Telling the Time in French

How to tell the time in French

There are two ways to say the time in French, one is formal and one is informal.

Formal Informal
18 h 00 dix-huit heures six heures
18 h 05 dix-huit heures cinq six heures cinq
18 h 15 dix-huit heures quinze six heures et quart
18 h 20 dix-huit heures vingt six heures vingt
18 h 30 dix-huit heures trente six heures et demie
18 h 40 dix-huit heures quarante sept heures moins vingt
18 h 45 dix-huit heures quarante-cinq sept heures moins le quart
18 h 50 dix-huit heures cinquante sept heures moins dix

In general, we say the hour first followed by the minutes.

Example:
9 h 43 – neuf heures quarante-trois

However, with the minutes 40, 45, 50 and 55 we often say the upcoming hour first, followed by the minutes remaining until that time. This is similar to the English 'minutes to'.

Example:
9 h 50 – dix heures moins dixten to ten

The French clock

Things to bear in mind when telling the time in French

When telling the time in French, the word heures is always plural. The only exception to this is if we use the number une to refer to 1 o’clock: here, the word heure remains in the singular.

Example:
1 h 20 – une heure vingt
but: 13 h 20 – treize heures vingt

Remember! 12 h 00 is written and spoken as douze heures, midimidday or minuitmidnight depending on the context.

Info

It is not possible to combine the formal and informal ways of telling the time.

Example:
Dix-huit heures et demie.
this does not exist in French

There are only two possible options:

either:
dix-huit heures trente
or:
six heures et demie