Speaking about Time in Spanish
Different time zones may be confusing, but if you know how to ask a local for the time in Spanish, you’ll never be late for a single tour! This free lesson on how to tell and ask for the time in Spanish is sure to give you every word and phrase you need.
What Time is it?
In most Spanish speaking countries the formula of asking for the time is “¿Qué hora es?”, which literally means “What hour is it?” The answer, however, will most often begin with a verb in plural:
- Son las nueve y diez. – It’s ten minutes past ten.
There are four times in the day that require a singular form of the verb and these are:
- One o’clock – Es la una.
- Noon – Es mediodía.
- Midnight – Es medianoche.
Fun Fact: in some Spanish speaking countries the question goes like “¿Qué hora son?”, and, consequently, the answer always begins with “son,” even if it is one o’clock:
- ¿Qué hora son? – Son las una.
At What Hour?
If you need to ask when something begins or is done, use the same “Qué hora” phrase, only with a preposition “a”, which means “at,” and specify the event you are asking about. For example:
- When do you get up? – ¿A qué hora levantas?
- When does the bank open? – A qué hora abre el banco?
Using the English Formula
Adopting the well-familiar English formula, you can learn to tell the time in Spanish in no time (pardon the pun!):
Pasts and To’s
Observe the 30-minute mark and discard the word “minutes”:
“Past” would translate as “y.”
- It’s 5 minutes past four. – Son cuatro y cinco.
“To”-construction is used to express the time from the next hour backward. You can do it in two ways:
- It’s 10 minutes to two. – Son dos menos diez.
- It’s 20 minutes to three. – Son veinte para las tres.
O’clocks, Halves and Quarters
To say it’s some time sharp, use the construction “en punto”:
- It’s six sharp. – Son las seis en punto.
If it’s a quarter past or to a certain hour, use the word “cuarto”:
- It’s a quarter past seven – Son siete y cuarto.
- It’s a quarter to eight. – Son ocho menos cuarto. Or Es cuarto para las ocho. (Note the singular!)
Challenge: try saying “Son cuatro y cuarto” quickly 5 times in a row!
Finally, if it is exactly half past something, say “y media” after the hour:
- It’s half past nine. – Son nueve y media.
A.M. and P.M.
If you need to refer to a point within a time of day, do it by adding a possessive construction (del/ de la) with the name of the part of the day you are referring to:
- mañana for morning;
- tarde for afternoon;
- noche for evening.
It will be equivalent to the English “of the morning”, etc. For example:
- It’s 3 a.m. – Son tres de la mañana.
- It’s a quarter past 4 p.m. – Son cuatro y cuarto de la tarde.
- It’s eight-thirty p.m. – Son ocho y media de la noche.
If you needn’t specify the time, just mention that something happens in a certain part of the day - use “por” instead of “de”:
- I always do yoga in the morning. – Siempre practico yoga por la mañana.
And now, it’s time to test the vocabulary and grammar you have just learned!