You've already learned Telling time in French - general 12-hour clock rules. In this lesson we'll see how to use the 24-hour clock and to differentiate between AM and PM in French.
The 24-hour clock 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
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,
- 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.
ATTENTION: nuances to express "quarter past/half past/quarter to"
When the time expressed uses hour numbers under 12 (with either clock), you use et quart/et demie/moins le quart, and not quinze/trente/quarante-cinq.
Il est trois heures et demie de l'après-midi.It is three-thirty PM.
Il est quatre heures et quart du matin.It is quarter past four in the morning.
Il est huit heures et demie.It's half past 8.
Il est onze heures moins le quart.It's quarter to 11.
When the time expressed uses hour numbers above 12 (in the "24-hour clock" -> 13h, 14h...), you use instead 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.
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