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Learning to Tell Time in Spanish

Learn Spanish: Telling Time in Spanish | The Spanish Clock

This learn Spanish grammar lesson is how to tell time in Spanish. Expressing the hour in Spanish is not that difficult if you are already know how to say one through thirty in Spanish. If not, learn it here. Note that in most Spanish-speaking countries, if not most countries outside of the United States, time is expressed in what is known as military time, which is described below, using the 24-hour clock.

The most common question is, "What time is it?" This can be expressed in one of two ways:

1) ¿Qué hora es? (literally: What hour is it?)
2) ¿Qué horas son? (literally: What hours are there?)

Soon you will see why there are two ways to say what time is it.

To answer what time it is:

Es la una. *
It's one o'clock.
Son las dos.
It's two o'clock.
Son las tres.
It's three o'clock.
Son las cuatro.
It's four o'clock .
Son las cinco.
It's five o'clock.
Son las siete.
It's seven o'clock.
Son las ocho.
It's eight o'clock.
Son las nueve.
It's nine o'clock.
Son las diez.
It's ten o'clock.
Son las once.
It's eleven o'clock.
Son las doce. **
It's twelve o'clock.

* Note that with 1 o'clock, we use "es" because 1 is singular, whereas with the rest of the clock, we use "son" because 2-12 are plural.

** Note that 12 o'clock can also be expressed as either:

1) Mediodía -- noon
2) Medianoche -- midnight

Expressing time between the hour and the half-hour:

To express times between the hour and the half-hour, add 1-30 to the time:

Es la una y catorce.
It's 1:14 .
Son las ocho y veinticinco.
It's 8:25.
Son las dos y dos.
It's 2:02.
Son las doce y dieciséis.
It's 12:16.

To express a quarter past the hour or the half-hour:

Instead of using "quince" to express 1:15, use cuarto.
Instead of using "treinta" to express 1:30, use media.

Es la una y quince.
It's 1:15.
Es la una y media.
It's 1:30.

Expressing time between a half-past the hour and the next hour:

In English, we don't stop counting after 30 ... 1:37, 2:45, 6:57, etc.

However, in Spanish we stop counting, and instead of saying 37, 45 or 57, we subtract the amount of time left until the following hour, the equivalent of saying:

20 minutes to 7pm.
15 to 6.

To accomplish this, use the word "menos," which means "less."

See some examples:

Spanish (incorrect)
Spanish (correct!)
Es la una y cuarenta y siete.
Son las dos menos trece.
Son las tres y treinta y uno.
Son las cuatro menos veintinueve.
Son las seis y cincuenta y cinco.
Son las siete menos cinco.
Son las ocho y cuarenta y cinco.
Son las nueve menos cuarto.
Son las once y cincuenta y nueve.
Son las doce menos uno.

A.M or P.M?

Expressing A.M. or P.M in Spanish is fairly simple.
Just add:

1) de la mañana (in the morning)
2) de la tarde (in the afternoon)
3) de la noche (at night).

Es la una de la mañana.
It's 1 am.
Son las tres y media de la tarde.
It's 3:30 pm.
Son las nueve y cuarto de la noche.
It's 9:15 pm.

Express At What Time Something Is

To express at what time something is or at what time you are going to do something, even in a question, add "a" to the beginning -- which means "at."

Voy a la fiesta a las nueve y media.
I'm going to the party at 9:30pm.
¿A qué hora es tu clase?
What time is your class at?

The 24-Hour Clock or Military Time

In Spanish-speaking countries, you will find that the 24-hour clock is used for official reasons, such as train and plane schedules.

Telling time like this is easy -- the minutes past the hour are counted or expressed from 1 to 59.

Instead of using cuarto or media to express 15 past or 30 past the hour, use quince (15) and treinta (30).

Finally, the A.M./P.M. expressions (de la mañana, de la tarde, de la noche) are not used.

Time is expressed like this:

Son las tres y treinta.
It's 3:30 .
Son las quince y cuarenta y uno.
It's 15:41.
Son veinte y cincuenta.
It's 20:50.
Es la una y treinta y dos.
It's 1:32
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