How to Tell Time in Spanish (Our Simple and Easy Approach)

How to Tell Time in Spanish (Our Simple and Easy Approach)

Did you know that the most commonly asked question in the world is ‘What time is it’?

Knowing to tell time is essential for many reasons.

First of all, it is a part of everyone’s language learning journey.

Then it’s a popular conversation starter.

And lastly, it is used when you want to know the time.

Once you learn to tell time in Spanish and master it, you will sound like a real native speaker.

In the next following lines, you will find several useful tips and alternative ways on how to tell time in Spanish.

None of them are challenging to learn; they are just slightly different.

Numbers from 1 to 60 (before you learn how to tell time in Spanish)

Before you learn to tell time, it is essential to know numbers, especially the ones from 1 to 60.

Here they are:

1 - uno/una

16 - dieciséis

31 - treinta y uno

46 - cuarenta y séis

2 - dos

17 - diecisiete

32 - treinta y dos

47 - cuarenta y siete

3 - tres

18 - dieciocho                 

33 - treinta y tres

48 - cuarenta y ocho

4 - quatro

19- diecinueve

34 - treinta y quatro

49 - cuarenta y nueve

5 - cinco

20 - viente

35 - treinta y cinco

50 - cincuenta

6 - seis

21 - vientiuno

36 - treinta y séis

51 - cincuenta y uno

7 - siete

22 - vientidos

37 - treinta y siete

52 - cincuenta y dos

8 - ocho

23 - vientitres

38 - treinta y ocho

53- cincuenta y tres

9 - nueve

24 - vientiquatro

39 - treinta y nueve

54 - cincuenta y quatro

10 - diez

25 - vienticinco

40 - cuarenta

55 - cincuenta y cinco

11- once

26 - vientiséis

41 - cuarenta y uno

56- cincuenta y séis

12 - doce

27 - vientisiete

42 - cuarenta y dos

57 - cincuenta y siete

13 - trece

28 - vientiocho

43 - cuarenta y tres

58 - cincuenta y ocho

14 - catorce

29 - vientinueve

44 - cuarenta y quatro

59 - cincuenta y nueve

15 - quince

30 - treinta 

45 - cuarenta y cinco

60 - sesenta

 

¿Qué hora es?

This question usually starts the conversation when you want to find out what time it is.

The question in Spanish is: ‘¿Qué hora es?’, which is translated into English as ‘What time is it?’

If you want to be polite and ask a stranger about the time, you should use the following sentence: ‘Disculpe ¿me puede decir la hora?’, or ‘Disculpe ¿qué hora es?’

You can also use the informal sentence ‘¿Qué tiempo/hora tienes?’, but you won’t make a mistake if you use the well-known ‘Que hora es?’.

Interesting fact: In some parts of Latin America, although rarely, you may hear the phrase ‘¿Que horas son?’

Please note that there is a big difference between the two phrases, ‘¿Que hora es?’ and ‘ ¿Tienes hora?’. The first phrase is now understandable, but you can’t use the second one to ask what time is it. The second phrase can be translated as ‘ Do you have the hour?’ literally.

¿A que hora….? - At what time?

If you want to ask “at what time” in Spanish, the question “¿Qué hora es?” will be slightly modified by adding the preposition “A” at the beginning as in ‘¿A qué hora…?’- What time do….’

This way, you can ask things like ¿A qué hora nos vamos? - What time are we leaving?’  or ¿A qué hora te levantas?- What time do you get up?’.

The answer(s) is/are simple: ‘Nos vamos en unos 30 minutos.- We are leaving in about 30 minutes’, and ‘Yo me levanto a las siete de la mañana- I get up at 7 o´clock’.  

Here are two more examples:

  • Tengo mi clase de Espanol a la siete.- I have my Spanish lesson at 7 o’clock.
  • Nos encontramos a la cinco?- Shall we meet at 5 o’clock?

How to tell time in Spanish with whole hours

To say the time in Spanish, we use the verb ‘ser,’ or in English, the verb ‘to be.’

It is the only verb you use to tell the time.

The vital information for us now is to see the difference between using es la, which means ‘ it is,’ and son las, that can be translated as ‘ they are.’

Es la- It is

As the translation itself says, the verb ‘ser’ is singular, we use ’es la’ when we want to say that it is one o’clock.

Example: 

  • Que hora es?
  • Es la una- It is one o’clock.

Son las- They are

This phrase we use in all other times since it is the plural form of the verb ‘to be’ that is, ‘ser.’

Example:

  • Que hora es?
  • Son las dos- It’s two o’clock.
  • Or: Son las cinco- It’s five o’clock.

We use the above mentioned when we want to tell the time using whole hours, such as one, two, five, seven, etc.

Do not forget that the verb ‘ser,’ that is, ‘son’ and ‘es’ goes before the time. The feminine article ‘la’ or ‘las’ goes before the number because it is referring to the noun ‘hora,’ which is feminine.

Noon and midnight

Noon and midnight are, just like the previous example, whole hours. However, as in English, there is a difference in Spanish as well.

Es mediodía- It’s noon.

Es medianoche- It’s midnight.

 

The reason why we don’t use ‘es la’ or ‘son los’ is that these two terms are used when telling the time in numbers, such as one, six, seven, etc. 

Noon and midnight are not numbers, even though they are whole hours; therefore, we use this slightly different method.

Using hours and minutes

Telling the time when using hours and minutes is a bit different than in English

There are two ways of telling the time in Spanish:

1. If we want to tell the time in the first half of the hour, that is, until the 29th minute, we simply use numbers.  

Hora (hour)+y+minutos (minutes)

For example:

Son las séis i siete.- It’s 6:07

Son las diez y vienteséis- It’s 10:26

Son las onze y ocho- It’s 11:08

2. If we want to tell the time in the second half of an hour, after the 30th minute, we need to use the verb ‘ser’ in the correct form, ‘es la’ or ‘ son las’ depending on the hour we want to use. Then the word ‘menos’- minus is followed, and the number of minutes that remained until the following hour. 

Es la/Son las+hora+menos +minutos

For example:

  • Son las ocho menos cinco- It’s 7:55 because there are 5 minutes until eight o’clock.
  • Son las once menos/para diez- It’s 10:50
  • Es la una menos siete- It’s 12: 53
  • Es la una menos viente- It’s 12:40

Or the other way:

Son+ minutos+para+ hora

For example:

  • Son cinco para las ocho.- It’s 7:55.
  • Son diez para las once.- It’s 10:50.
  • Es siete para la una.- It’s 12:53.
  • Es viente para la una.- It’s 12:40.

30 minutes- media

In cases when you want to tell the 30th minute of an hour, you can’t say treinta- thirty, but only ‘media’- half. 

For example:

Sons las séis y media- It’s 6:30.

You can’t say ‘ Son las séis y trenta’ is not correct.

15 minutes- cuarto

If you want to tell 1:45, you should better use ‘cuarto’- quarter instead of ‘quince’- fifteen.

Even though both ways are grammatically correct, Spanish speakers would rather use the first one.

So the example in Spanish would be:

Son las dos menos quarto.- It’s 1:45.

AM or PM

Unlike English, Spanish people don’t use AM or PM when telling the time.

Instead, they rather use ‘mañana’- morning, ‘tarde’- afternoon, or ‘noche’- evening. 

It is essential to mention that in English speaking countries, it is reasonable to talk about the evening at around 6 o’clock. In Spanish speaking countries, however, you should talk about the evening, that is ‘ de la noche’ from around 8 o’clock.

 

In the following examples, you will see how they emphasize that it is AM or PM.

 

Es la una de la mañana. - It’s one o’clock in the morning.

Son las tres de la tarde- It’s three o’clock in the afternoon.

Son las ocho de la noche- It’s eight o’clock in the evening.

 

Since you’ve now undoubtedly mastered telling the time, we give you extra help in the several following lines by sharing some interesting and useful phrases about time:

Times of the day

El mediodía- midday

La medianoche- midnight

La madrugada- the middle of the night

El amanecer- Dawn

De la manana- In the morning

De la tarde- In the afternoon

De la noche- In the evening

General time phrases

Ayer- yesterday

Anteayer- the day before yesterday

Hoy- Today

Mañana- Tomorrow

Pasado mañana- The day after tomorrow

La semana pasada- Last week

Esta semana- This week

Finde, or fin de semana- The end of the week

La próxima semana- The next week

El mes pasado- Last month

Este mes- This month

El próxima mes- The following month

Día por medio- Every other day

Semana por medio- Every other week

Mes por medio- Every other month

Año por medio- Every other year

Some useful phrases

Mas o menos/ Alrededor- About

Example: 

  • Es la una y media mas o menos- It’s about 1:30.

Or Es alrededor la una.

  • Son las tres de la tarde mas o menos- It’s about three o’clock in the afternoon.

Or Son alrededor las tres.

 

En punto- exactly on the hour.

Example:

  • Son las quatro en punto.- It’s exactly four o’clock
  • Son las cinco y viente de la tarde en punto.- It’s exactly 5:20 in the afternoon.

… Y poco- a bit

Example:

  • Son las ocho y poco- It’s a few minutes past 8.
  • Es la una y poco.- It’s a few minutes past 1.

Additional phrases for being late

No matter if you know how to tell or ask for the time, if you are late, we can’t promise that the other person would forgive you. However, we can help you with the phrases that explain your lateness.

 

Estoy illegando tarde.- I’m running late.

Perdón por la demora.- Sorry, I’m late.

Estoy illegando, or Estoy de camino,- I’m on my way.

No illego.- I can’t make it.

 

We hope you find this article helpful. To be more than supportive, in the following lines, we’ve prepared several exercises about telling time in Spanish.

If you want to listen to native speakers you can try some Online video courses or Online Spanish classes.

Exercises

A. ¿Que hora es? Fill in with necessary words or the whole sentences:

 

  1. Es la ______________. - It’s one o’ clock
  2. Es ______________________. - It’s noon.
  3. __________________________. - It’s 3:30
  4. ______________menos_______- It’s 6:45.
  5. ___________para ___________. - It’s 5:40.

B. Write down the time both in analog and digital time:

  1. 2:05
  2. 3:50
  3. 11:15
  4. 08:30
  5. 07:00

 Use the 24-hour clock and the following phrases: it’s morning/afternoon/evening.

Keys:

A.

  1. Es la una.
  2. Es mediodía.
  3. Son las tres y media.
  4. Son las seis menos quatro.
  5. Son viente para los cinco.

B.

  1. Son las dos y cinco.
  2. Son las tres y cincuenta/ Son las quatro menos diez.
  3. Son las once y cuarto/ quince.
  4. Son las ocho y media.
  5. Son las siete.

Feel like learning more Spanish? There are many ways to expand your Spanish vocabulary!
Here are some very effective tools to learn more Spanish.

The language learning app Babbel - A convenient way to learn Spanish wherever you go.

Online video courses on Coursera.com - Dive deeper into Spanish. You can go from beginner to expert with only one course.

Online Spanish Classes at Lingoda.com. - Learn Spanish by speaking to Native Spanish speakers.

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