Telling Time in French: Complete Guide

Wondering how to get over the “What time is it?” question or answer in French? There are various ways of saying “What time is it?” French grammar can be very tricky. This article will guide you step by step in learning the differences. As you know, time is usually expressed on a 12-hour clock. It’s important to understand how to tell the time in French, especially if you are traveling or currently touring French-speaking countries. Knowing the fundamentals can most certainly give you the ease of mind you need.

How would you express Noon or Midnight? Midi (Noon) and Minuit (Midnight) for example.

Midi🎧 – Noon

Minuit🎧 – Midnight

Asking “What time is it?”, is a fundamental part of the learning curve. A great place to start is knowing French numbers and a few formulas.

Once you understand the numbers and formulas, it starts becoming easier and more fun to learn. Walk with us down this incredible article on Telling Time in French.

How to say “time” in French? 🕐

Time is such a beautiful word. It contains so much information that can be expressed in many ways. Let’s take a look at some of the beginner examples below.

Time as in instance. – la fois

I did it one time. – Je l’ai fait une fois.

Time as in a period of time – le temps

I spent some time here. – J’ai passé du temps ici.

Time as in telling time – l’heure

What time is it? – Quelle heure est-il ?

As you can see there are different ways of expressing what time you are referring to. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the examples and understand how to pronounce them. Note that the above is the generic definitions and may vary from time to time.


Quiz time! Question 1.

How would you go about asking a person in France for the current time?

    A. Je l’ai fait une fois.

    B. J’ai passé du temps ici.

    C. Quelle heure est-il ?

How to say “what time is it” in French? 🗣️

What time is it? (Generic)

Quelle heure est-il? (French) – What time is it?

Please take note that the samples are all generic definitions.

What time is it? (Formal)

Understanding when and how to say “what time is it?” in a more formal approach can be achieved when saying it like this:

Est-ce que vous avez l’heure, s’il vous plaît?(French) – Do you have the time, please?

As mentioned the above can be used in a formal manner. This means asking a complete stranger for the time and not someone you know for years. This would be the correct way of saying “What time is it?”, if you are new to a foreign country and don’t know many people.

How to ask: When does the (event) start?

Indeed, this is again a completely new way of asking for a specific time. Perhaps you have a venue to attend and would like to know what time to be there or what time the event starts.

À quelle heure est le film?(French) – At what time is the movie?

To be (être) and To start (commencer) can be used as two different verbs.

Here are two example videos that could help you to conjugate the verbs.

If you are unsure of how to conjugate the verbs here are some more examples:

With the verb “commencer”:

À quelle heure commence le film? – What time starts the movie?

With the verb “être”:

À quelle heure être au cinéma? – What time to be at the movie?

Recap 1

French WordingEnglish TranslationAudio
Je l’ai fait une fois.I did it on time.Je l’ai fait une fois.
J’ai passé du temps ici.I spent some time here.J’ai passé du temps ici.
Quelle heure est-il ?What time is it?Quelle heure est-il ?
Est-ce que vous avez l’heure, s’il vous plaît?Do you have the time, please?Est-ce que vous avez l’heure, s’il vous plaît?
À quelle heure est le film?At what time is the movie?À quelle heure est le film?
À quelle heure commence le film?At what time does the movie start?À quelle heure commence le film?
Quelle heure est le film?What time is the movie?Quelle heure est le film?

Quiz time! Question 2.

What is the formal way of asking “What time is it?”.

    A. Est-ce que vous avez l’heure, s’il vous plaît?

    B. Quelle heure est-il?

    C. À quelle heure est le film?


How to tell time? (Comment lire l’heure) 🇫🇷

What an achievement thus far for being able to now know how to say “What time is it?” in French. Congratulations. Très bien! – Very Good!

The information above needs to be understood and one must be able to answer the questions too right? Knowing French numbers is the next step in enabling you to discuss the time.

It’s part of the exciting learning process of adequately speaking in French.


Below is a quick video that allows you to listen to how the numbers are pronounced.

The formula for telling time is fairly easy. Here is a great example of a good structure.

Il est + number + heures ( Il est quatre heures – It’s four o’clock)

Attention: In irregular cases with “1” is feminine meaning “une” (il est une heure)

Recap 2 (1)

French WordingEnglish TranslationAudio
Très bienVery Good! Très bien
Il est quatre heuresIt’s four o’clockIl est quatre heures

Quiz time! Question 3.

How would you tell someone it is “Seven o’clock” in French?

    A. il est une heure

    B. il est deux heure

    C. il est sept heure

12h Clock vs 24h Clock

Although both express time, the 12-hour clock divides each day into two periods of 12 hours, while the 24-hour clock counts the full 24 hours of a day continuously.

With the 12-hour clock, you may need to clarify whether it’s 8 a.m. or 8 p.m. It could make a big difference! The French language use phrases to express the difference between morning (le matin), afternoon (l’après-midi), and evening/night (le soir).

du matin (in the morning or a.m.)

de l’après-midi (in the afternoon or p.m.)

du soir (in the evening/at night or p.m.)

Using the 24-hour clock is quite simple because all you do is add. There is no more moins le quart or et demie and so forth. The easiest way of remembering how to structure a 24-hour time-telling phrase is by adding heure at the end of the number.

08:00 (huit heure)

Recap 3 (1)

French WordingEnglish TranslationAudio
du matinin the morning or a.mdu matin
de l’après-midiin the afternoon or l’après-midi
du soirin the evening/at night or p.m.du soir
huit heure08:00 (Eight o’clock)


Quiz Time! Question 4.

What is the correct way of saying “in the afternoon” in French? (12-Hour)

    A. treize heures

    B. de l’après-midi

    C. du matin

Time in French (Useful Phrases)

Here are some great phrases which can be used in different ways of telling and expressing time.

Phrases (1)

French WordingEnglish TranslationAudio
le temps de la réflexiontime to thinkle temps de la réflexion
diminuer le temps de travailto reduce working hoursdiminuer le temps de travail
avec le tempswith the passing of timeavec le temps
temps morta time-outtemps mort
il y a peu de tempsa little while agoil y a peu de temps
en même tempsat the same timeen même temps
préparation cuisinepreparation timepréparation cuisine
un temps plein ou plein tempsa full-time jobun temps plein ou plein temps

Quiz Time! Question 5.

How would you ask a store owner if there was a “full-time job”?

    A: préparation cuisine

    B: avec le temps

    C: un temps plein ou plein temps



What have we learned? Well first off we can now tell the time in French and speak it. Not only that but the times of a day can be expressed in words, Afternoon to Morning. Understanding the difference between the word is crucial to speaking French. As I mentioned earlier, been able to elaborate the time of a show or been early to a venue.

Taking time to reflect on your day or asking for a time out at a soccer game. These are all great ways of expressing time in French and being able to understand the meanings and phrases.

For more great articles on learning languages go head over to our blog.


Quiz Answers

Quiz 1) Quelle heure est-il ?

Quiz 2) Est-ce que vous avez l’heure, s’il vous plaît?

Quiz 3) il est sept heure

Quiz 4) de l’après-midi

Quiz 5) un temps plein ou plein temps

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