Additional French Time Patterns ?

Patrick Andries patrick.andries at
Fri May 1 12:45:15 CDT 2015

About : (Date & 
Time Patterns)

It has been a long time since I thought I should mention that I find the 
time patterns for French a bit too simplistic and English-like.

Well, it really depends what the patterns are used for. I wonder how 
CLDR could offer more flexibility to French localizers so that they 
could easily use different time formats from the current ones, if they 
so wish. "Traditional French time patterns", let me call them.

For hours indicated on schedules (in front of churches, on train time 
table, on a log, in correspondence, etc.), the 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 SNCF (French Railways) :, 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".


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