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  20.1.2 time data in connection with prepositions

We already know that some prepositions are combined with the definite article. So we find this kind of combination in front of time dates as well because in time dates the definite article is compulsory in Italian. The definite article l' / le refers to the hour. The definite article is normally used when we talk about something well defined (I want the bicycle <=> I want a bicycle). In the context of the time data this meaning is completely lost, it is just an idiomatic expression and this article is not used in this context in all the romance languages, it is not used for instance in French.

French: Il est neuf heures quinze.
Spanish: Son las nueve y quinze.
Italian: Sono le nove e quindici.
English: It is a quarter past nine.

So there is no need to find the definite article logical in this context, but we have to accept that it is compulsory to put it.

time data in combination with prepositions  
Lui non verrà prima delle sei. = He doen' t come before six o' clock.
Dalle tre fino alle sei fa la siesta. = From three to six he makes siesta.
Sarà in casa fino alle cinque e mezzo di pomeriggio. = He is going to be at home until half past five.
Il film comincia alle otte di sera. = The film starts at eight o' clock in the evening.

Once again: The article refers to the hours, but the hours is not pronounced nowadays.

Lui non verrà prima delle (ore) sei.

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