How To Tell The Time In French

Written byAmélie Pinon

Telling (or asking) the time in French is incredibly easy and straightforward.

I'll explain why below.

(Also, it's helpful listen to these time in French audio examples too).

If you're planning a trip to France (or just want to be able to converse online with French speakers), time is one of the most important early topics to cover.

This lesson will cover all the essentials including asking for time, and the correct way to say days, hours, minutes and seconds.

Let’s review some vital terms in French first:

French Terms For 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 general formula is:

The hour + 'heure(s)' + the minute


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 . . .
More examples
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
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How To Tell The Time In French
When telling time in French, you not only state the hour but also say the actual word 'hour' in French too.
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Amélie Pinon
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