French Clock Time, Days and Months Vocabulary

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This section deals with how to tell time in French. In it, we also focus on the days of the week as well as months of the year

We all are aware (or should be) of how time permeates almost anything we do. Even our time of earth evolves through time.

We just wouldn't be able to set meetings, hold birthday parties, commomerate anniversaries if it was not for our divisions of time into hours, minutes, seconds, days, months, years, etc. Time is that important. 

In this section, you will learn the two ways of expressing clock time in French. You will also learn the various days of the week as well as months of the year. 3-2-1...GO!

1. A Few Notes on Telling the Time in French

1.1 Asking for the time

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1. quelle heure est-il?

What time is it?

Quelle heure est-il à Madrid? / What time is it in Madrid?

2. il est quelle heure?

What time is it ?

Il est quelle heure à Barcelone./ What time is it in Barcelona?.

3. vous avez l'heure?

Do you have the time?

Vous avez l'heure de Paris?/ Do you have the time of Paris?

4. vous n'auriez pas l'heure?

Would you happen to have the time?

Vous n'auriez pas l'heure, s'il vous plait? / Would you happen to have the time, please?

5. vous ne sauriez pas l'heure?

Would you happen to know the time?

Excusez-moi, madame, mais vous ne sauriez pas l'heure, s'il vous plait? / Excuse me, Miss, but would you happen to know the time, please?

1.2 Answering with [il est...(+ heure)] / (it is...+ time)

  1. We use [il est...] (it is.../ it's...) to say what time it is at the time we're speaking.
  2. We use [il était...] (it was...) to say what time it was at a give moment in the past.
  3. We use [il sera...] (it will be...) to say what time it will be at a give moment in the future

Check the examples below:

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6. il est... (+ heure)

It is... (+time)

Il est trois heures./ It is three o'clock.

7. il était... (+ heure)

It was... (+time)

Il était trois heures il y a cinq minutes./ It was three o'clock five minutes ago.

8. il sera... (+ heure)

It will be... (+time)

Il sera trois heures dans cinq minutes./ It will be three o'clock in five minutes.

1.3 AM vs PM

Since in English you won't normally use the 24-hour clock, you will usually add AM or PM to a time to differentiate between the morning hours and the afternoon/evening hours. --> For example 9 AM (in the morning) vs 9 PM (in the evening) OR 2 AM (in the morning) vs. 2 PM (in the afternoon)

In French, there exist three differentiators of this kind, not just two (AM/PM). See, French time can be divided into matin, après-midi et soir. You'd say, for example, "3 heures du matin" (3 AM) to distiguish it from "3 heures de l'après-midi" (3 PM). And you'd say "8 heures du soir" (8 PM) to differentiate it from "8 heures du matin" (8 AM).

Now, I know your next question would be: "Herman, at what time does du matin turns into de l'après-midi and , de l'après-midi into du soir? Here' are a few simple rules.

  1. Use "du matin" for hours between 1 AM till 11:59 AM - Don't worry about 12:00 (midnight) now. I devote an entire section to it further below. 
  2. Use "de l'après-midi" for hours comprised between 12:00 (midday/noon) and 6:00ish in the evening, basically, at dusk -- when the sun sets (no daylight hours).
  3. Use "du soir" for hours comprised between 6:00ish in the evening until 12:00 (midnight)

9. du matin

...in the morning

Caroline arrivera à cinq heures du matin./ Caroline will arrive at 5 in the morning.

10. de l'après-midi

...in the afternoon

Caroline arrivera à cinq heures de l'après-midi./ Caroline will arrive at 5 in the afternoon.

11. du soir

...in the evening

Caroline arrivera à huit heures du soir./ Caroline will arrive at 8 in the evening.

2. Official (Military) Time vs. Civilian Time

As shown above in the previous section, In French you can add du matin / de l'après-midi / du soir after the time to avoid confusion about what part of the day this time is referring to. 

We call this way of telling the time the civilian time mainly because this time uses the 12-hour cycle. But there is more to it, as you will see below.

You can also give the time in French using the 24-hour cycle, also called official time OR military time.  When you use the official time, there's no need to add du matin / de l'après-midi / du soir after the time.

2.1 Official time (or military time)

Also called military time, the official time is based on the 24-hour time cycle.

    • It is generally used at train stations, airports, radio stations, television broadcast. 
    • The biggest advantage in using the military/official time is that it suppresses any riskof confusion between AM or PM and vice versa.
    • In other words, use military/official time in French if you wish to give the time accurately.
    • Official/military time has been adopted conventionally between most countries as a way to indicate time in official records

Down below, you can learn how to read the official (military) time in French. Now, off to civilian time.

2.2 Civilian time

Civilian time is based on the 12-hour time cycle. (Duh, who would have thought?) The way you read it can be a little different from its official/military counter-part. As its appelation suggests, civilian time is, well, not used in official situations, that is, in the military, TV/Radio broadcasts, stations, etc. Instead, the main usage of civilian time happens between individuals during (mostly) informal/casual situations. It will be fairly correct to say that civilian time is more-frequently used that military time in day-to-day interactions between individuals.

3. Giving the Time

3.1 Saying "O'clock" times (- -:00) in civilian time

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12. une heure du matin/de l'après-midi

1:00 AM/PM

Il est une heure du matin./ It is 1:00 AM.

13. deux heures du matin/de l'après-midi

2:00 AM/PM

Il est deux heures de l'après-midi./ It is 2:00 PM.

14. trois heures du matin/de l'après-midi

3:00 AM/PM

Il est trois heures du matin./ It is 3:00 AM.

15. quatre heures du matin/de l'après-midi

4:00 AM/PM

Il est quatre heures de l'après-midi./ It is 4:00 PM.

16. cinq heures du matin/de l'après-midi

5:00 AM/PM

Il est cinq heures de l'après-midi./ It is 5:00 PM.

17. six heures du matin/du soir

6:00 AM/PM

Il est six heures du matin./ It is 6:00 AM.

18. sept heures du matin/du soir

7:00 AM/PM

Il est sept heures du soir./ It is 7:00 PM.

19. huit heures du matin/du soir

8:00 AM/PM

Il est huit heures du soir./ It is 8:00 PM.

20. neuf heures du matin/du soir

9:00 AM/PM

Il est neuf heures du matin./ It is 9:00 AM.

21. dix heures du matin/du soir

10:00 AM/PM

Il est dix heures du matin./ It is 10:00 AM.

22. onze heures du matin/du soir

11:00 AM/PM

Il est onze heures du soir./ It is 11:00 PM.

3.2 Expressing 12:00 in 4 different ways

Official/Military time for 12:00 (noon)

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23. il est douze heures

It is 12:00 PM (Noon)

Je dois m'en aller; il est douze heures./ I must be on my way. It is 12.

Official/Military time for 12:00 (midnight)

24.

il est zéro heure

It is 12:00 (Midnight)

Il est zéro heure et le programme télé est maintenant terminé./ It is 12 midnight and the TV program is now over.

Civilian time for 12:00 (noon)

25. il est midi

It is noon

Je déjeune à midi./ I have lunch at noon.

Civilian time for 12:00 (midnight)

26.

il est minuit

It is midnight

Tu dois aller au lit. Il est minuit./ You must go to bed. It is midnight.

3.3 Saying "O'clock" times (--:00) in official/military time

For convenience (i'm feeling lazy), we will only list below the military time from 13:00 (1:00 PM) until 23:00 (11:00 PM). The hours between 01:00 (1:00 AM) and 11:00 (11:00 AM) are already explained to you in the previous section [3.1]. All you need to do to obtain them is just remove "du matin"/ "de l'après-midi" and "du soir" from the civilian time for all the hours in that range. 

For example, "il est trois heures du matin" (civilian time) will be "il est trois heures" in military/official time. 

As for 12:00 (noon/midnight), please refer to section 3.2 above. 

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27. treize heures

1:00 PM

Il est treize heures./ It is 1:00 PM.

28. quatorze heures

2:00 PM

Il est quatorze heures./ It is 2:00 PM.

29. quinze heures

3:00 PM

Il est quinze heures./ It is 3:00 PM.

30. seize heures

4:00 PM

Il est seize heures./ It is 4:00 PM.

31. dix-sept heures

5:00 PM

Il est dix-sept heures./ It is 5:00 PM.

32. dix-huit heures

6:00 PM

Il est dix-huit heures./ It is 6:00 PM.

33. dix-neuf heures

7:00 PM

Il est dix-neuf heures./ It is 7:00 PM.

34. vingt heures

8:00 PM

Il est vingt heures./ It is 8:00 PM.

35. vingt-et-une heures

9:00 PM

Il est vingt-et-une heures./ It is 9:00 PM.

36. vingt-deux heures

10:00 PM

Il est vingt-deux heures./ It is 10:00 PM.

37. vingt-trois heures

11:00 PM

Il est vingt-trois heures./ It is 11:00 PM.

3.4. Giving the time in between hours

  1. Accuracy is what we're after when using the official/military. Consequently, expressing the minutes ranging from 01-59 is not unusual at all. For examples, saying times such as 12:48 / 1:24 / 22:17, is rather common when using the official/military time. 
  2. With the civilian time, minutes are generally given in multiples of 5 after --:00. So using the three official hours given above as examples, people would generally say: 12:50 / 1:25 / 2:20.  

Now, here are some examples of times with minutes increased in increments of 5.

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38. il est trois heures cinq de l'après-midi (3h05)

03:05 PM

La leçon commence à trois heures cinq de l'après-midi./ Class begins at 03:05 PM.

39. il est midi dix (12h10)

12:10 PM

On arrivera à midi dix./ We'll arrive at 12:10 PM.

Note: I am skipping --:15, --:30 and --:45 of the civilian time. I will devote a special section to them below. Be sure to check it out.

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40. il est onze heures vingt (11h20)

11:20 AM

Que fais-tu à onze heures vingt?/ What do you do at 11:20 am?

41. il est huit heures vingt-cinq du soir (8h25)

08:25 PM

Le film commence à huit heures vingt-cinq du soir./ The movie starts at 8:25 PM.

Note: In civilian time, when the minutes hand is located AFTER the half past + hour, you start counting the minutes through substraction. Therefore, 09:40 will expressed as 20 minutes to (the next hour) 10 O'clock--> In french, you will say "dix heures moins vingt" (literally, 10 O'clock minus/less 20 minutes)

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42.

il est onze heures moins vingt-cinq

10:35 AM

Il doit s'en aller à onze heures moins vingt-cinq./ He has to leave at twenty-five to eleven (10:35).

43.

il est onze heures moins vingt

10:40 AM

Je me réveille à onze heures moins vingt./ I wake up at 10:40 AM.

44.

il est trois heures moins dix

02:50 AM

Le bar ferme à trois heures moins dix./ The bar closes at ten to three.

45.

il est dix heures moins cinq

09:55 AM

Le match commence à dix heures moins cinq./ The game starts at 9:55.

"a quarter past.../ "half past..." / "a quarter to..."

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46.

...et quart

a quarter past ...

Il est six heures et quart du matin./ It is a quarter past six in the morning.

47.

...et demie

half past...

Il est six heures et demie du matin./ It is half past six in the morning.

Note: demie  takes an E at the end because the French word "hour" is feminine and thus, half of it, "demi" need to take an E for the gender agreement to happen. Likewise, "midi et demi" (half past noon) will NOT take any final E because the word "midi" is masculine, so its half (demi) will also remain masculine.

48.

...moins le quart

a quarter to...

Il est sept heures moins le quart du matin./ It is a quarter to seven in the morning.

4. A Few Tips on French Tips

NoteWhen giving civilian time, there are four French numbers/hours whose pronunciations change quite considerably depending on whether or not they are followed by another word. These numbers are 2, 6, 9 and 10. I provide some examples to help you master their pronunciations. 

4.1 Pronunciation variations for some hours

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49. deux heures

two o'clock

Je suis né à deux heures deux./ I was born at two past two.

50. six heures

six o'clock

Je suis né à six heures six./ I was born at nine past nine.

51. neuf heures

nine o'clock

Je suis né à neuf heures neuf./ I was born at nine past nine.

52. dix heures

ten o'clock

Je suis né à dix heures dix./ I was born at ten past ten.

4.2 Some common time expressions in French

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53. heure(s) pile

(time)...sharp; (time)...on the dot

Il est trois heures pile./ It is 3 o'clock sharp.

54. heure(s) précises

(time) ...sharp; (time) on the dot

Il est huit heures précises./ It is 8 o'clock sharp.

55. presque (+ heure)

almost + time

Il est presque neuf heures./ It's almost nine.

56. de quelle heure à quelle heure?

from what time to what time?

La boutique est ouverte de quelle heure a quelle heure?/ The shop is open from what time to what time?

57. à quelle heure?

At what time?

A quelle heure viendras-tu?/ At what time will you arrive?

5. Talking about Days

5.1 The seven days

NoteIn English, the first letter of the names of days are always capitalized like this: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. In French, though, they must remain lower case (unless they start a sentence). 

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58. lundi

Monday

Je ne travaille pas ce lundi./ I do not work this Monday.

59. mardi

Tuesday

Que fais-tu mardi?/ What are you up to this Tuesday?

60. mercredi

Wednesday

J'ai cours de maths le mercredi./ I have Math on Wednesdays.

61. jeudi

Thursday

Le patron a un calendrier chargé ce jeudi./ The boss has a busy schedule this Thursday.

62. vendredi

Friday

Je te rendrai visite vendredi après-midi./ I will pay you a visit on Friday afternoon.

63. samedi

Saturday

Travailles-tu le samedi?/ Do you work on Saturdays?

64. dimanche

Sunday

Nous irons à la plage dimanche matin./ We'll go to the beach on Sunday morning.

5.2 Types of days

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65. jour ouvrable (m)

Working/Business day

Lundi est un jour ouvrable./ Monday is a working/business day.

66. jour férié (m)

Public holiday

Le 14 juillet est un jour férié en France./ July 14th is a public holiday in France.

67. le weekend

Weekend

Que fais-tu ce weekend?/ What are you up to this weekend?

68. l'anniversaire

Birth date; Date of birth

Ma fête d'anniversaire aura lieu demain./ My birthday party will take place tomorrow.

69. l'anniversaire de (+ évènement)

Anniversary [day] of... (+ event)

C'est le jour d'anniversaire de notre mariage./ It's the anniversary (day) of our marriage.

70. le jour de naissance

Day of birth

Mardi est mon jour de naissance./ Wednesday is my day of birth.

71. la date de naissance

Birth date; Date of birth

Quelle est votre date de naissance ?/ What is your date of birth?

5.3 Asking about the day and date

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72. quel jour sommes-nous?

What day is it?

Le prof demanda: "quel jour sommes-nous" aujourd'hui?/ The teacher asked: "What day is it today?"

73. quelle est la date (d')aujourd'hui?

What day is it?

Le prof demanda: "quelle est la date aujourd'hui"?/ The teacher asked: "What's the date today?"

5.4 Giving the day and date in French

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Giving only the day: To answer the question "Quel jour sommes-nous aujourd'hui?"

74. être le (+ jour)

Today is (+ day)

Nous sommes le dimanche aujourd'hui./ Today is Sunday.

Giving only the date: To answer the question "Quelle est la date aujourd'hui?"

75. être le (+ date)

Today is (+ date)

Nous sommes le 4 aujourd'hui./ Today is the 4th.

Giving the full date

76. être le (+ jour + date + année)

Today is (+ day + date + year)

Nous sommes dimanche, 4 janvier, 2010./ Today is Sunday, January 4th, 2010.

6. The 12 Months of the Year

6.1 The (official) winter months

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77. décembre

December

On célèbre la Noël en décembre./ Christmas is celebrated in December.

78. janvier

January

Il neige au Canada en janvier./ It snows in Canada in January.

79. février

February

Février est le mois le plus court./ February is the shortest month.

Now let's learn the French word for "winter" and see two examples of it in sentences

80. l'hiver (m)

Winter

L'hiver est la saison la plus froide/ Winter is the coldest season.

81. en hiver

in winter

l fait froid en hiver./ It is cold in winter.

6.2 The (official) spring months

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82. mars

March

Anna est née en Mars./ Anna was born in March.

83. avril

April

L'année scolaire commence en avril au Japon./ The school year starts in April in Japan.

84. mai

May

On célèbre la St Patrick en mai./ St Patrick's Day is celebrated in May.

Now let's learn the French word for "spring" and study two examples of it in sentences

85. le printemps

Spring

J'aime le printemps./ I like spring season.

86. au printemps

in spring

Il fait beau au printemps./ It is nice in spring.

6.3 The (official) summer months

87. juin

June

L'examen aura lieu en juin./ The exam will take place in June.

88. juillet

July

On part en vacances en juillet./ We'll be going on vacation in July.

89. août

August

Mon ami est né en août./ My friend was born in August.

Now let's learn the French word for "summer" and study two examples of it in sentences

90. l'été (m)

Summer

L'été est une saison ensoleillée./ Summer is a sunny season.

91. en été

in summer

Il fait très chaud en été./ It is very hot in summer.

6.4 The (official) fall/autumn months

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92. septembre

Septembre

Mes cours reprennent en septembre./ My classes resume in September.

93. octobre

October

Je suis né en octobre./ I was born in October.

94. novembre

November

Il neige déjà en novembre dans cette région./ It already snows in December in this region.

Now let's learn the French word for "fall/autumn" and study two examples of it in sentences

95. l'automne (m)

Fall / Autumn

J'aime les couleurs de l'automne./ I like the colors of autumn.

96. en automne

in fall / in autumn

Les feuilles des arbres tombent en automne./ The tree leaves fall in autumn.

I hope you'll find this vocabulary list on French time, days and months useful. As always, you can write to me at any time. I will be happy to send you a reply as soon as possible. 


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