Telling the time in French: a simple guide (2023)

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Whether you're booking a fancy Parisian restaurant or meeting a new friend, you'll want to know the time in French. Fortunately, we have everything you need right here. In this post, we'll explore how to ask what time it is, the different ways to answer, and some useful phrases for talking about the time of day.

So let's get started with our simple guide to telling time in French!

Telling the time in French: a simple guide (1)

(Video) Telling Time in French : A Useful Guide | Super Easy French 95

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How to ask the time in French

Before we dive into how to tell time in French, let's look at the most common questions people may ask about telling time. We also take a look at two common French words for time: l'heure vs. the temperatures

What time is it?

By far the most common way to ask the time.What time is it ?, halfWhat time is it?in French.

Let's break down this simple sentence. At first we haveto be. When you have studiedinterrogative wordsSoon you will realize thatto beif it translates towhich, so the literal translation is actually "whichHas the time come?"

In the middle of our question isHour, which means literally translatedHour. In fact, we could even say that our literal translation here is: "what timeis?." In this context, however, it remains our best translationWhat time is it?.

At the end of our question about the time we haveis that ?, Meaningis that?. Just like in English, when telling time in French, we simply interchange these two words:he is. Ohe isconjugation ofMaybeis the only verb form you need. You can see this form and more in our postbe conjugation.

  • What time is it ?/He isMidi. –What time is it?/That isNoon.

do you have time do you have time

Just like in English, you might want to ask someone a more informal question,Do you have time/Do you have timeIn French just askDo you have timeoDo you have time?, depending on the formality of the situation and how well you know the person.

(Video) Learn French: how to say the time in 5 minutes.

Of course, no matter how you ask, adding a "please" at the end never hurts!

  • To beHouris please - whatTempoand please
  • You haveTempo, please ? -You have thisTempo, Please?

time against time

Before we continue, we must introduce ourselves.the weather, which also means literally translatedNowin French. How can both be translated?Tempohow can we differentiate betweenHourcontratemperatures?

good if we useTempoWe are talking about a specific point inTempowhat we look for when we ask about time.

  • To beHouris that ? / It's midnight. - ThatTempois that? / It's midnight.

While that,the weatherhalfTempoin a more abstract sense where we speak of a concept.

  • You had funtemperaturesto Paris? - you have a goodTempome Paris?
  • At temperatureThey are difficult. –MalThey are difficult.

The weatherIt can come up in your conversations about the time when someone doesn't give you a specific answer. You may hear something like...

  • To beHouris that ? He istemperaturesleave! - ThatTempois that? That isTempo¡y!

So what if you ask someoneDo you have timein French withthe weather? Well then, don't ask the time, ask if the person has a time on her calendar.

  • I need help with my homework. You havethe weatherto help me ? / No, I do not havethe weatheraujourd'hui. Je suis désole. - I need help with my homework. You haveTempoto help me? / No, I do not haveTempoToday. Sorry.

tell the time in french

The 24 hour clock

First things first: if you want to read the time in French with confidence, you'll need to know the 24-hour clock. It is often used for French time, so it is worth taking care of it in advance. If you want a quick review of your numbers, now is the time to update them with our post.Count to 100 in French, as we will be using them often later on!

Even more important is the 24 hour clock when writing. There is no French equivalent for AM or PM, so if you're writing the time, it should be in 24-hour format. Another important detail in written French is that it is also common to separate the hours and minutes with aHwhat is it like to see the colon you use in English.

  • 14h00 – 14h00
  • 16h20 – 16h20

However, in spoken French it is still common to hear the 12-hour clock to tell the time. If you decide to use this option, simply add one of the modifiers below to clarify the time of day:

(Video) What Time Is It? - part 1 (French Essentials Lesson 15)

EarlyEarly in the morning (before sunrise)
In the morningIn the morning
pmThe night
Abendthe night

Now that you know how to check the time and know the 24-hour clock, let's get started with the dos and don'ts of telling the time itself!


Similar to English to tell someone what time you startThat is…, or, in French,he is…. Of course you need a number.

It's easy to tell the time in French when the time is right. you just saidhe is, the hour number andStandard). If you're using the 12-hour clock, you can add one of the explanatory phrases we saw above to indicate the time of day as well. We can think of it as a formula: il est + number +Standard)+ optional time of day.

  • He isone hour in the afternoon. - That isone hour in the afternoon.
  • He isseventeen hours. - That is17 hours.
  • He isten O'clock. - That isten at night.

It is important to remember a few things when using the wordStandard). First, you must use the singularHouronly if it is an hour (until 1:59). For all other tenses, choose the pluralStandard. Second, while it's not uncommon in English to hear someone say "it's one" instead of "it's one o'clock", when telling the time in French, this is simply not the case. It is very important to includeStandard)after saying what time it is!

add minutes

What if you want to know the time if it's not just a simple clock?

Fortunately, the other 59 minutes of the hour are pretty easy too. Let's go back to our previous formula:he is+ number +Standard)+ optional time of day. The easiest way to tell the time would be to add the number of minutes after the time that is right after sayingStandard)and before any optional clarifying phrases.

  • it's two hoursdix. - It's 2:10.
  • it's two hours23. – It is 14:23.
  • It's eleven o'clockthirtyyour morning - It's 11:30 in the morning.

Any less

If it's more than half of a given hour, you can also subtract minutes from the next hour instead of just adding them. To do this in French, we usesomething less, which means literally translatedAny less. This wording corresponds in English to the statement "it's ten minutes to four" instead of "it's fifty past three".

Let's go back to our formula. let's start againhe is+ the number +Standard), but add this timesomething less+ the number of minutes you want to discount. In this case it would look like this:

  • It's four o'clockMinus ten. - It's 3:50.

If you already know more or less what time it is, you can skip the time as in English.

(Video) Telling time in French - What time is it?

  • The movie starts at seven o'clock. What time is it? He isminus five! – The movie starts at 9 pm. What time is it? That isfive for!
  • We are late. He isMinus ten. We must go! - We're late. That isten to. We must go!

fractions of an hour

Finally, we can also use fractions of an hour to tell the time in French. As with English, we have the following French equivalents forand a quarter,spacious, mia quarter toto count the hours quickly.

and a roomand a quarter
And a halfSpacious
a quarter toa quarter to

In French, we tend to only use fractions with the 12-hour clock. To do this, we're going to go back to the same formula we used, but this time we're going to replace the minutes with one of the fraction compositions above. So now it looks like this:he is+ number +Standard)+ composition of factions.

  • Ten o'clockand a quarter. - It's aand a quarterdez.
  • Eight o'clockand a halfthe night. - That isspaciousEight o'clock at night.
  • it's three hoursa quarter topm. - It's aa quarter toThree in the afternoon.

Special cases: Midi and Minuit

There are two moments of the day that can be considered special cases of the French time rules that we have seen so far:Midi-mimidnight, What are theynoonmimidnight. What are the special rules when speaking in French after 12:00?

1. OfIt's midnightoIt's noonIt's the only time you don't say it.Standard)when counting the hours.

2. When we say that it is half past twelve or noon, we say the masculineand a half, unlike the feminineand a halfthat we use when we say all the other tenses.

like in Englishmidnightrefers to the exact minute that the clock strikes twelve o'clockmidnight. However, in midi it can refer to exactly 12:00, but it can also be used more generally and is closer to English.asonoon. Normally,Midi-corresponds roughly to lunchtime in French.

  • He ismidnightand demi. - It's half an hour later.midnight.
  • He isMidi-Hello the room. - One more room to gonoon.
  • where do we eat thisMidi-? - Where are we going to eat today?as?

Conclusion: times in French

There is! With many similarities to English, telling time in French is quite easy. Now you can ask with confidenceWhat time is it? Speak French and tell time in a variety of ways, whether it's using the 24-hour clock, adding minutes to hours, or showing your fluency with variants like "moins le quart." Of course, don't forget to answer your question as soon as it is answered.thank you in frenchto the person you asked!

We are sure that soon you will be able to tell time like a native speaker, as you will have ample opportunities to practice reading the time in French every day. Of course, if you get stuck, you can always come back and see the examples and explanations here!

Thanks for looking at oursimple guide to tell time in french! If you're looking for even more detail, e.g. For example, how to talk about time in French or how to add extra layers of precision to time, you can take a look at thisDetailed lesson on how to tell time in French.

(Video) What Time Is It? - part 2 (French Essentials Lesson 16)


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