In this lesson, you will focus on how to express 12-hour clock times, and how to say half past, quarter to/past, ...
How to say the time in French
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.
To express it is [time], you use:
Il est + [heure]
Attention: You never use c'est.
Note that you always need the word heure(s) after the hour number, except for midnight and noon:
Il est minuit.It is midnight.
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 use:
[number of hours] + heure(s) + et demie
Il est minuit et demi.It is half past midnight.
Il est midi et demi.It is half past noon.
Note that you don't use trente.
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, you use:
[number of hours] + heure(s) + et quart
Note that you don't use quinze.
To express quarter to, you use:
[number of hours] + heure(s) + moins le quart
Note that you don't use quarante-cinq.
[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 use:
[number of hours] + heure(s) + [number of minutes] (cinq, dix,...)
[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 use:
[number of hours] + heure(s) moins + [number of minutes] (cinq, dix,...)
You literally say "one hour minus five, five hours minus ten...".
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 - 24-hour clock rules = AM vs PM
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