French Essentials For Dummies
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When making plans, appointments, and travel arrangements in French-speaking countries, you need to be able to state dates and other calendar terms in French. Knowing how to say and understand dates, the days of the week, and the months of the year can help you to avoid confusion.

Days of the week and months

The days of the week (les jours de la semaine) aren’t capitalized in French.

lundi (luhn-DEE) (Monday)
mardi (mahr-DEE) (Tuesday)
mercredi (mehr-kruh-DEE) (Wednesday)
jeudi (juh-DEE) (Thursday)
vendredi (vahn-druh-DEE) (Friday)
samedi (sahm-DEE) (Saturday)
dimanche (dee-MAHNSH) (Sunday)

Like the days of the week, the months of the year (les mois de l'année) aren’t capitalized in French.

janvier (zhahng-VYAY) (January)
février (fay-VRYAY) (February)
mars (mahrs) (March)
avril (ah-VREEL) (April)
mai (meh) (May)
juin (zhwang) (June)
juillet (zhwee-YAY) (July)
août (oot) (August)
septembre (set-TAHMBR) (September)
octobre (ock-TOHBR) (October)
novembre (noh-VAHMBR) (November)
décembre (day-SAHMBR) (December)

When you’re writing a date in French, you put the numbers in a different order than you would if you were writing it in English. Start with the day, then write the month, and then the year. For example, to express September 27, 2006, you would write 27/9/06 instead of 9/27/06.

Telling time

The time of day can be described in general terms or specific times. You can use the follow words to describe the general time of day.

le matin (morning)
l’après-midi (afternoon)
le soir (evening)
la nuit (night)
le jour (day)
midi (noon)
minuit (midnight)
aujourd’hui (today)
hier (yesterday)
demain (tomorrow)

When you want to know a specific time of day, you can ask Quelle heure est-il ? (What time is it?). Although we usually leave off the ‘o’clock’ when we say a specific time, you must always include the heure (hour/time) when expressing a specific time in French. The only real exception to this is midi (noon) or minuit (midnight).

When expressing time between the hours, use the following terms to break things down.

l’heure (hour/time/clock/watch)
minute (minute)
seconde (second)
et demie (half past)
et quart (quarter past)
moins le quart (quarter till)
moins dix (10 till [literally: minus 10 minutes])

The French generally express time using a 24-hour clock. So, 4 p.m. would be seize heures (16 hours). However, you can use du matin (in the morning) and du soir (in the evening) if you want to express time using the standard 12-hour clock.

You can use the following phrases as a guide when talking about time in French.

  • Avez-vous une minute? (Do you have a minute?)

  • Avez-vous l’heure? (Do you have the time?)

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

  • Il est tard. (It’s late.)

  • Il est tôt. (It’s early.)

  • Il est huit heures du matin. (It’s 8 in the morning.)

  • Il est midi. (It’s noon.)

  • Il est cinq heures de l’après-midi. (It’s 5 in the afternoon.)

  • Il est sept heures du soir. (It’s 7 in the evening.)

  • Il est sept heures et quart. (It’s a quarter past 7.)

  • Il est sept heures et demie. (It’s 7:30.)

  • Il est huit heures moins le quart. (It’s a quarter to 8.)

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