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Lesson Transcript

Michael: How do you ask for the time in French?
Aurore: And how do you tell the time?
Michael: At FrenchPod101.com, we hear these questions often. In the following situation, during a school break, Sasha Lee asks her classmate Doriane Dantois about the time. They don't want to be late for their next class. Sasha asks,
"What time is it?"
Sasha Lee: Quelle heure est-il ?
Sasha Lee: Quelle heure est-il ?
Doriane Dantois: Il est trois heures et quart.
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Sasha Lee: Quelle heure est-il ?
Michael: "What time is it?"
Doriane Dantois: Il est trois heures et quart.
Michael: "It's a quarter past three."

Lesson focus

Michael: Knowing how to ask for time, as well as how to tell time, is essential when you're learning French. In this lesson, you will learn how to do both. When asking for the time in French, French people use the word,
Aurore: heure,
Michael: which translates to "time" when referring to the hour. And to ask what time it is, they say,
Aurore: Quelle heure est-il ?
Michael: or "What time is it?"
[Recall 1]
Michael: Let's take a closer look at the dialogue.
Do you remember how Sasha Lee says "What time is it?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Aurore as Sasha Lee: Quelle heure est-il ?
Michael: In French, the word for "time" as referring to the passing of a moment is,
Aurore: temps
Michael: As we have mentioned earlier, the word they use for "time" when asking for the hour or time of the day is
Aurore: heure
Michael: Here, Sasha Lee uses the most common way to ask for time in French, which is also the more formal way of asking for the time. This is also the way you'll ask for the time when talking with a stranger or someone you're not too familiar with. A less formal version would be,
Aurore: Il est quelle heure ?
Michael: It also means "What time is it," although it sounds a little less formal and something you'd want to use only with people you're close to like friends and family. There's another formal variation that you can use instead of the first one. This is
Aurore: Avez-vous l'heure ?
Michael: This means "Do you have the time?" But even this variation has a less formal version, which is,
Aurore: Vous avez l'heure ?
Michael: which also means "Do you have the time?" Now, if you really want to sound highly formal, then you might want to go with this one instead:
Aurore: Auriez-vous la gentillesse de me dire l'heure ?
Michael: Or "Would you be so kind as to tell me the time?"
[Recall 2]
Michael: Now, let's take a look at our second sentence.
Do you remember how Doriane Dantois says "It's a quarter past three."
(pause 4 seconds)
Aurore as Doriane Dantois: Il est trois heures et quart.
Michael: Here, we can see the formula for telling the time in French. First, you say,
Aurore: il est
Michael: and then you place the number equivalent to the hour. In this case, it's "three," or
Aurore: trois
Michael: Next, you add the word for "hour," which is
Aurore: heure
Michael: or, in this case,
Aurore: heures
Michael: since we're dealing with a plural number. We only use the singular for one o'clock. And, speaking of one o'clock, remember to use the feminine singular for one, which is
Aurore: une
Michael: instead of
Aurore: un
Michael: since the French word for hour is feminine. Now, in our example, the time is fifteen minutes past the hour of three o'clock. To say that in French, use the expression "and a quarter," which is
Aurore: et quart.
Michael: For thirty minutes past the hour, use the expression
Aurore: et demie,
Michae: which stands for "and a half," as in
Aurore: Il est dix heures et demie.
Michael: or "It's half past ten." You can also just say the number of minutes after the hour, like this:
Aurore: Il est trois heures quinze.
Michael: or "It's three fifteen." Lastly, "quarter to [hour]" is
Aurore: moins le quart
Michael: But, just like earlier, you can also say the number of minutes after the hour:
Aurore: quarante-cinq.
Michael: So "quarter to five" would either be
Aurore: cinq heures moins le quart
Michael: or…
Aurore: quatre heures quarante-cinq.
Michael: You may also hear French people say something like,
Aurore: Il est huit heures pile,
Michael: which literally translates to "It's exactly eight o'clock."
Aurore: pile
Michael: is a word you would use to give the time when there are no minutes; it's exactly a specific time.
Michael: In this lesson, you learned several ways to ask for the time in French. You also learned how to respond when asked what time it is. Let's take this time to review some of the things we've learned, starting with
Aurore: Quelle heure est-il ?
Il est trois heures et quart.
Michael: "What time is it? It's a quarter past three."
Aurore: Avez-vous l'heure ?
Il est deux heures dix.
Michael: "Do you have the time? It's ten past two."
Aurore: Auriez-vous la gentillesse de me dire l'heure ?
Il est une heure et demie.
Michael: "Would you be so kind as to tell me the time? It's half past one."
Michael: French uses specific words for noon and midnight. You can use these words instead of the word "hour." For instance, if it's already 12 midnight, you can just say
Aurore: Il est minuit. Tout le monde au lit !
Michael: or "It's midnight. Everybody to bed!" You can also say,
Aurore: Il est midi. Il est l'heure de déjeuner.
Michael: "It's twelve noon. Time for lunch." Another point to consider is that when you're using the 12-hour clock, you may need to clarify if it's a.m. or p.m. French uses different expressions for telling time in the morning, afternoon, and evening. For example, if someone is leaving at 7:30 in the morning, you have to make it clear by using,
Aurore: du matin
Michael: which means "a.m." or "in the morning"
Aurore: Il part à sept heures et demie du matin.
Michael: "He leaves at 7:30 a.m." If you're referring to the time in the afternoon, use the expression,
Aurore: de l'après-midi
Michael: which means "p.m." or "in the afternoon."
Aurore: Il fait nuit à cinq heures de l'après-midi.
Michael: "It's dark at 5 p.m." And, finally, when referring to time in the evening, you use the expression,
Aurore: du soir
Michael: which means "in the evening" or "at night."
Aurore: Ils dînent à huit heures du soir.
Michael: "They ate dinner at 8 in the evening."
Cultural Insight/Expansion
Michael: While it's more common in French to express time using the 12-hour clock, there might be occasions that you will need to use the 24-hour format. Using this format is quite simple since all you need to do is add. All you need to remember is that the 24-hour clock begins at 12 a.m., or,
Aurore: zéro heure
Michael: which literally means "zero hour." It then ends at 11:59, or
Aurore: 23h59
Michael: Now, to abbreviate a time in French using the 12-hour clock, just add the letter "h" after the hour instead of a colon like in English. When using the 24-hour clock, French people write a period instead. For example, if the time is one in the afternoon, they say,
Aurore: treize heures
Michael: or "thirteen hours." That's written as the number thirteen followed by a period and two zeros. This is like saying "thirteen hundred hours" in English.
And because it's clear in the 24-hour clock that all times after twelve noon are p.m., there's no need for you to use expressions like
Aurore: du matin
Michael: or "a.m." and
Aurore: de l'après-midi
Michael: or "p.m."


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Aurore: À bientôt !
Michael: See you soon!