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Telling the time in French - AM vs PM

You've already learned Telling the time in French - simple. In this lesson we'll see how to use the 24-hour clock and to differentiate between AM and PM in French.  

In France you will often hear the twenty-four hour clock used, as such:

Il est vingt heures.
It's eight PM.

​The fact is that, when there's no risk of confusion between AM and PM, French people use both 12-hour and 24-hour clocks interchangeably:

On se rejoint à cinq heures.
Let's meet at five.

On se rejoint à dix-sept heures.
Let's meet at five.


-> You know you're probably not meeting at 5AM!

​However, when there is risk of confusion between AM and PM, you will either use the 24-hour clock, OR add precisions like du matin (in the morning)de l'après-midi (in the afternoon) and even du soir (in the evening, starting around 6PM), after the 12-hour clock time.

Il est six heures du soir.
It is six PM.

Il est dix-huit heures.
It is six PM.

Il est six heures du matin.
It is six AM.

Il est trois heures et demie de l'après-midi.
It is three-thirty PM.

Il est trois heures et demie du matin.
It is half past three in the morning.

​​Il est quinze heures trente.
It is three-thirty PM.


-> Note that in French you use trente rather than et demie with "above 12" times, probably for pronunciation (and elegance) reasons.

Il est quatre heures et quart de l'après-midi.
It is quarter past four PM.

Il est quatre heures et quart du matin.
It is quarter past four in the morning.

Il est seize heures quinze.
It is quarter past four PM.


-> Note that in French you use quinze rather than et quart with "above 12" times, probably for pronunciation (and elegance) reasons.

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

On se rejoint à cinq heures.
Let's meet at five.


On se rejoint à dix-sept heures.
Let's meet at five.


​​Il est quinze heures trente.
It is three-thirty PM.


Il est seize heures quinze.
It is quarter past four PM.


Il est vingt heures.
It's eight PM.


Il est quatre heures et quart du matin.
It is quarter past four in the morning.


Il est quatre heures et quart de l'après-midi.
It is quarter past four PM.


Il est trois heures et demie du matin.
It is half past three in the morning.


Il est dix-huit heures.
It is six PM.


Il est six heures du matin.
It is six AM.


Il est six heures du soir.
It is six PM.


Il est trois heures et demie de l'après-midi.
It is three-thirty PM.


Q&A

Paul

Kwiziq community member

17 March 2018

1 reply

quinze rather than et quart trente and rather than et demie with "above 12" times

Paul

Kwiziq community member

17 March 2018

17/03/18

"probably for pronunciation (and elegance) reasons", and also because the convention (at least in English) to always say the numbers when using the 24-hour clock. e.g. 15:15 is fifteen fifteen, never fifteen and a quarter, or a quarter past fifteen. 

Beverley

Kwiziq community member

19 February 2018

7 replies

7:40 or Twenty to eight?

Have I mistakenly learned that you can say either  "Il est sept heures quarante." or "Il est huit heures moins vingt." for "It is seven forty." or "It is twenty to eight."

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

19 February 2018

19/02/18

Bonjour Beverley !


Just like in English, you can use either interchangeably, as their meaning is similar.

Beverley

Kwiziq community member

20 February 2018

20/02/18

Thank you.  I questioned it because I used minutes past in one of the kwizzes instead of moins and it was marked wrong.  When I looked at the lesson it didn't mention minutes past.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

5 March 2018

5/03/18

Bonjour Beverley !


Could you clarify what you mean when you say "it didn't mention minutes past" in the lesson?
I'd be happy to improve the lesson if needed, but I'm not sure what you meant by that :)

Beverley

Kwiziq community member

5 March 2018

5/03/18

I did an A1 Kwiz and the question was to translate "It is quarter past nine."  My answer was "Il est neuf heures quinze."  That was marked wrong.  It said the answer should be "Il est neuf heures et quart."  I clicked on "Explain this" and it took me to a lesson called "Telling the time in French - simple."  Sorry, other minutes past were given as examples, but not quinze.  


My main concern was that the A1 question was marked wrong and the lesson/explanation didn't really explain why.  I am actually working at B2 level, but I continue to test myself regularly at other levels.  I was at 100% at A1 and that incorrect answer significantly lowered my percentage and it took a lot of effort to get it back to 100%.


It had also happened with moins, but I'm sorry, I can't trace that kwiz now as I can't remember the level.

Beverley

Kwiziq community member

5 March 2018

5/03/18

I've just discovered, it was the same lesson.  In the minutes  past, it only goes as far as 25 past.  It then goes on to talk about moins.  Perhaps a little addition to the minutes past might help.  However, it would still help if I had an explanation of why "IL est neuf heures quinze" was incorrect.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

6 March 2018

6/03/18

Bonjour Beverley !


Thank you for this clear response :)


The answer is actually that when it comes specifically to "15" minutes, you will always really use "et quart" in French, quite similarly to English when you wouldn't really say "it's fifteen past two" but rather "it's quarter past two".
For all other minutes, it works as in English :)


Would you find it useful to add this precision to the main lesson?


Cordialement

Beverley

Kwiziq community member

6 March 2018

6/03/18

Yes please.  Thank you for your time.

Jennifer

Kwiziq community member

20 August 2017

1 reply

Il est sept heures et demie du matin.

Why is this sentence not correct?

Jennifer

Kwiziq community member

20 August 2017

20/08/17

Forget it please. I realise the question was about pm

Ajit

Kwiziq community member

18 July 2017

1 reply

Will "Il est dix à sept heures du matin' a valid translation for " It is ten to seven A.M."?

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

18 July 2017

18/07/17

Bonjour -

No, the correct way to say that is Il est sept heures moins dix - see the lesson: https://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/my-languages/french/view/308

Gary

Kwiziq community member

10 January 2017

3 replies

The French seem very formal with time. Do they ever just say " it is ten fifteen?"

Il est dix quinze.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

10 January 2017

10/01/17

Bonjour Gary !

No, in French, you cannot omit "heure(s)" when telling the time: it would sound too vague (ten fifteen what?).
It's the same as when you give your age, you cannot omit "ans" for similar reasons.

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Gary

Kwiziq community member

10 January 2017

10/01/17

Thanks for answer. The answer " ten fifteen " would not be vague if the question was " what is the time ?" Very common usage in Australia. Same for " how old are you?" " 30 ". Anyway, an interesting theme. C'est la vie!

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

11 January 2017

11/01/17

Yes, that's the beauty of the English language :)

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