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February 21st was an International mother language day.
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 is challenging to learn; they are just slightly different.
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||
|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|
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.
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:
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.’
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.
This phrase we use in all other times since it is the plural form of the verb ‘to be’ that is, ‘ser.’
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 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.
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)
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
· 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
In cases when you want to tell the 30th minute of an hour, you can’t say treinta- thirty, but only ‘media’- half.
Sons las séis y media- It’s 6:30.
You can’t say ‘ Son las séis y trenta’ is not correct.
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.
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:
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
Anteayer- the day before yesterday
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
Mas o menos/ Alrededor- About
Or Es alrededor la una.
Or Son alrededor las tres.
En punto- exactly on the hour.
… Y poco- a bit
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 either visit some YouTube Spanish channels or speak with native Spanish speakers. Read this article once more and make them believe you are telling the time as a native one, so choose one of our Spanish tutor in the following link:
A. ¿Que hora es? Fill in with necessary words or the whole sentences:
B. Write down the time both in analog and digital time:
Use the 24-hour clock and the following phrases: it’s morning/afternoon/evening.
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