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 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.

 ATTENTION:

With the "above 12 o'clock" times (13h, 14h, ...), you don't use et quart, et demie, moins le quart but instead you use quinze, trente, quarante-cinq, probably for pronunciation (and elegance) reasons.

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

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

Il est dix-neuf heures quarante-cinq.
It's quarter to eight PM.

 

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

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.


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 dix-neuf heures quarante-cinq.
It's quarter to eight PM.


Q&A Forum 16 questions, 39 answers

LizB2

Writing times

I answered a time question, ten to seven AM, by writing six heures cinquante du matin and it was marked wrong. This is a correct way to write that time is it not? I know the alt is sept heures moins dix but wanted to express another option. Comments ?

Asked 1 month ago

Mathematically and grammatically it is correct but you're mixing "registers". The part six heures cinquante is more "official", like a radio announcer would say it, and obviates the du matin part. Because the corresponding pm time would be dix-huit heures cinquante and NOT six heures cinquante du soir. So the correct way would be:

Six heures cinquante or sept heures moins dix du matin.

LizB2

So my answer was technically correct but not how it should be said in general conversation even though we use that construction frequently in the US? I just got another time question wrong for presuming it would be obvious that cinq heures trente is 0530 or 5:30 a.m. I’ll answer these time questions to the letter from now on. Thanks very much for your response! 

Yes, you’re right. You say « 5:30 in the morning » in English, but only because you wouldn’t use 17:30 to mean 5:30 in the evening (unless you’re in the military). 

Writing times

I answered a time question, ten to seven AM, by writing six heures cinquante du matin and it was marked wrong. This is a correct way to write that time is it not? I know the alt is sept heures moins dix but wanted to express another option. Comments ?

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

LizB2

I need to be clear in your lessons that you are using only 24 hour time so I don’t make a mistake again. Thanks.

Asked 3 months ago

I need to be clear in your lessons that you are using only 24 hour time so I don’t make a mistake again. Thanks.

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

Why say l'après-midi, when it could never be AM?

Hi Team,

I understand the below rule and it makes perfect sense...

​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)

But, why would one say "Il est quatorze heures de l'après-midi." when there is no risk of confusion here and it would never mean anything other than 2pm in the afternoon anyway?

It seems unnecessarily specific to me, so I chose not to select this option for the question:

What are the ways to SPECIFICALLY say "It is two PM." ?

It's like saying, I'm sunbathing under the sun.

Thanks

Asked 4 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Alexander, 

You only use ‘de l’après-midi' and ‘du matin’ with the 12 hour clock.

The passage you quote ends with “.....after the 12 hour clock time.”

‘Il est vingt-deux heures‘ can only be in the evening.

Hope this helps!

Furthermore, for the question:

What are the ways to SPECIFICALLY say "It is ten PM." ?

After getting the above questions wrong when I didn't select the precision of de l'après-midi (in the afternoon) , I decided that the below option must be acceptable (but it was wrong):

Il est vingt-deux heures du soir.

Hi Cécile,

Thanks for your response :-)

The rule makes sense to me, however the issue I had is that when I was presented with the question...

What are the ways to SPECIFICALLY say "It is two PM." ?

I did NOT select "Il est quatorze heures de l'après-midi." and I got the question wrong and it said that I should have selected this option?Which is contrary to the rule right

CécileKwiziq language super star

If you think there's an error in a quiz, please re-post using the Report it button on your Correction Board as it links directly to the specific quiz and makes it easier for us to answer you...

Why say l'après-midi, when it could never be AM?

Hi Team,

I understand the below rule and it makes perfect sense...

​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)

But, why would one say "Il est quatorze heures de l'après-midi." when there is no risk of confusion here and it would never mean anything other than 2pm in the afternoon anyway?

It seems unnecessarily specific to me, so I chose not to select this option for the question:

What are the ways to SPECIFICALLY say "It is two PM." ?

It's like saying, I'm sunbathing under the sun.

Thanks

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

Quinze heures for three o'clock?

In the question "What are ALL the possible ways to say "It is three o'clock." ?", the answer "Il est quinze heures" was marked as the one I missed. However, in English, "quinze heures" would have been "fifteen o'clock" if we are talking about the "o'clock" format. Therefore, I believe this answer is wrong. 
Asked 7 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Olga,

If it asks you for ALL the possible ways to say ‘it’s three o’clock’,  you would have to include -

‘il est quinze heures’ .

Please note that the French like using the 24 hour clock and that it will sometimes translates as o’clock .

Incidently, the expression means of the clock which means the medium you are getting the time from rather than may be a sundial ...

Quinze heures for three o'clock?

In the question "What are ALL the possible ways to say "It is three o'clock." ?", the answer "Il est quinze heures" was marked as the one I missed. However, in English, "quinze heures" would have been "fifteen o'clock" if we are talking about the "o'clock" format. Therefore, I believe this answer is wrong. 

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

Six heures cinquante?

The question was 

Il est ________ .It's ten to seven AM.

Why was six heures cinquante marked incorrect?

Asked 10 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super star

Hi William ,

Was it in the evening? In which case it would be dix-huit heures cinquante , or sept heures moins dix...

No it was in the morning the question is as shown above
AurélieKwiziq language super star

Bonjour William !

The question is asking specifically to say "it is ten to seven", which is a more complex structure than simply saying "it is six fifty".
It's also much more colloquial to use the "to" structure in French, just like it is in English, hence us testing that specific expression :)

I hope that answers your question :)

Bonne journée !

"dix-huit heures cinquante" for ten seven PM was marked incorrect. Why?

Six heures cinquante?

The question was 

Il est ________ .It's ten to seven AM.

Why was six heures cinquante marked incorrect?

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

I was marked wrong for selecting "Il est deux heures" as one of the choices for "It is 2 p.m."

I did select the other two correct responses. I understand that after noon it goes to military time, but I have also been taught that if you are asking someone for the time in the middle of the day it's obvious that it's not for example 2 a.m., so you would be fine in France to answer that it is 2 p.m. (rather than using military time) Is that incorrect?
Asked 10 months ago

I was marked wrong for selecting "Il est deux heures" as one of the choices for "It is 2 p.m."

I did select the other two correct responses. I understand that after noon it goes to military time, but I have also been taught that if you are asking someone for the time in the middle of the day it's obvious that it's not for example 2 a.m., so you would be fine in France to answer that it is 2 p.m. (rather than using military time) Is that incorrect?

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

IanC1

Telling the time specifically

I was marked wrong for including "Il est dix-neuf heures et demie." as a way of specifically saying "It is 7:30PM. "  Please explain?
Asked 10 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Ian,

If I can be more categorical -

you don't use, et quart , et demie, moins le quart with the 24 hour clock...

Hope this helps!

This is mixing the familiar and the formal ways of telling time. The "et demie" is informal but the "dix-neuf" is formal. So, either say 

dix-neuf heures trente or sept heures et demie du soir

IanC1
Thanks again Chris.
IanC1

Thanks Cecile. It does!

Hi,

"you don't use, et quart , et demie, moins le quart with the 24 hour clock..."

Could you please add this info into the lesson? It is not the best way to find out such information in the comments. 

Regards

AurélieKwiziq language super star

Bonjour Nezih !

This information was already in the lesson, but I agree it didn't pop out as much as it should have.I've now updated the lesson to make it more obvious :)

Bonne journée !

Telling the time specifically

I was marked wrong for including "Il est dix-neuf heures et demie." as a way of specifically saying "It is 7:30PM. "  Please explain?

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

Indicating the time of day

Bonjour Aurelie !

Why is it that when you write time indicating the time of day (i.e. du soir or du matin) that you use "et demie" or "moins le quart" but when writing in 24 hour time you write just the number past so like "trente" or "quarante-cinq" ?

This may not be right but when i was doing the quizzes I often got it wrong because of this and am a little confused to be honest !

Merci 

Asked 1 year ago
With 24h time, i.e., 16:30, you use the proper number instead of demi, etc. When you use 12h time, i.e. 4:30 de l'après-midi, the use demi, etc. is favored.

Indicating the time of day

Bonjour Aurelie !

Why is it that when you write time indicating the time of day (i.e. du soir or du matin) that you use "et demie" or "moins le quart" but when writing in 24 hour time you write just the number past so like "trente" or "quarante-cinq" ?

This may not be right but when i was doing the quizzes I often got it wrong because of this and am a little confused to be honest !

Merci 

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

tell me ten after six

Asked 1 year ago
AurélieKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Bonjour Muhammad !

You'll say Il est six heures dix.

Have a look at our related lesson:
https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/revision/grammar/how-to-tell-the-time-in-french-simple

Bonne journée !

tell me ten after six

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

il est six heure

Asked 1 year ago
AurélieKwiziq language super star

Muhammad, you need to agree "heures" here :)

Il est six heures.

Bonne journée !

il est six heure

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

Using "moins" for minutes to

I thought that between noon and midnight (including midnight), one never used "moins", but always used minutes past.  Or, is midnight perhaps regarded as a.m.?

I can't find it in any lessons which explain this, other than one example in the A1 lesson.  There is no explanation, however.  Can you please explain to me the rule about when you can and cannot use "moins"for minutes to the hour.

Thank you

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Beverley,

For 10 to 9 in the evening , you would say, " Neuf heures moins dix" or "Vingt heures cinquante". But it depends on the situation.

If you are with someone for instance and they ask you the time, you are more likely to use the 12 hour clock as there's no risk of confusion.

If you arrange a meeting with someone it is safer to use the 24 hour clock.

You would say "Neuf heures moins dix DU soir" (not au soir).

Hope this is clearer...

CécileKwiziq language super star

Hi Beverley,

If I have understood your question correctly you can use 'moins' for 'to' , in the 12 hour clock. It is true that you would probably tend to use the 24 hour clock in the afternoon to avoid confusion but for 'midi' and 'minuit' it will be 'moins'.

e.g. Il est midi moins cinq. ( it's five minutes to midday.)

Il est minuit moins vingt. (It's twenty minutes to midnight.)

Hope this answers your question...

Thank you for your answer Cecile. 

I am now clear about midi and minuit.

If I were saying 10 to 9 in the evening, would I say:-

Vingt et un heures moins dix or would I say vingt heures cinquante?

(Could I say neuf heures moins dix au soir?  Although it doesn't sound right to me!)

I teach Beginner French and want to be absolutely accurate.

Absolument!! Merci bien.  Tout est si clair maintenant.  J'ai fait une erreur stupide avec "du soir"

Using "moins" for minutes to

I thought that between noon and midnight (including midnight), one never used "moins", but always used minutes past.  Or, is midnight perhaps regarded as a.m.?

I can't find it in any lessons which explain this, other than one example in the A1 lesson.  There is no explanation, however.  Can you please explain to me the rule about when you can and cannot use "moins"for minutes to the hour.

Thank you

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

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

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Paul,

Indeed, with the 12 hour clock you will use 'et quart', 'et demie'moins le quart etc. but with the 24 hour clock you will use quinze, trente, and quarante cinq.

Just be aware the French love using the 24 hour clock!

"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. 

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

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

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."
Asked 1 year ago
AurélieKwiziq language super star

Bonjour Beverley !

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

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.
AurélieKwiziq language super star

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 :)

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.

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.
AurélieKwiziq language super star

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

Yes please.  Thank you for your time.

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."

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

Il est sept heures et demie du matin.

Why is this sentence not correct?
Asked 2 years ago
Forget it please. I realise the question was about pm

Il est sept heures et demie du matin.

Why is this sentence not correct?

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

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

Asked 2 years ago
LauraKwiziq language super star
Bonjour - No, the correct way to say that is Il est sept heures moins dix - see the lesson: Telling the time in French - simple

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

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

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

Il est dix quinze.
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq language super star
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 !
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!
AurélieKwiziq language super star
Yes, that's the beauty of the English language :)

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

Il est dix quinze.

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

How has your day been?