What Time Is in French: Learning the Basics for Daily Communication

Elly Kim9 min
Created: Aug 30, 2023Last updated: Feb 14, 2024
Time in French

Knowing how to tell time is essential for French learners: you will be able to understand natives better when visiting the country. Of course, most modern people have watches on their wrists and smartphones in their pockets. However, what to do if a passer-by asks you what’s the time in French? We are confident you’ll be able to answer, and this article will help. This topic is a part of the basic language knowledge for every student, so let’s look at the main things to consider.

Knowing the Time of the Day

In contrast to English, time is usually expressed in 24 hours in French. Therefore, the country residents do not use “a.m.” and “p.m.” familiar to English speakers. However, it’s possible to use the 12-hour system, but you must indicate whether you are speaking of morning or evening. So, learn the time of the day first:

  • du matin – morning, the time before noon;
  • de l’après-midi – time from noon to 6 pm;
  • du soir – the time from 6 pm to midnight;
  • la nuit – night;
  • le midi – midday, noon;
  • le minuit – midnight.

Speaking of the daytime is especially important when setting formal or informal appointments. You must indicate whether you would like to meet before noon or in the evening so that a Frenchman isn’t confused and comes on time. Of course, you can always use the 24-hour clock; in this case, telling “du matin” or “du soir” is not mandatory. Remember, this option is common among youngsters, while the older generation would rather specify whether it’s morning or evening.

French Clock Times: Let’s Learn Them Better

Talking to French-speaking people requires at least basic knowledge. Just imagine if another person asks you what time it is, and you cannot answer them. That would be embarrassing, wouldn’t it? Therefore, every learner should know how to speak about times in French. Take a look at the following:

  1. Il est une heure – it’s one a.m.
  2. Il est deux heures – it’s two a.m.
  3. Il est trois heures – it’s three a.m.
  4. Il est quatre heures – it’s four a.m.
  5. Il est cinq heures – it’s five a.m.
  6. Il est six heures – it’s six a.m.
  7. Il est sept heures – it’s seven a.m.
  8. Il est huit heures – it’s eight a.m.
  9. Il est neuf heures – it’s nine a.m.
  10. Il est dix heures – it’s ten a.m.
  11. Il est onze heures – it’s eleven a.m.
  12. Il est douze heures – it’s twelve p.m.

The above expressions help you describe French time in the morning, before noon. As already mentioned, French people use a 24-hour system, so let’s learn how to speak about time in the evening:

  1. Il est treize heures – it’s one p.m.
  2. Il est quatorze heures – it’s two p.m.
  3. Il est quinze heures – it’s three p.m.
  4. Il est seize heures – it’s four p.m.
  5. Il est dix-sept heures – it’s five p.m.
  6. Il est dix-huit heures – it’s six p.m.
  7. Il est dix-neuf heures – it’s seven p.m.
  8. Il est vingt heures – it’s eight p.m.
  9. Il est vingt et une heures – it’s nine p.m.
  10. Il est vingt-deux heures – it’s ten p.m.
  11. Il est vingt-trois heures – it’s eleven p.m.
  12. Il est minuit – it’s midnight.

Even though residents of French-speaking countries usually prefer the 24-hour clock, you can use the already familiar 12-hour system. You can still choose which one is more convenient, as residents of France will understand you in both ways.

For instance, you should say “il est trois heures de l’après midi” when you want to tell your interlocutor it’s three p.m. Moreover, keep in mind that you cannot skip the word “heures.” While in English, you can say “it’s four,” in French, it will sound like “il est quatre heures.” In addition, locals usually add the word “pile” when speaking of the precise time. For example, “il est neuf heures pile” means it’s exactly nine o’clock.

Now, you know how to tell the exact time in French. But what to do if it’s 15:45 or 19:50? Learn more tips and helpful expressions in the following paragraph and get closer to your desired fluency level.


How to Tell Time in French: Tips to Master the Language

Explaining time may be uneasy for learners, but we assure you everything is possible. Moreover, you’ll notice how simple it is after discovering the primary principles. Take a look at some examples to understand how to speak about time in French:

  1. Il est cinq heures et demi – it’s half past five a.m.
  2. Il est neuf heures et quart – it’s quarter past nine a.m.
  3. Il est trois heures moins le quart – it’s a quarter to three a.m.
  4. Il est deux heures et dix minutes – it’s ten minutes past two a.m.
  5. Il est dix-huit heures et trente-cinq minutes – it’s six thirty-five p.m.

Using these examples, you can learn how to speak about time in the morning, afternoon, evening, and night. Of course, you should ensure you’ve studied all the numbers, as they are the basis for writing time in French. Take advantage of the Promova app, which offers hundreds of words for students of all levels. Replenish the vocabulary daily and master the foreign language with excitement and ease.

Other Helpful Phrases You Might Need When Describing Time

Replenishing your vocabulary is never enough. We are confident even those proficient in the language regularly find words and expressions they haven’t heard before. Besides learning how to write time in French, you would also like to familiarize yourself with other useful phrases. And, of course, we’ve prepared a list for you:

  • jour – day;
  • semaine – week;
  • mois – month;
  • le mois dernier – last month;
  • la semaine dernière – last week;
  • hier soir – yesterday evening;
  • aujourd’hui – today;
  • dans un jour – in one day;
  • il y a – ago;
  • il y a deux heures – two hours ago;
  • hier – yesterday;
  • avant-hier – before yesterday;
  • demain – tomorrow;
  • après-demain – the day after tomorrow;
  • le lendemain – the day after;
  • Lundi – Monday;
  • Mardi – Tuesday;
  • Mercredi – Wednesday;
  • Jeudi – Thursday;
  • Vendredi – Friday;
  • Samedi – Saturday;
  • Dimanche – Sunday;
  • actuellement – currently;
  • maintenant – now;
  • quotidien – daily;
  • toujours – always;
  • rarement – rarely;
  • jusqu’à – until;
  • ce matin – this morning;
  • cet après-midi – this afternoon.

These words will help students understand what time is in French. Learn all of them, and you will notice how quickly you overcome the language barrier. Exploring this topic is not as complicated as it may seem at first glance. Learning all the numbers is essential, after which you will quickly sort everything out.

Discover How to Tell Time in French for Daily Communication

Finding Out What Is Time in French

If a Frenchman asks what time it is, you will quickly answer them using the above guide. However, what to do if you don’t have a smartphone or watch and need to know which o’clock it is? Grab some ideas on which phrases you should use in this case: 

  1. Quelle heure est-il? – What time is it?
  2. Avez-vous l’heure? – Do you have the time?
  3. Auriez-vous l’heure? – Would you have the time?
  4. C’est quelle heure? – At what time is it?
  5. Excusez-moi, quelle heure est-il s’il vous plaît? – Excuse me, what time is it, please?
  6. Est-ce que vous avez l’heure? – Do you have time?

Knowing these basic expressions will simplify your daily communication in French-speaking countries. We are confident it will be easy and fun for you, as the country residents only use a few phrases. Remember about formal and informal language. You should better ask “est-ce que vous avez l’heure?” or “excusez-moi, quelle heure est-il s’il vous plaît” when at work or in new society. Other phrases are considered casual and can be used among friends and in family circles.

Moreover, remember it’s more common to use “vouz” for strangers, even if you think that “tu” will be suitable. Even though French people are open and friendly, they value personal boundaries. Therefore, it’s better to wait until you become closer to your interlocutor to start using “tu” instead of “vous.”

French Time Etiquette: Exciting Peculiarities

You will be surprised, but French people have a specific mentality in terms of punctuality, especially for dinners. While residents of other countries consider it normal to arrive just in time, locals would rather be late. It’s called “quinze minutes de politesse,” translated as “15 minutes of politeness.” So, if a Frenchman invited you to their house at 19.00, arriving at 19.15 is the best idea. They use this time for final preparations when hosting guests.

However, remember that this rule isn’t valid for formal events. Therefore, don’t be late if your boss has scheduled a meeting for noon. But remember that you also shouldn’t come in advance, as French people consider it impolite. Arriving on time is the best solution – don’t be late for work.

Learning Time in French with Promova

Do you know the main point when learning how to tell the time in French? Yes, you need a lot of practice! Try to master the language when visiting the country – communicate with locals and speak as much as possible. Moreover, the Promova platform will help you with this issue; our guided courses are available in the app and the web version. Easy-to-navigate lessons with hundreds of words in the library are available for all students.

The Promova app is available for iOS and Android users. Professional tutors developed interactive lessons so that you can enjoy quizzes and flashcards to memorize everything more easily. The app is free, but you can also get a premium subscription for even more benefits. Learning French might be challenging, but we will help you reach different fluency levels depending on your needs and requests.


Learning how to ask the time and answer a similar question is critical, as you never know when you need it. Imagine yourself in a French-speaking country hurrying for a bus when suddenly your smartphone runs out of battery. You have nothing to do but approach a passer-by and ask them. 

Not everyone in France knows basic English, so learning at least a few phrases for daily usage would be helpful for travelers and those interacting with locals. Therefore, knowing how to say what time it is in French is the best option that will show your appreciation to locals.


Why do French people use 24-hour time?

The country residents find this option a more convenient way to avoid misunderstandings. Such timing was initially used in the military. It’s worth noting that such a system is more widespread among the younger generation, while the older people in France would rather say “il est sept heures du matin” to specify the time of the day.

Are there any tips for learning time in French quickly?

Immersing in the language environment is the best option for French learners. However, we understand not all have such an opportunity. Try to practice as much as possible daily to achieve your goals. You can easily find a pen-friend from France and communicate with them. You can ask your acquaintances for tips and advice for learning French. It will be similar to immersion in the language environment and will help you strengthen your writing skills. Quizzes and interactive tests can also be great assistants for learners.

How long will it take English speakers to master French and reach an intermediate level?

Overall, it’s considered that 600 hours of learning are enough to reach the intermediate level. However, it’s difficult to clearly answer this question as the result depends on numerous factors. They include how much time a student will dedicate to everyday learning, whether they will be involved in a French-speaking environment, the desired language proficiency level, etc.

What additional resources can I use for learning the French language?

The modern world offers multiple educational opportunities – and sitting in boring classes is not the only option anymore. Learners can find many sources online. For instance, dictionaries like WordReference and PONS can become your loyal assistants when studying French. Use them to learn more words and replenish your vocabulary daily; you will see progress soon.


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