From months to minutes - talking about time in French

The clocks are about to change and a new month is just around the corner! The year is going by so quicky!


Being able to accurately talk about the time in French could mean the difference between catching a train or not, whether living in France or on holiday in France. So just to make sure you're not left standing on the platform, let's recap on how to talk about the time in French!

Une époque / à l'époque - An age or era / back  in the day or at the time

De nos jours / à notre époque - Nowadays

Au temps de... - At the time of...

D'antan - Of yesteryear

Un siècle / fin du siècle / au tournant du siècle- A century / end of the century / at the turn of the century

Cent ans - One hundred years (accurate)

Une centaine d'années / des centaines d'années - A hundred years (round about) / hundreds of years

Une décennie / des décennies - A decade, decades

Un an - One year

Une année / toute (au long de) l'année - A year / all year (round)*

En deux mille dix-huit... - In 2018...

En mille neuf cent dix-huit... - In 1918...

Il y a (très) longtemps - A (very) long time ago

Les années passent vite! - The years fly by!

Le temps passe lentement - Time passes slowly

Au fil du temps - Over time

Les saisons - The seasons

Le printemps / au printemps - The spring / in spring

L'été / en été - The summer / in summer

L'automne / à l'automne - The autumn or the fall / in autumn

L'hiver / en hiver - The winter / in winter

Un mois / tous les mois / chaque mois - A month / every month / each month

Une semaine / dans une semaine - A week / in a week

Un jour / une journée - One day / a day or daytime*

Bonjour / (passez une) bonne journée - Hello (greeting) / (have a) good day (departure)*

Quel jour sommes nous? / On est quel jour? - What day is it today?

Un calendrier / un agenda / un planning - A calendar / a diary / a schedule

Les mois  - The months

janvier - January
février - February
mars - March
avril - April
mai - May
juin - June
juillet - July
août - August
septembre - September
octobre - October
novembre - November
décembre - December

Les jours - Days of the week

lundi - Monday
mardi - Tuesday
mercredi - Wednesday
jeudi - Thursday
vendredi - Friday
samedi - Saturday
dimanche - Sunday

Important point: when writing in French, resist the temptation to capitalize the first letter of the months and days, unless it is the first word in your sentence. The French only use capitals for proper nouns (names of people and places or organisations and businesses). So it's la France but le français!

Aujourd'hui - Today

Demain - Tomorrow

La veille - The eve or day before

Le lendemain  - The next day

A la fin (de la semaine / du mois) - At the end of (the week / the month)

Le mois prochain - Next month

Mi-semaine - Midweek

Le week-end - The weekend


Aujourd'hui, on est le samedi 28 mars - Today it's Saturday the 28 March

Mercredi prochain on sera le 1er avril - Next Wednesday will be April 1st

(The first day of the month is followed by er, but the other days of the month are indicated by number alone)

A l'aube - At dawn

Au coucher du soleil - At sunset

Le matin / la matinée - The morning / the morning time*

Un or une après-midi - An afternoon (can exceptionally take masculine or feminine form!)

Le soir / la soirée - The evening / the evening time*

Bon soir / (passez une) bonne soirée - Good evening (greeting) / (have a) good evening (departure)*

La nuit - Night time

Bonne nuit - Good night

Une heure / dans une heure - An hour / in an hour

Un quart d'heure - A quarter of an hour

Une demi-heure - Half an hour

Un minute - A minute

Une seconde / en quelques secondes - A second / in a few seconds

A midi - At midday

A minuit - At midnight

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

Il est .... heures - It is ... o'clock

ll est trois heures moins le quart - It's a quarter to three in the morning

Il est une heure et quart - It's a quarter past one in the morning

Il est huit heures vingt (du matin / du soir) - It's twenty past eight (in the morning / evening)

Il est seize heures trente - It's half past four in the afternoon

Il est quatre heures et demie - It's half past four in the morning

Il est midi/minuit moins cinq - It's five to midday / midnight (like on the clock in the centre of the picture!)

A vingt heures dix... - At ten past eight or 8.10pm


Important notes: The French generally talk about the time in 24-hour terms, so 8pm would be vingt heures. You could, however, say huit heures du soir and this would be fine, whereas huit heures on it's own, whilst ambiguous, would more probably be understood to mean 8 in the morning.

That means that when you write the time in digits you need to use the 24-hour clock. Where we might write 8.10pm, the French would write 20h10, 7.40am would be 7h40 and so on. Very important for reading the train timetable!


Lastly, one thing the French never do is mix the 24-hour clock and the 12-hour clock. So you can't say seize heures et quart: you have to say either seize heures quinze or quatre heures et quart (de l'après-midi).


Now try to put a time to all the other clocks in the photo!

So now it just remains for us to wish you une très belle journée and we hope to see you successfully catching the train to Gourdon soon!

* The feminine form implies the whole period of time rather than a point in time or unit of time, so un jour, deux jours, trois jours..., as opposed to nous avons passé une journée très agréable. Le matin on mange le petit déjeuner as opposed to on se promène toute la matinée.


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