Telling Time Notes

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Quelle heure est-il? (What time is it?)

Part 1:

If the big hand is on the 12 (:00):

  • Il est une heure. (It is 1:00.)
  • "heure" is only for when the hour is one, when the hour turns to two, it changes to "heures".
  • Il est deux heures. (It is 2:00.)
  • Il est sept heures. (It is 7:00.)

If the big hand is past the 12, but before the 6 (:01-:30):

  • 3:05 (for example)
  • Start the same way:
  • 3:05 (Il est trois heures...)
  • Then add the number of minutes it is after the hour:
  • 3:05 (Il est trois heures cinq.)
  • 5:10 (Il est cinq heures dix.)
  • 12:23 (Il est douze heuresvingt-trois.)
  • 1:25 (Il est une heure vingt-cinq.)

"Special Times":

  • quarter past (et quart)
  • 9:15 (Il est neuf heures et quart.)
  • half past (et demie)
  • 10:30 (Il est dix heures et demie.)

(YOU MUST KNOW THIS!!) Quelle heure est-il? (What time is it?)

Part 2:

If the big hand is past the 6, but before the 12 (:31-:59): The pattern changes!

Instead of thinking, "Hmm...How many minutes is it AFTER the hour?", you must think, "Hmm...Hmm...How many minutes is it UNTIL THE NEXT HOUR?"

It's a two step process:

Step 1: Write how many minutes it is until the NEXT hour.

  • 6:50- 10 minutes of 7

Step 2: Write out the time.

  • 6:50 (Il est sept heures moins dix). (moins = minus)

Make sure you put the hour first, and the minutes at the end. (In class I have you draw a criss-cross from step 1 to step 2, so check someone's notes from your class.)

  • Some examples:
  • 10:40- Step 1: twenty minutes of eleven
  • Step 2: Il est onze heures moins vingt.
  • 5:35- Step 1: twenty five minutes of six
  • Step 2: Il est six heures moins vingt-cinq.
  • 8:42- Step 1: eighteen minutes of nine
  • Step 2: Il est neuf heures moins dix-huit.
  • 2:57- Step 1: three minutes of three
  • Step 2: Il est trois heures moins trois.

"Special Time":

  • quarter of (moins le quart)
  • 9:45 (Il est dix heures moins le quart.)
  • 10:45 (Il est onze heures moins le quart.)

(DON'T FORGET TO STUDY THIS!!!!!) Quelle heure est-il? (What time is it?)

Part 3: A.M./P.M., etc.

12:00 A.M. (midnight) until 11:59 A.M. (right before noon):

  • In French there is no abbreviation like our A.M. or P.M. Instead they say "in the morning".
  • du matin (in the morning)
  • You use this for all A.M. times.
  • You just tack du matin onto the end of the time:
  • 5:10 A.M. (Il est cinq heures dix du matin.)

12:01 P.M. (just after noon) until dusk (when it gets dark):

  • They say "in the afternoon".
  • de l'après-midi (in the afternoon)
  • You just tack de l'après-midi onto the end of the time:
  • 4:40 P.M. (Il est cinq heures moins vingt de l'après-midi.)
  • You use this for afternoon times (until dusk). Keep in mind that it gets dark earlier or later, depending on the time of year.

Dusk until midnight:

  • They say "in the evening".
  • du soir (in the evening)
  • You just tack du soir onto the end of the time:
  • 11:30 P.M. (Il est onze heures et demie du soir.)


  • Il est midi. (It is noon.)
  • Il est minuit. (It is midnight.)