Ask time in Spanish
Language Resources

Time / El tiempo

One of the first topics in any class of Spanish is how to refer to the passing of time and how to tell the time. Learning a language involves mastering not only grammar and vocabulary, but also small but essential everyday conversations. And one of the most common questions is asking for the time in Spanish.

Here, you are going to explore how to do it in Spanish and, more importantly, how to understand the answer. So, if you've ever felt lost when someone has asked you for the time or if you need to know the time in Spanish for your day-to-day life, here's the answer!

Ask for the time in Spanish

The first step is to know the essential question to ask for the time. In Spanish, the most common question is “¿Qué hora es?” (“What time is it?”). This is a direct and polite way of asking for the time in Spanish. Here are some examples of how to use it in everyday situations:

  • On the street. Imagine you are walking around a Spanish city like Barcelona, and you need to know what time it is, so you are not late for an appointment. You simply walk up to someone and ask: “Perdona, ¿qué hora es?” (“Excuse me, what time is it?”).
  • At work. In an important meeting at work, you might need to know how much time has elapsed. You might ask a co-worker: “Oye, ¿qué hora temenos?” (“Hey, what time do we have?”).
  • In a shop. When you're shopping and want to know how much time you have before the shop closes, you can say: “Hola, ¿me puedes decir qué hora es?” (“Hey, can you tell me what time it is?”).
  • In a conversation with friends. Even in a friendly chat with friends, you often hear, “Oye, ¿qué hora es?” (“Hey, what time is it?”) when you don't want to be late for your restaurant reservation.

Understand the time in Spanish

Once you have asked for the time, it is essential to understand the answer. In Spanish, as in many other countries, a 12-hour clock system is used. Here are some examples to help you understand how time is expressed in Spanish.

The hours. They are expressed first, especially when it is an exact time. For example: “Son las 3” (“I'ts 3pm,”), which means that it is three o'clock in the afternoon.

The minutes. After the hours, the minutes are mentioned. For example: “Son las 3 y 15” (“It is 15 minutes past three”), which means it is 15 minutes past three.

Quarters and halves. Quarters and halves are often used to indicate the minutes. “Son las cuatro y cuarto” (“It's quarter past four”) means it's fifteen minutes past four. If you hear: “Son las cinco y media) (“It's half past five”), it means it's thirty minutes past five; you might also hear “Son las siete menos cuarto” (“It's a quarter to seven”), meaning it's 6.45 pm.

Add “de la mañana”, “de la tarde” or “de la noche”. To avoid confusion between morning and afternoon, you can add these expressions: “Son las 10 de la mañana” (“It's 10 o'clock in the morning”) o “Son las cinco de la tarde” (“It's five o'clock in the afternoon”), también puedes decir “Son las 11 de la noche” (“It's 11 o'clock at night”).

Practical examples

What time is it? ¿Qué hora es?
It's eleven o'clock in the morningSon las 11 de la mañana
It's eight o'clock in the eveningSon las ocho de la tarde
It is five twenty-five in the afternoonSon las cinco y veinticinco de la tarde
It's 1:15hEs la una y cuarto
It's 12:30hSon las doce y media
It's 15:45Son las cuatro menos cuarto
It's midnightEs medianoche
It's noonEs mediodía
Five minutes agoHace cinco minutos
After 8 pmDespués de las ocho de la noche
Before 9 amAntes de las nueve de la mañana
When does it begin?¿Cuándo empieza?
He came on timeÉl llegó a tiempo

These are some examples that can help you feel more confident in asking and understanding the time in Spanish. But there are many more everyday situations in which you can ask or ask for the time. So, all you need to do is practice, which is the key to mastering this type of vocabulary.

Asking and understanding the time in Spanish is an essential skill for everyday life and is an effective way to interact with native speakers while improving your command of Spanish. However, if you are looking to deepen your knowledge of Spanish, we recommend that you learn Spanish in Spain. Immerse yourself in an intensive Spanish course with Enforex and live a unique experience surrounded by culture.

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