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CLDR Ticket #8503(accepted data)

Opened 2 years ago

Last modified 20 months ago

Change default short time pattern for French

Reported by: patrick@… Owned by: fredrik
Component: datetime Data Locale: fr
Phase: rc Review:
Weeks: Data Xpath:


About : http://demo.icu-project.org/icu-bin/locexp?d_=en&_=fr (Date & Time Patterns)

I believe the current short form (HH:mm) in French is not the most common. Typographical reference books and common good quality web sites (French railways for instance, see bleow) attest to it.

The short time format should be (without seconds) :

12 h 54

the longer time format (with seconds and fractions of sections) :


The medium form would thus be left untouched (HH:mm:ss).

It would be nice if alternate short time formats (traditional with "h" vs [American] technical with ":") could be supported, but if the short form can be modified this would be less of an issue.

For hours indicated on schedules (in front of churches, on train time table, on a log, in correspondence, etc.), the generally recommended way is to write "10 h 20" or "23 h 15", for instance. My spell checker (Antidote) always reminds me of this when I quote an email message and suggests me to change English styled times (12:34) into French styled times (12 h 34).

It is a bit different for running time displayed very quickly to show, for instance, the precise elapsed time. There, we have got accustomed to formats like 18:28:38,8365 (best with a comma decimal separator), but it is not the original French format (see below).

Admittedly, not all sources agree on the precise usage (zero suppression for instance and what to do when seconds are mentioned).

But here is an overview of some typographical style guides :
Sources :

See "heure" entry in Lexique des règles typographiques en usage à l'Imprimerie nationale (Paris, France). "Le train de 8 h 47". I can quote more from/scan the page if necessary.

See entries "402 Durée" (4 h 04) "412 Heure" (8 h 17, 11 h, 0 h 15, 17 h 07' 02 zero suppressed in duration it says there : 93 h 3 ' 8) in Guide du typographe roman (Lausanne, Switzerland).

See entry "écritures des heures" in Le Ramat de la typographie (Saint-Lambert, Québec, Canada). Usage is to use "h" with hours every time date is written in letters : le 1er mai 1997 à 16 h 05". Suggests writing 06:00 or even 0600 for time tables (air plane leaving at such a time). For durations: 6 h 5 min (with the leading zero suppressed).

See http://reseauaffairesplus.com/francisation/regles-d-usage/redaction/-criture_de_l-heure-.html

See SNCF (French Railways) : http://www.voyages-sncf.com/billet-train/horaires, although it is missing a space before and after the "h". But are computer generated strings a reference ? ;-) I only mention this very popular web site to show that this usage is alive and not "obsolete".

In fact, I don't recall the ":" notation in European French before computers started printing time tables for the public or displaying it on computers. In old paper « Indicateur des chemins de fer » (train schedules) in France, the separator between hours and minutes was in fact often a space or the minutes were put insuperscript. Most of the rest of the time, just a period : "12.32" as in the two links below for Belgium. The space or period convention were (are ?) also used in the Netherlands.

This being said, recently train schedules in Belgium are using the default American styled ":" , but notice in the picture below how the delay is written with the 'h' notation (+0h26 in red)...

(link removed to avoid this ticket being flagged as spam)

Spaces and periods as common separators in Time tables in French speaking Europe :

(links removed to avoid this ticket being flagged as spam)

It is true that in some context (flight schedules, in international settings) the ":" is mentionned by one typographical style guide (Ramat, see above). Ramat also says that if the day of the week appears in full then the "h" notation should be used: "mercredi 13 h 15" thus.

Now this is what Ramat and the Public Works of Canada site say, but the Quebec government site officially dealing with the French language says that the general format is "HH ' h ' mm" but it may *sometimes* be represented, for instance, in time tables as HH:mm.

«L'heure peut parfois être représentée de façon entièrement numérique, par exemple dans les horaires des gares ou des aéroports. On se sert alors des deux-points pour séparer les heures et les minutes. »

(link removed to avoid this ticket being flagged as spam)

This would suggest to me that the default is HH ' h ' mm and in some contexts (« sometimes ») HH:mm. But, arguably, this is debatable in a Canadian context.

The other style guides above (French and Swiss) don't even mention at all the ':' format, they only speak about the format with an ' h ' as separator.

The ' 20 h 15' format is quite common for schedules in Europe.

(Removing the many links below as this ticket is being flagged as spam..., see message on the cldr-users list for the actual links).

Film festival schedules :

Library :

Cinema/Movie theatre :

Bus :


Change History

comment:1 Changed 2 years ago by mark

  • Status changed from new to accepted
  • Cc pedberg, sasanb, kristi added
  • Priority changed from assess to major
  • Phase changed from dsub to rc
  • Milestone changed from UNSCH to 28
  • Owner changed from anybody to fredrik

Fredrik is going to investigate.

comment:2 Changed 21 months ago by emmons

  • Component changed from unknown to datetime

comment:3 Changed 20 months ago by emmons

  • Milestone changed from 28 to 28roll

Moving all outstanding 28 tickets to 28roll. We will discuss disposition of these at the next CLDR TC.


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