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I'm having trouble understanding telling time

Let's say it's 6:30. I'd say "Il est six heures et demie". But if it's 6:35, would I say "Il est six heures trente cinq" or "Il est sept heures moins vingt cinq"? At what time do I stop saying it's 6:XX and start saying it's 7:00 - XX?

February 10, 2018



Hello Chirres! You can say both "Il est six heures trente-cinq" or "Il est sept heures moins vingt-cinq". You also can say "Il est six heures cinquante-neuf" or "Il est sept heures moins une". You can start to say 7:00- after 6:30. I hope I have been helpful ;-) Have a lovely weekend Chirres!!


You can say both but we say fluently : 7:00 minus 05 (cinq) or 10 (dix) or 15 (quart) or 20 (vingt). I hope that'll help you :)


et demie = + 30 minutes

et quart = + 15 minutes

moins le quart = - 15 minutes


It is easiest to speak in the 24 hour clock. Il est dix-huit cinquante-cinq → it is 6.55 pm. I worked in computers so I am very used to the 24 hour clock. It is very easy to establish the time. From 1am to midday it is simply the hour, eg 3h = 3am, 11h = 11am. Then after midday you add the hour to 12.

Example → 12 + 6 = dix-huit + cinquante-cinq (55) = 6:55pm.
If you need to convert 24h time back after midday simply minus 12 from the hour.

Example vingt-trois quarante → 23 - 12 = 11, therefore it is 11:40pm.

Plus, you can tell the time very accurately this way.

  • 2042

just a little note, it should be 18 - 12 otherwise you get wrong results, for example: 24 - 17 = 7 (it should be 5 = 17 - 12)


Oops - you are right. Thanks for pointing it out - I meant to say 12 + the hour after midday → eg 12 + 10 = 22 h. That's what happens when you respond half-asleep. I've edited my post. Merci encore☺


Technically you can probably go up to -30, but in spoken French, I rarely hear people saying anything more than -20. Numbers with only one syllable sounds normal and are easy to mentally calculate (moins seize) but once you start getting into two syllable things (moins dix huit, moins vingt trois) it sounds a little clunky and is used less often, plus you have to do more mental math :P


Hence why I said the 24 hour clock is the easiest and most accurate way to tell time as all that anyone who is unfamiliar with it has to do is subtract 12 from any time from 13 heures up until 23 heures. Midnight (zéro heures) is clearly 12 am. The minutes are then given like in general numbers.

Il est cinq heures douze → It is 5:12 am
Il est vingt et une heures quarante-neuf → It is 9:49 pm


Sure, but I was responding to what was asked and since French people will still use the moins quart etc. way of telling time, no harm knowing what conventions are.

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