Tout à l'heure

French expressions analyzed and explained

woman looking at watch next to river
Tim Robberts/Taxi/Getty Images

Expression: Tout à l'heure

Pronunciation: [too tah leur]

Meanings: a moment ago, just now; in a moment, right away

Literal translation: all at the time

Register: normal

Notes: The French expression tout à l'heure refers to a short period of time, but has two opposite meanings: it can refer to a moment in the recent past or in the near future.


   Je l'ai vu tout à l'heure.
   I just saw him a moment ago.

   Je vais le voir tout à l'heure.
   I'm going to see him in a moment.

   À tout à l'heure ! (Informal synonym: À tout !)
   See you soon!

Semi-synonymous expressions

   à l'instant - a moment ago, just now
   This expression can only refer to something in the past.

   tout de suite - immediately, right away

Near homophonous expression: à toute allure - at top speed, full tilt

A native French speaker would never confuse à tout à l'heure and à toute allure, as the vowel sounds [œ] (in heure) and [y] (in allure) are very distinct for them, but for a French student with somewhat shaky pronunciation the sounds are close enough that they might easily be mixed up. (IPA symbols)