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French Language – Time and Temperature Posted by on Jan 7, 2020 in Language

What better time than the beginning of a new year (and the beginning of l’hiver / winter)1See this earlier post for the names of the other seasons. to talk about the time and the weather. My colleagues here at Transparent Language have covered some of this before, so think of this week as a review … with some helpful tips and new vocabulary.

C’est l’heureIt’s time

As Elizabeth taught us way back in 2016le temps can mean both the time and the weather. My copy of Le Petit Larousse gives 15 different definitions of the word temps. The first 14 all relate to time. Only the last mentions anything weather related! Oddly enough though, we say Quelle heure est-il? when we want to ask What time is it? and Quel temps fait-il? to ask What’s the weather? (and as per the heading for this section, c’est l’heure when we want to say it’s time).

Il y a 24 heures dans une journée2See this post for a review of key “time related” vocabulary words.

One of the things I always liked in France was how they use what we would call here in the US military time. Based on a 24-hour clock, military time makes it easy to know if you’re talking about the morning or afternoon/evening. Where the US “restarts the clock” at noon, in France they just keep counting.

See here for an overview of the basics of telling time in French. And remember: up to the half hour you count up from the last hour (9:10 a.m. = neuf heures dix, 5:20 p.m. = dix-sept heures vingt), and that after the half hour you count down (generally) the next hour (9:35 a.m. = dix heures moins vingt-cinq / ten minus 25, 8:50 p.m. = vingt-et-une heures moins dix / twenty-one (or nine p.m.) minus ten).

Quel temps fait-il?

While the French expressions of time use the verb être, talking about la météo (the weather) requires us to use the verb faire. Here are some useful expressions for replying when someone asks you le temps (vs. l’heure, in which case, as described above, they’re asking you for the time!)

En hiver

Il fait froid.It is cold.

Il neige.It is snowing.

En été

Il fait chaud. / It’s hot.

Il fait du soleil.It is sunny.

Au printemps

Il pleut.3From the verb pleuvoir.It is raining.

En automne

Il fait du vent. / It is windy.

En général

Il fait beau. / It’s nice.

Il fait mauvais. / It’s not nice.

If you want to follow the weather from France, check out this YouTube channel for Météo France pour les prévisions (the forecast). You will hear lots of expressions in the future proche since they are generally talking about the weather to come.

And speaking of it being time … 

C’est l’heure des soldes d’hiver! (It’s time for the winter sales!) Like the soldes d’été, the winter sales take place over a fixed time and for a fixed duration. This year’s shorter four-week period starts demain (tomorrow), January 8, in most of France. But in one region, near the Franco-Luxembourgeois border, les soldes ont déjà commencé  (the sales have already begun)! While the dates used to be set at the department level as this older post describes, since May of 2019, the dates are set at the national level … but exceptions are still made for regions that border countries where competition from earlier sales could negatively impact local sellers (or for regions in the south who want to capture the every sought-after tourist dollar … euh, Euro!)

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris


  1. Marie-Line:

    Blog tres interessant, merci!
    Attention: faute de grammaire
    les soldes ont déjà commencés
    Il n’y a pas de s au participe passe “commence” puisqu’il n’y a pas de COD qui precede.