Telling time in French - simple

In this lesson, we will focus on how to express 12-hour clock times, and how to say half past, quarter to/past, ...

Look at these examples:

Quelle heure est-il ?What time is it?

Quelle heure il est ?What time is it?

Il est dix heures.It is ten o'clock.

Il est cinq heures.It is five o'clock.

Il est une heure.It is one o'clock.


Note that to say it is + [time], you use Il est + [heure] (NEVER c'est).

You also always need heure(s) after the number, except for midnight and noon:

Il est minuit.It is midnight.

Il est midi.It is noon.
 

Half past [hour] = [heure] et demie

Il est six heures et demie.It is half past six.

Il est trois heures et demie.It is half past three.

To express half past, you add et demie after number [heure(s)], EXCEPT for minuit and midi:

Il est minuit et demi.It is half past midnight.

Il est midi et demi.It is half past noon.
 

Quarter past / quarter to [hour] = [heure] et quart / moins le quart

Il est sept heures et quart.It is quarter past seven.

Il est minuit et quart.It is quarter past midnight.

Il est cinq heures moins le quart.It is quarter to five.

Il est midi moins le quart.It is quarter to twelve. (noon)

To express quarter past and quarter to, you add et quart (past) or moins le quart (literally minus the quarter) after number [heure(s)].  

 

[minutes] past [hour] = [heure] [minutes]

Il est trois heures vingt.It is twenty past three.

Il est onze heures cinq.It is five past eleven.

Il est neuf heures vingt-cinq.It is twenty-five past nine.

To express [minutes] *past* [hour], you simply add the number of minutes (cinq, dix,...) AFTER number [heure(s)].  


[minutes] to [hour] = [heure] moins [minutes]

Il est huit heures moins dix.It is ten to eight.

Il est sept heures moins cinq.It is five to seven.

Il est une heure moins vingt-cinq.It is twenty-five to one.

To express [minutes] *to* [hour], you simply add  moins + [number of minutes] (Literally minus five, minus ten...) AFTER number [heure(s)]

See also the more advanced lesson on how to use the 24-hour clock and differentiate between AM and PM in French:  

Telling time in French - AM vs PM

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Examples and resources

Il est dix heures.It is ten o'clock.
Il est une heure.It is one o'clock.
Il est minuit et demi.It is half past midnight.
Il est minuit.It is midnight.
Il est onze heures cinq.It is five past eleven.
Il est midi moins le quart.It is quarter to twelve. (noon)
Il est cinq heures moins le quart.It is quarter to five.
Il est six heures et demie.It is half past six.
Il est midi.It is noon.
Il est cinq heures.It is five o'clock.
Il est neuf heures vingt-cinq.It is twenty-five past nine.
Quelle heure est-il ?What time is it?
Il est huit heures moins dix.It is ten to eight.
Il est sept heures moins cinq.It is five to seven.
Il est sept heures et quart.It is quarter past seven.
Il est midi et demi.It is half past noon.
Il est minuit et quart.It is quarter past midnight.
Il est une heure moins vingt-cinq.It is twenty-five to one.
Il est trois heures et demie.It is half past three.
Il est trois heures vingt.It is twenty past three.
Quelle heure il est ?What time is it?
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