How To Tell The Time In French? 7 Things To Know

Would you like to know now how to tell the time in French? You’re chatting in French, and it’s going great until the other person asks you something about the time. Of course, you could simply pick up your phone to see the time but it would be much better to know how to answer, especially if you need to mention a specific time in the past or future.

This article goes over all you need to know to perfectly tell the time in French.

How To Tell The Hours In French

Use the numbers 1 to 24 in French to indicate the hours on the clock.

The French generally use the 24-hour time system, which is called “military time” in the United States. Although many French speakers understand the 12-hour time system, the time on clocks, the time in general, and digital times will always be 24 hours.

Using the following numbers, you can tell the hours from 1 to 24.

  • 1 – une
  • 2 – deux
  • 3 – trois
  • 4- quatre
  • 5 – cinq
  • 6 – six
  • 7 – sept
  • 8 – huit
  • 9 – neuf
  • 10 – dix
  • 11 – onze
  • 12 – douze
  • 13 – treize
  • 14 – quatorze
  • 15 – quinze
  • 16 – seize
  • 17 – dix-sept
  • 18 – dix-huit
  • 19 – dix-neuf
  • 20 -vingt
  • 21 – vingt et un
  • 22 – vingt-deux
  • 23 – vingt-trois
  • 24 – vingt-quatre

How To Ask What Time Is It And How To Answer

How To Tell The Time In French

In French, you can ask what time it is by saying the following:

  • Quelle heure est-il (pronounced “kèl ér ètìl?”)

But you can also use the following sentence to ask what time it is:

  • Il est quelle heure?

To answer, you can say:

  • Il est… [followed by the number that indicates the time] heure/heures

Use “heure” only in the case of one o’clock; for all other times, use the plural “heures.”

For example:

  • Il est cinq heures – It’s five o’clock

The word “heures” literally means “hours,” but when we say the hour, it takes the place of the expression “o’clock” in the English language.

How To Say Noon Or Midnight

The French never refer to noon and midnight using the number. To say midnight and noon, use the following:

  • Midi – Noon
  • Minuit – Midnight

Also, midnight is technically zero time because they use the 24-hour clock. Therefore, always say “midi” for noon and “minuit” for midnight, even when adding minutes past the hours. However, do not include the word “heures.”

For example, if someone asked you the time precisely at noon, you should answer: “Il est midi.”

When Should You Indicate The Part Of The Day

You should include the appropriate phrase in the 12-hour time system.

Even though the 24-hour time system is the official one used in France, there may be occasions when you want to tell someone the time using the 12-hour system.

However, if you are pointing out the time for something to happen in the future, you may want to add the following sentences:

  • Du matin – Morning
  • De l’après-midi – Afternoon
  • Du soir – Evening

For example:

  • Il est neuf heures et demie du matin – It is half past nine in the morning
  • Il est cinq heures de l’après-midi – It is 5:00 in the afternoon
  • Il est huit heures dix du soir – It’s 8:10 in the evening

What To Say To Express An Exact Hour

clock and calendar telling time in the french language

If you want to say that it is precisely a specific time, you can use the word “pile.”

The term “pile” is used the same way say “exactly.” Use it to emphasize your speech when you tell someone what time it is or if you want to express the start time of an event more resolutely.

For example, you could say:

  • Il est neuf heures pile – It is precisely 9 o’clock
  • Le cours commence à dix heures pile – The lesson starts at 10 o’clock sharp

How To Tell The Minutes In French

To tell the minutes in French, you must use the numbers 1 to 59. If you are not yet familiar with french numbers, you can find a simple explanation here.

For example, if you want to say that it is 9:52, you can use one word for 50 (fifty) combined with the word for 2 (deux) and say:

  • Il est neuf heures cinquante-deux

You can say an approximate hour in French just like any other language, so it’s not a big deal if you forget the word of a certain number.

If it’s 9:52, you could say:

  • Il est environ dix heures – It’s about ten o’clock
  • Il est presque dix heures – It’s almost ten o’clock

As a note, add the minutes after the word “hours.”

It is unnecessary to specify that it refers to the minutes; just use the number.

For example, if it is 10:20, you should say:

  • Il est dix heures vingt

Other Ways To Tell The Time In French

Once the half hour has passed, the French usually subtract the minutes from the next hour instead of adding them to the current one. So you could say, “It’s ten to nine.”

You can do this by saying “moins” after the word “heures,” followed by the number of minutes.

For example, if it is 8:50, you could say:

  • Il est neuf heures moins dix – It’s ten to nine o’clock (instead of “Il est huit heures cinquante“- It’s eight fifty)

If you want to say that there is a quarter of an hour left or that it is an hour and 45 minutes, you can use the expression:

  • Moins le quart

Since you are subtracting, remember to increase the current time by one. For example, for 9:45, it should say:

  • Dix heures moins le quart
  • Neuf heures quarante-cinq

Examples Of Saying The Time In French

Here are some examples of expressions related to time in French.


  • Salut, quelle heure est-il?

Examples of answers:

  • Il est trois heures – It’s three o’clock
  • Il est une heure – It’s one o’clock
  • Il est deux heures – It is two o’clock
  • Il est minuit – It’s midnight
  • Il est tard – It’s late
  • Il est onze heures – It’s eleven o’clock
  • Il est quinze heures – It’s three o’clock
  • Il est dix neuf heures – It’s seven o’clock
  • Il est six heures – It is six o’clock

Now that you know how to tell the time in French, would you like to learn more?

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