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French grammar - Telling the time - Quelle heure est-il ?

Telling the time - Quelle heure est-il ?

Telling the time in French uses the impersonal il with the verb etre.

When talking about the time of day we use l'heure ('hour'), not le temps - le temps refers to periods or durations of time.

The word heure is feminine so we use quelle when asking the time.

In French you always have to say heure when telling the time, except when saying midi ('noon') and minuit ('midnight').

While it is usual to tell the time by saying X heures et Y (minutes) we also have:

et le quart for 'quarter past'

et demie for 'half past'

moins le quart for 'quarter to'

The French, like most Europeans, use the 24 hour clock. So 3 p.m. is 15h and 2:15 a.m. is 2h15.

Note that you should avoid using demie, le quart and moins le quart when using the 24 hour clock.

It is not uncommon to use the 12 hour clock and du matin for a.m. and de l'après-midi or du soir for p.m.

Quelle heure est-il ?
What time is it?

Literally 'which hour is it?'

Il est une heure.
It is one o'clock
Il est deux heures.
It is two o'clock
Il est trois heures et quart.
It is a quarter past three.
Il est quatre heures et demie.
It is four thirty.

demi (adj) means 'half'

The feminine demie is used because l'heure is feminine

Il est cinq heures moins le quart.
It is quarter to five

quart (m) means 'quarter'

Il est quatre heures quarante-cinq.
It is four forty-five
Il est cinq heures dix.
It is ten past five.
Il est sept heures moins dix.
It is ten to seven.
Il est six heures cinquante.
It is six fifty.
Il est sept heures vingt.
It is seven twenty.
Il est neuf heures moins vingt.
It is twenty to nine.
Il est huit heures quarante.
It is eight forty.
Il est huit heures du matin.
It is eight in the morning (8 a.m.).

matin is masculine so du

Il est cinq heures de l'après-midi.
It is five in the afternoon (5 p.m.)

the gender of après-midi is undefined but de l' because it begins with a vowel

Il est dix-sept heures.
It is seventeen hours (17h)
Il est huit heures du soir.
It is eight in the evening (8 p.m.)
Il est vingt heures.
It is twenty hours (8 p.m.)
Il est midi.
It is noon.
Il est minuit.
It is midnight.
Avez-vous le temps ?
Do you have the time?

Asking someone the time.

Est-ce que vous avez l'heure, s'il vous plaît ?
Do you have the time, please?
À quelle heure est le concert ?
What time is the concert?
Le concert est à huit heures du soir.
The concert is at eight o'clock in the evening.
À quelle heure a lieu la réunion ?
What time does the meeting take place?
À quelle heure vous êtes-vous réveillé ?
What time did you wake up?
Quelle heure était-il quand nous avons mangé ?
What time was it when we ate?
Cinq heures et demie, c'est trop tôt pour le dîner.
Five thirty is too early for dinner.
Le train arrive vers 21h.
The train arrives around 9 p.m.

vers means 'about' or 'towards'