How to ask and tell the time in French?
If you’re learning French, or even planning a trip to France, it’s important to be able to tell and ask the time!
Perfect, that’s the goal of today’s post!
Of course French numbers are involved, so if you’re already familiar with them, it will be easier.
In French, we use both 12-hour and 24-hour clock to tell the time.
How to ask “what time is it” in French?
“Quelle heure est-il ?” is the French sentence you’ve probably learned at school, and it’s correct.
But, in spoken French (what I called “French from France”), we don’t ask time this way.
“Quelle heure il est ?” is the most common, you’ll hear this one if you come in France.
“C’est quelle heure, là ?” this one is very familiar.
How to tell time in French.
If you follow those rules, you’ll be the French time teller king!
- To write time, we don’t use a colon between the hour and minutes but the letter h instead.
This h abbreviate “heure“.
11:20 become 11h20 in French.
- In French, Noon is midi and midnight is minuit.
- In French, to tell time, we say: “Il est (number) heure(s) (minutes)”, in this particular order.
“Il est deux heures vingt” (it’s 2:20)
Be careful though, in English we often skip the word “o’clock” when telling time, but in French, you always have to say the word “heure(s)“.
“Il est dix heures.” it’s ten (o’clock)
- In English, with the 12-hour clock, we have a.m. and p.m. to clarify.
In French, we use little sentences to specify if we’re in the morning (matin), in the afternoon (après-midi) or in the evening/night (soir)
– Il est huit heures du matin (it’s 8:00 a.m.)
– Il est deux heures vingt de l’après-midi (it’s 2:20 p.m.)
– Il est dix heures du soir (it’s 10:00 p.m.)
- As I mentioned earlier, we use also use the 24-hour clock in French, but don’t worry, the logic is really easy to understand.
It starts at midnight (which is 00h00) and stops at 23h59, which means:
– Nothing change from 1 a.m. to noon, and then;
– 1 p.m. is 13h
– 2 p.m. is 14h
– 3 p.m. is 15h
– 4 p.m. is 16h
– 5 p.m. is 17h
– 6 p.m. is 18h
– 7 p.m. is 19h
– 8 p.m. is 20h
– 9 p.m. is 21h
– 10 p.m. is 22h
– 11 p.m. is 23h
Some rules to know about French minutes.
Those rules are right with the 12-hour clock only.
• A quarter is “et quart” in French.
Il est trois heures et quart. (it’s a quarter past three)
• A half is “et demi” in French.
Il est trois heures et demi. (it’s half past three)
• Above 30 minutes, you can tell the time according to this pattern:
“(the next hour) minus (the minutes)”
Il est quatre heures moins vingt. (twenty to four, but literally “four hours minus twenty”)
Il est quatre heures moins le quart. (quarter to four, but literally “four hour minus a quarter”)
In fact, this is the “minutes to hours” French form.