Telling Time in French


Let’s first review how to refer to time in general terms in French.

French Words about Time
Jour Day
Matin Morning
Après-midi Afternoon
Soir Evening
Nuit Night
De bonne heure / Tôt Early
Tard Late

Now let’s take a look at referring to a specific time in French, which is easy if you have already learned the French numbers. To tell the time, the formula is:

the hour number + heure(s) + the minute number


8:13 = huit heures treize (eight thirteen)
4:39 = quatre heures trente-neuf (four thirty-nine)

As you can see, in French, you not only state the hour but also say the actual word hour in French, which is heure and heures for singular and plural numbers.


Whereas English generally operates on a 12-hour clock, with A.M. denoting morning hours and P.M. afternoon hours, French usually operates on a 24-hour clock, also known as military time in the United States.  Instead of resetting the clock at noon and midnight, the number for hours continues to increase after noon.


1 P.M. = treize heures (13 hours)
2 P.M. = quatorze heures (14 hours)

Time of the Day
du matin in the morning
de l’après-midi in the afternoon
du soir in the evening / at night


cinq heures du matin = five of the morning
cinq heures de l’après-midi = five in the afternoon)
neuf heures du soir = nine at night)

Fractions of the Hour
et quart a quarter
et demie a half


8:15 = huit heures quinze (eight fifteen) or huit heures et quart (eight and a quarter).
10:30 = dix heures trente (ten thirty) or dix heures et demie (a half past ten)

Asking and Answering About the Time
Quelle heure est-il? What time is it?
Il est . . . It is . . .


Il est minuit It’s midnight
Il est une heure (du matin) It’s one o’clock
Il est deux heures (du matin) It’s two o’clock
Il est trois heures (du matin) It’s three o’clock
Il est cinq heures quinzeIl est cinq heures et quart It’s five fifteen
Il est cinq heures trenteIl est cinq heures et demie It’s five thirty
Il est cinq heures quarante-cinqIl est six heures moins le quart It’s five forty-fiveIt’s a quarter to six
 Posted by at 4:36 pm