Lesson 5 – Telling Time

Leçon 5 – Telling Time

Now that we’ve learned our numbers, it’s time we start learning how to tell time, French style!

Unlike in the United States, the French use a 24-hour clock, as well as a 12-hour clock; but for the sake of teaching something familiar, I will teach the 12-hour. 🙂

The French word for “time” when talking about telling time is l’heure. Although o’clock may be left out in English, the expression heure(s) must always be used in French when giving the time, with the exception of minuit (midnight), and midi (noon).

To distinguish between A.M. and P.M., the French use the following expressions:

  • du matin – in the morning – il est dix heures du matin – it is 10A.M.
  • de l’après midi – in the afternoon – il est deux heures de l’après midi – it is 2P.M.
  • du soir – in the evening – il est huit heures du soir – it is 8P.M.

NOTE: In telling time, the number and the word heure(s) are linked together. And remember, the h in heure(s) is always silent, and the s is never pronounced. (The letters in the following words are crossed out for pronunciation sake.)

  • une heure (oon-err)
  • deux heures (dooz-err – the X in deux is pronounced like a Z in front of this silent H)
  • trois heures (tr-wah-z – err)
  • quatre heures (cat-err)
  • cinheures (sah-nk-err – the Q in cinq is prounounced like a K in front of this silent H, and the in is a  nasal vowel)
  • six heures (seez-err – the X in siis pronounced like a Z in front of this silent H)
  • sepheures (set-err)
  • huit heures (weet-err)
  • neuf heures (nuv-err)
  • dix heures (deez-err – the X in dix is pronounced like a Z in front of this silent H)
  • onze heures (oh-zuh – err – the on is a nasal vowel… which I should probably go over soon…)

In French, written time is written out as the hour and minute separated with an h, where as in English, the hour and minute are separated with a colon :

Quelle heure est-il? (Kel err eh-teel) What time is it?

Il est… (Always reply to the above question with Il est before stating the time.)

0h00 – 12:00 – minuit (midnight)

1h00 – 01:00 – une heure

2h00 – 02:00 – deux heures

3h00 – 03:00 – trois heures

4h00 – 04:00 – quatre heures

5h00 – 05:00 – cinq heures

6h00 – 06:00 – six heures

7h00 – 07:00 – sept heures

8h00 – 08:00 – huit heures

9h00 – 09:00 – neuf heures

10h00 – 10:00 – dix heures

11h00 – 11:00 – onze heures

12h00 – 12:00 – midi (noon)

How to indicate the minutes:

10h10 – dix heures dix (deez-err dee)

6h25 – six heures vingt-cinq (seez-err vahn-sah-nk)

2h52 – deux heures cinqante-deux (sah-nk-ahnt dew)

How to indicate the half hour and the quarter hours:

1h15 – il est une heure et quart

2h30 – il est deux heures et demie

3h45 – il est trois heures moins le quart

Number pronunciations 1 through 19 can be heard here.

Thanks to About French for the .wav files!

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