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 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.


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.


Q&A

Alexander

Kwiziq community member

18 April 2019

4 replies

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

Alexander

Kwiziq community member

18 April 2019

18/04/19

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.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

19 April 2019

19/04/19

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!

Alexander

Kwiziq community member

19 April 2019

19/04/19

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

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

22 April 2019

22/04/19

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...

Olga

Kwiziq community member

21 January 2019

1 reply

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. 

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

21 January 2019

21/01/19

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 ...

William

Kwiziq community member

14 November 2018

4 replies

Six heures cinquante?

The question was 

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

Why was six heures cinquante marked incorrect?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

15 November 2018

15/11/18

Hi William ,

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

William

Kwiziq community member

15 November 2018

15/11/18

No it was in the morning the question is as shown above

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

19 November 2018

19/11/18

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 !

Stephen

Kwiziq community member

5 December 2018

5/12/18

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

Nicole

Kwiziq community member

25 October 2018

0 replies

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?

Ian

Kwiziq community member

23 October 2018

6 replies

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?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

23 October 2018

23/10/18

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

Ian

Kwiziq community member

23 October 2018

23/10/18

Thanks again Chris.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

23 October 2018

23/10/18

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!

Ian

Kwiziq community member

23 October 2018

23/10/18

Thanks Cecile. It does!

Nezih

Kwiziq community member

14 April 2019

14/04/19

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

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

22 April 2019

22/04/19

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 !

Lucinda

Kwiziq community member

12 September 2018

1 reply

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 

Chris

Kwiziq community member

14 September 2018

14/09/18

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.

Muhammad

Kwiziq community member

31 July 2018

1 reply

tell me ten after six

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

31 July 2018

31/07/18

Bonjour Muhammad !

You'll say Il est six heures dix.

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

Bonne journée !

Muhammad

Kwiziq community member

31 July 2018

1 reply

il est six heure

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

31 July 2018

31/07/18

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

Il est six heures.

Bonne journée !

Beverley

Kwiziq community member

9 July 2018

4 replies

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

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

11 July 2018

11/07/18

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...

Beverley

Kwiziq community member

11 July 2018

11/07/18

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.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

13 July 2018

13/07/18

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...

Beverley

Kwiziq community member

13 July 2018

13/07/18

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

Paul

Kwiziq community member

17 March 2018

2 replies

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. 

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

30 May 2018

30/05/18

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!

Thinking...