Telling Time In French & Audio Pronunciation ⏱

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

How to tell the time in French? Learn the many ways of telling the time in French with audio (casual & official French time), & useful French time expressions.

If you travel to a French speaking country, chances are that you’re going to have to understand or tell the time in French. Admittedly, there are many ways of telling the time in French, so it can be a bit confusing…

But fear not! My free lesson will teach you the time in French in… no time at all!

And thanks to my audio recordings, you will know the difference between “deux heures” and “douze heures” and won’t miss your train!

This free French lesson – like many on French Today’s blog – features audio recordings. Click on the link next to the headphones to hear the French pronunciation.

French Time

Let’s dive right in and see how to tell the time in French.

How To Say Hour in French?

The French word you’ll hear the most for time in the context of telling the time is the word “heure”. It’s a feminine word, and because “heure” starts with a silent h, its pronunciation will vary a lot in liaison, so it’s essential you learn how to tell the time in French with audio recordings.

French Time Pronunciation

This free French lesson – like many on French Today’s blog – features audio recordings. Click on the link next to the headphones to hear the French pronunciation.

I encourage you to repeat out-loud after me so you memorize the right way to tell the time in French.

  1. It’s one o’clock – Il est une heure (note there is no S at heure since there is only one)
  2. It’s two o’clock – Il est deux heures
  3. It’s three o’clock – Il est trois heures
  4. It’s four o’clock – Il est quatre heures
  5. It’s five o’clock – Il est cinq heures
  6. It’s six o’clock – Il est six heures
  7. It’s seven o’clock – Il est sept heures
  8. It’s eight o’clock – Il est huit heures
  9. It’s nine o’clock – Il est neuf heures
  10. It’s ten o’clock – Il est dix heures
  11. It’s eleven o’clock – Il est onze heures
  12. It’s twelve o’clock – Il est douze heures

Repeating the Word Hour in French.

In French, when you tell the time, you always have to repeat the word “heure(s)”. This is the biggest mistake I hear English speakers make when telling the time in French: they forget to include the word “heure”.

In English, you can say : ‘it’s one’.
In French you have to say: “Il est une heure“, saying the word “heure”.
In English you can say: ‘it’s quarter past one’.
In French you have to say: “il est une heure et quart“, saying the word “heure”.

The word heure(s) is pronounced in the same breath as the number, as if it were a weird ending to it.

The key to understanding the time in French

So as you can hear with the audio recordings, the word “heure” becomes neur, zeur, treur, keur, teur with the liaisons and glidings.

Mastering the right pronunciation of the word hour in French is the key to understanding the time in French.

Knowing your French numbers from 0 to 59

Now, to tell the time efficiently and understand it, you need to first learn how to say the numbers in French.

In this lesson, I’m going to concentrate on the expressions and pronunciation differences but I won’t go over how to say the numbers 0 to 59. Please follow this link to learn how to count in French.

How do you Write the Time in French?

Note: in writing, the word “heure” is abbreviated as “h”, not the English “:”.

We don’t write nor say the word “minute” when we say the time, but if you need to abbreviate the word minute, it would be “mn” in French.

  • 1:45 in French would be written 1 h 45
  • 45 minutes in French would be abbreviated as 45 mn

More Ways To Tell the Time in French

As I said in the intro, there are many ways of telling the time in French.

The 24 Hour French Clock

In French, all the official schedules (TV, radio, trains, planes etc…) use what you call in English “military time”.

Based on a 24 hour clock, you say exactly the number of hour, then the number of minutes.

Note that we don’t say “hundred” for a round hour like you do in English: in French, we just say the hour number. But don’t forget to say the word heure(s)!

Check out my French number audiobook. Over four hours of clear explanations, and random number drills recorded at several speeds. Click on the link for more info, a full list of content and audio samples.

This 4+ hours audiobook goes in-depth on how to construct the numbers and how to properly pronounce them with all the modern glidings and elisions that can sometimes completely change the number from it’s written form!

I also cover many French expressions that use numbers as well as how to properly tell the time and understand prices.

Mastering French Numbers

Master All Numbers From 0 To 999 999 999! The most in-depth audiobook about French numbers anywhere

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More Details & Audio Samples

All throughout the audiobook, you will find extensive audio drills recorded at 3 different speeds and featuring numbers out of order so you really get a true workout!

Back to studying the time in French.

Minutes Past & to the Hour

This way of telling the time in French is pretty much the same as in English. You just say the number of minutes to or past the hour.

  • 1 h 45
    It’s fifteen to two – il est deux heures moins quinze
    It’s forty-five past one / it’s one forty-five – il est une heure quarante-cinq

Common French Time Expressions

Just like in English, we also use common French time expressions in France, like saying ‘noon’ instead of 12PM.

Let’s learn them!

and a quarteret quart
quarter tomoins le quart
and a halfet demie
in the morningdu matin
in the afternoonde l’après-midi
in the eveningdu soir

How To Say Quarter Past in French?

To translate the time notion of ‘quarter past’ in French, we say “et quart”.

Note the difference between quart (pronounced car) et quatre (4).

How To Say Quarter To in French?

To translate the time notion of ‘quarter to’ in French, we say “moins le quart” (quarter of – pronounced car)

You also want to glide your “le” as much as possible – it almost disappears in modern spoken French pronunciation.

How To Say Half Past in French?

to translate the time notion of ‘half past’ in French, we say “et demie “(and an half, half past the hour)

Note: we glide over the first “e” of demie = dmee in spoken French.

How to Say Noon and Midnight in French?

The French language has equivalents of noon and midnight :

  • it’s noon – il est midi
  • it’s midnight – il est minuit

Note that these 2 French time expressions do not require the word heure since their position in the day is self-implied.

I strongly recommend that you use these, since “douze heures” sounds a lot like “deux heures” when you make the liaison…

“deux heures” versus “douze heures”

Otherwise, in official time midi is “douze heures” and minuit is “zéro heure” (no S at heure).

How to say AM and PM in French?

You could also be using the twelve hour clock and then add the expressions du matin in the morning, de l’après-midi in the afternoon, du soir in the evening…

Now let see some useful French time sentences.

13 French Time Sentences

Please press play on the audio player to hear my audio recordings. I left enough time for you to repeat out-loud and I encourage you to do it!

  1. Quelle heure est-il ? = what time is it?
  2. Il est quelle heure ? = what time is it? (street French)
  3. Auriez-vous l’heure, s’il vous plaît ? = would you tell me the time, please?
  4. Tu peux me donner l’heure ? = can you give me the time (street French)
  5. C’est à quelle heure ? = at what time is it?
  6. Il est neuf heures pile, neuf heures précises = it’s nine sharp.
  7. Il est presque minuit = it’s almost midnight
  8. Il est moins dix = it’s 10 minutes to whatever hour it is now…
  9. Mon cours commence à la demie = my lesson starts at – whatever hour it is now – thirty.
  10. C’est ouvert de quelle heure à quelle heure ? = it’s open from what time to what time?
  11. Le concert est à quelle heure? = at what time is the concert
  12. Il arrive dans trois quarts d’heure = he’ll be there in 45 minutes.
  13. Ce magasin est ouvert 24 heures sur 24 = this shop is open all day and all night long (a concept almost unheard of in France :-) 

3 Ways to Translate Time in French

Watch out! There are three ways to translate the word ‘time’ in French.

1 – Time as in telling time is “l’heure” in French.
What time is it?
Quelle heure est-il ?

2 – Time as in a period of time is “le temps” in French
I would like to spend some time in France.
J’aimerais passé du temps en France

3 – Time as in multiple instance is “la fois” in French.
How many times have you been to Paris?
Tu es allé à Paris combien de fois ?

How Should I Tell the Time in French?

So, which method should you use to tell the time in French? 12 hour clock, 24 hours official time, minutes past or to the hour, expressions of time?

It’s really up to you. My tip: pick one method and stick to it when you speak so you don’t hesitate…

However you will eventually need to understand all of the various ways of telling the time in order to understand the French when they speak. Bookmark this free lesson and come back to it often!

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today's French to adults for 25+ years in the US and France. Based on my students' goals and needs, I've created unique downloadable French audiobooks focussing on French like it's spoken today, for all levels. Come to Paimpol and enjoy an exclusive French immersion homestay with me in Brittany.

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