Hi all! Salut à tous !

Today I'd like to share a simple lesson and probably one of the most basic one: telling the time. It's simple, yet it needs some practice to get the hang of it, thus the free exercise sheet to download at the bottom of the article! =)

C'est parti!

1) When it's "o'clock":

The most important thing to remember is that French uses a 12h and a 24 hours clock. Let me explain: If it's 1pm you can either call it "1h" or "13h". See? In the event that you prefer to use the 12h clock (which is less formal), you will have to replace "am / pm" by "du matin" (=of the morning), "de l'après-midi" (=of the afternoon) or "du soir" depending on the time of the day. If you want to insist that the time is "o'clock" or "sharp", simply add "pile."


2 o'clock = deux heures pile

2 a.m. = Deux heures du matin.

2 p.m. = Deux heures de l'après-midi

8 p.m. = Huit heures du soir.

Exceptions: for "in between" times such as 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m. if you hesitate between afternoon or evening, just pick one depending on the daylight.

For example in winter, 5 p.m. is already dark, therefore => nighttime

In summer 5 p.m. is still very bright, therefore => daytime

2) Past + minutes:

To refer to the minutes past a certain time, just like in English, we cut the 60mn from an hour to the next into to: the 30 first minutes and the 30 minutes before the next hour.


7:20 = Il est sept heures vingt.

7:40 = Il est huit heures moins vingt.

Note that it is perfectly fine to simply say "seven forty" = sept heures quarante. But the first is certainly more common.

3) By quarters:

8:15 = Huit heures et quart

8:30 = Huit heures et demie

8:45 = Neuf heures moins le quart

or Huit heures quarante cinq

=> Both are valid and do not reflect a particular level of language.

4) Vocabulary:

a.m. = du matin (literally "of the morning")

p.m. = de l'après midi ("of the afternoon"), du soir ("of the night"

12 a.m. (nighttime) = minuit

12 p.m.= midi

=>Don't ever say something like "zéro heure" ("douze heure" is ok, but not as clear as midi / minuit, better avoid it.)

=> You can combine midi / minuit with anything except the expressions of time, since the formula would become redundant.

12:30 p.m. = midi et demie

12:05 a.m. = minuit cinq

5) Ask for the time:

What time is it? = Quelle heure est-il?

It's two thirty pm = Il est deux heures et demie de l'après-midi.

That's it for today! I hope you find this lesson valuable If you like it, please help me out a little and share it with the world! =)

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