How to Tell Time in French

how to tell time in french

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In this grammar lesson you will learn how to tell time French.

In this lesson you will learn about:

  • 12-hour clock versus 24-hour clock
  • how to tell time in French with the 12-hour clock
  • how to tell time in French with the 24-hour clock
  • how you can quiz yourself on how to tell time in French
  • how you can download Anki files for how to tell time in French

Please refer to the French A1 Curriculum to get a better overview of French grammar, if you are curious about this fits in French A1.

By the end of the lesson, you will know all about how to tell time in French!

Table of Contents

12 Hour Clock Versus 24 Hour Clock

If you are from an English speaking country, odds are you are used to using the 12-hour clock.

In France however, the 24-hour clock is preferred.

In this lesson I have described both methods.

If you want to know how to tell time in French, then I recommend that you read both, but focus on the 24-hour clock, as it is used more often.

If you have not done so already, please read the lesson on numbers in French before you proceed with this lesson.

You will use a lot of numbers, so it’s important that you know the numberes in French.

How to Tell Time in French: 12 Hour Clock

You have to use the following idiom to tell time in French

  • il est + [heure] = it is [time]

Please look at the following examples to get a practical understanding on how to tell time in French.

Quelle heure est-il ?

What time is it?

Il est une heure.

It is one o’clock.

01:00/13:00

Il est trois heures.

It is three o’clock.

03:00/15:00

Il est six heures.

It is six o’clock.

06:00/18:00.

Il est midi.

It is noon.

12:00

Il est minuit.

It is midnight.

00:00

Midnight and noon don’t need heure(s) after them. All other hours must have heure(s) after them.

If you want to talk about half hours in French, then you will use the following idiom:

  • (heure) et demie = half past (hour)

Il est sept heures et demie.

It is half past seven.

07:30/19:30

Il est deux heures et demie.

It is half past two.

02:30/14:30

Il est huit heures et demie.

It is half past eight.

08:30/20:30

Il est midi et demi.

It is half past noon.

12:30

Il est minuit et demi.

It is half past midnight.

0:30

If you want to talk about quarter hours in French, then you will use the following idiom:

  • [heure] et quart / moins le quart = quarter past / quarter to [hour]

Il est quatre heures moins le quart.

It is quarter to four.

03:45/15:45

Il est neuf heures et quart.

It is quarter past nine.

09:15/21:15

Il est dix heures et quart.

It is quarter past ten.

10:15/22:15

Il est midi moins le quart.

It is quarter to twelve/noon.

11:45

Il est minuit et quart.

It is quarter past midnight.

00:15

If you want to talk about minutes past the hour, then you will use the following idiom:

  • [heure] [minutes] = [minutes] past [hour]

Il est deux heures dix.

It is ten past two.

02:10/14:10

Il est neuf heures dix.

It is ten past nine.

09:10/21:10

Il est trois heures vingt.

It is twenty past three.

03:20/15:20

As you can see, you simply add the minutes after the number of hours.

If you want to talk about minutes to the hour, then you will use the following idiom:

  • [heure] moins [minutes] = [minutes] to [hour]

Il est trois heures moins cinq.

It is five to three.

02:55/14:55

Il est sept heures moins dix.

It is ten to seven.

06:50/18:50.

Il est deux heures moins vingt.

It is twenty to two.

01:40/13:40

As you can see, you simply say the hour (heure) minus (moins) the minutes.

You may have noticed there are always two possibilities for every option.

The context will reveal which one people mean.

People won’t decide to meet at 3 a.m. so it’s safe to assume 3 p.m.

However, if you want to be more precise, you can add the following terms:

  • du matin (in the morning)
  • de l’après-midi (in the afternoon
  • du soir (in the evening, which starts at 6PM)

Il est sept heures du matin.

It is 7 AM.

07:00

Il est deux heures et demie de l’après-midi.

It is two-thirty PM.

14:30

Il est sept heures du soir.

It is 7 PM.

19:00

How to Tell Time in French: 24 Hour Clock

In France most people use the 24-hour clock.

This adds a level of precision, and gets rid of any ambiguity.

When people talk about time, it’s safe to assume that they are referring to the 24-hour clock.

Don’t forget the idiom for telling time in French:

il est + [heure] = it is [time]

Il est 2 heures.

It is 2 a.m.

02:00

Il est 9 heures.

It is 9 a.m.

09:00

Il est 13 heures.

It is 1 p.m.

13:00

Il est 16 heures.

It is 4 p.m.

16:00

Il est 19 heures.

It is 7 p.m.

19:00

Il est 23 heures.

It is 11 p.m.

23:00

The 24-hour o’clock doesn’t use et quartet demiemoins le quart but rather quinze, trente, quarante-cinq.

Il est treize heures quinze.

It is quarter past one (PM).

13:15

​​Il est quatorze heures trente.

It is half past two (PM).

14:30

Il est quinze heures quarante-cinq

It is quarter to four (PM).

15:45

Quiz Yourself on How to Tell Time in French

It’s not enough just to read the article on this lesson.

You should test your knowledge to see if you really understood everything, and to be able to repeat the material.

It is also for this reason that it is recommended to download the Anki Decks and do them.

At the end of every lesson you can do a small test.

You will see the sentences of the previous chapter. It is up to you to give the correct answer.

You will either need to fill in the blanks, choose the correct multiple choice option, or both.

Once you are done the correct answer will be shown.

You can redo the quiz as many times as you want.

Anki File for How to Tell Time in French

It is important to do the Anki exercises for this lesson so that you can better remember what you just studied.

By downloading the Anki File for French A1, you can practice every French A1 lesson that is on Language Atlas. This is recommended as you will have every lesson that you need. You shouldn’t miss out on the complete learning experience!

You can also choose to just get the Anki File for French A1 Idioms. This only has the idioms for French A1.

If you don’t know why you should use Anki, or if you don’t know what Anki is, then please click here.

Anki can be downloaded from here.

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