra ɔ̃ sə veʁa Je te donnerai ton cadeau la prochaine fois qu'on se verra
Over time Avec le temps avɛk lə tɑ̃ Tout change avec le temps.
Soon Bientôt bjɛ̃to J'y serai bientôt.
Late En retard ɑ̃ ʁətaʁ Il était en retard pour le rendez-vous.
On the dot Pile pil Le vol est parti à 10h pile.
Early Tôt to Je suis arrivé tôt.
Monday Lundi lɛ̃di Le lundi est le premier jour d'école.
Tuesday Mardi maʁdi Tous les mardis, nous avons cours ensemble.
Wednesday Mercredi mɛʁkʁədi Tous les mercredis je dîne avec mon père
Thursday Jeudi ʒødi J'ai un rendez-vous ce jeudi
Friday Vendredi vɑ̃dʁədi Quels sont vos plans ce vendredi ?
Saturday Samedi samdi Tu veux aller au musée samedi ?
Sunday Dimanche dimɑ̃ʃ Le dimanche est un jour de repos
A century Un siècle ɛ̃ sjɛkl Le siècle suivant.
A millennium Un millénaire ɛ̃ millenɛʁ L'année 2000 a marqué la fin d'un autre millénaire.
A second Une seconde yn səɡɔ̃d Ne sois pas une seconde en retard.
A minute Une minute yn minyt Je pars dans une minute
Since Depuis dəpɥi Je n'ai pas mangé depuis 14h.
During Pendant pɑ̃dɑ̃ Il a pris la parole pendant la réunion.
On time À l'heure a lœʁ Le train est parti à l'heure.
Right away Tout de suite tu də sɥit Elle part tout de suite.
At that time À l'époque a lepɔk Je ne te connaissais pas à l’époque
Currently Actuellement aktɥɛlmɑ̃ Le prix de l'essence fluctue actuellement.
After Après apʁ Elle est partie après le dîner.
Now Maintenant mɛ̃tnɑ̃ Je pars maintenant.
Suddenly Tout à coup tut‿ a ku il a commencé à pleuvoir tout à coup
Once Une fois yn fwa Ils viennent une fois par semaine.
Daily Quotidien kɔtidjɛ̃ Elle doit boire sa tasse de café quotidienne
Every day Tous les jours tu le ʒuʁ Je travaille tous les jours.
Always Toujours tuʒuʁ Elle est toujours en retard.
Never Jamais ʒamɛ On ne reviendra jamais
Rarely Rarement ʁaʁmɑ̃ On le voit rarement ces temps-ci

Time in French FAQ

How do you say decade in French?

In French, a decade is une décennie. La décennie is a feminine noun and can be used in sentences like:

English French IPA Spelling Pronunciation
More than a decade ago Il y a plus d’une décennie il‿ j‿ a ply dyn desɛnni Eel ee-ah ploos dune deh-say-nee
The next decade La prochaine décennie la pʁɔʃɛn desɛnni La proh-shain deh-say-nee
The crisis lasted until the end of the decade. La crise a duré en fait jusqu'à la fin de la décennie la kʁiz‿ a dyʁe ɑ̃ fɛ ʒyska la fɛ̃ də la desɛnni La crees ah doo-ray uh feht zhoos-ka la fah duh la deh-say-nee

How to tell military time in French

Just like a digital clock, military time is always displayed in four digits. The first two digits represent the hour and the last two digits represent the minutes. 0000 is considered midnight and 1200 is noon. Learning how to tell military time in French will take no time and may be very helpful in certain situations.

Here’s a quick table that will help you get the gist of military time:

12-Hour Clock Military Time
12:00 AM 0000
1:00 AM 0100
4:45 PM 1645
5:20 PM 1720
12:00 PM 1200
8:08 PM 2008

Does French use AM and PM?

The French language does not have an equivalent of AM and PM. While the 24-hour clock is favored in almost all situations, you can use du matin, de l’après midi, and du soir along with the hour to specify the time of day.

Check out the table below for a few examples.

Time French
8 AM Il est huit heures du matin
2 PM Il est deux heures de l’après midi
6 PM Il est six heures du soir
10 PM Il est dix heures du soir
3 AM Il est trois heures du matin

Telling the time in French games

Children play games to learn how to tell the time in French.

À quelle heure… ?

This is a fun game that can be played in groups or a classroom. One person will write out a fictional schedule on a whiteboard or piece of paper. It can include as many things as you’d like, such as “waking up,” “going to the market,” or “meeting with the boss.” You can be as creative as you’d like here and preferably include vocabulary words that the group already knows.

Then, the person who made the schedule will ask the group, “À quelle heure… ?” followed by an action item on the fictional schedule. The first person to say the time correctly wins a point!

Clock Bingo

Everybody loves bingo, right? You can make a fun variation on this game by creating your own score cards with clock faces. You can use a blank worksheet like this one to get started. The regular rules of bingo are still the same, except that students will have to pay close attention to the times being called lest they risk missing out on a point!

Online games

If you’re not in a French group class or simply don’t have anyone to play with at the moment, you can always turn to the internet to find helpful and entertaining games to practice the time.

Four in A Row is a digital game that will test your time-telling skills. You’ll be shown a board with 20 different clocks showing different times. Almost like Connect 4, your goal in the game is to collect four consecutive clocks. To gain a clock, you have to click on it and select the correct time from the answer choices.

Download our free worksheet to help you learn how to tell the time in French.

Time waits for no one, so start practicing your French now!

Couple practicing how the tell the time in French at a cafe.

The most valuable thing we have is time, so why not spend some of it practicing French? With the vocabulary lists, tools, and tricks in this guide, you’ll be able to master how to tell time in French in no time!

And if you think you can already tell the time like a pro, why not check out our guides on the days of the week and months in French? You might discover a thing or two that you didn’t know!

Our time is up for today, but, as always, we have tons of French study resources available for you 24/7 at Berlitz. From classes that let you learn French online to our handy French blog, we have great study options for everybody.

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions, and keep up the great work!

À bientôt ! See you soon!

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