The Ultimate Guide to El Tiempo: How to Tell Time in Spanish
A wise person once said, “We kill time. We save time. We rob and get robbed of time, we lose time, and we have all the time in the world. But no one of us is powerful enough to stop the march of time or slow it down.”
We live in a rushed world full of meetings, due dates, appointments, and gatherings. Life happens at lightning speed and none of us is able to stop the ticking hands of time, but we have managed to create a way to organize it. Knowing how to express time allows us to communicate with others, make plans, and practice the virtue of punctuality. In your journey to master Spanish, one of the first steps is to use time to set homework dates with friends or agree to a meeting time with co-workers. In this blog post, we will explore the advantages of knowing how to tell time, how to say the numbers, and the use of the verb ser in order to tell time correctly in Spanish.
Advantages of Telling Time in Spanish
Everybody knows that knowing how to read and tell time is important, but some surprising advantages appear when we learn to tell time in Spanish. Check out these three pros:
- It will help you connect better with Spanish speakers when you travel to their countries. Traveling is one of the most enriching things for our souls, and there’s nothing cooler than knowing how to say at least some things in the native language of the country. Now imagine how great people would think you are if you ask them for the time in Spanish.
- You will look like a very educated person. For example, if you want to close a deal with someone in a business setting, knowing how to say good morning, good afternoon, good night, hello, how to ask for food, or how to tell time in their native language (in this case Spanish) will definitely look good. Although these things might sound small, people in other countries will be surprised by the fact that you know how to interact with others in their own language.
- It’s a great icebreaker or conversation starter. If you find yourself in an awkward situation with a Latin person, asking for the time in Spanish would definitely help you. This is a basic thing that everybody knows how to do, but the fact that you as a foreigner know how to do it too makes it way more interesting, and it could definitely introduce you to a cool conversation about where you learned Spanish.
Learn the Numbers
In order to tell time in Spanish, first you need to know how to say the numbers from one to fifty-nine (because those are the ones that time includes).
For more in-depth lessons on numbers, read How to Use Numbers in Spanish.
For now, here are some tables you can check out:
The numbers from 21 to 29 use a combination of veinti– and a number from 1-9, with no space in between (note that 22, 23, and 26 have accents on their last syllable):
Forming the numbers from 31 to 59 is sooo easy! You just use a multiple of 10 plus the conjunction y and a number from 1 to 9. Check this out:
|31||treinta y uno||train-tee-oo-noh|
|32||treinta y dos||train-tee-dohs|
|43||cuarenta y tres||kwah-ren-tee-trays|
|44||cuarenta y cuatro||kwah-ren-tee-kwah-troh|
|55||cincuenta y cinco||seen-kwen-tee-seen-koh|
|59||cincuenta y nueve||seen-kwen-tee-nway-vay|
The Spanish Verb Ser in Time
Now that you know the numbers, it’s also important for you to know the conjugations for the verb ser in Spanish. Also, you can check these example sentences with the verb ser if you want to have it crystal clear!
Now, there are different useful formulas you can learn to help you tell the time with ser in Spanish.
When you want to refer specifically to “one o’clock”, use es.
- Es la una (It’s 1:00 o’clock).
For all hours after one, use son.
- Son las dos (It’s 2:00 o’clock).
- Son las cinco (It’s 5:00 o’clock).
- Son las nueve (It’s 9:00 o’clock).
When adding minutes to the hour, use the conjunction y between the two numbers.
- Es la una y cinco (It’s 1:05)
- Son las tres y veinte (It’s 3:20)
- Son las siete y cuarenta y cinco (It’s 7:45)
If you want to “subtract” minutes to the hour, use the word menos (note that this is used after half past the hour).
- Es la una menos veinte (It’s 20 ‘til 1:00, or it’s 12:40)
- Son las once menos diez (It’s 10 ‘til 11:00, or it’s 10:50)
Media and Cuarto
You can also use the words media and cuarto as a shortcut.
When indicating it’s half past the hour, use y media.
- Son las tres y media (It’s 3:30).
When indicating it’s a quarter past the hour, use y cuarto.
- Son las cinco y cuarto (It’s a quarter past 5:00).
When indicating it’s a quarter ‘til the hour, use menos cuarto.
- Son las ocho menos cuarto (It’s a quarter ‘til 8:00).
What Time Is It in Spanish
Let’s see some practical examples of how to ask for the time in Spanish on an ordinary day.
|What time is it?||¿Qué hora es?|
|What time does the bus arrive?||¿A qué hora llega el autobús?|
|What time are you leaving?||¿A qué hora te vas?|
|What time do you go to sleep?||¿A qué hora te duermes?|
|What time are we leaving?||¿A qué hora nos vamos?|
|At what time does this end?||¿A qué hora termina esto?|
|What time do you leave work?||¿A qué hora sales del trabajo?|
|What time do you get home?||¿A qué hora llegas a tu casa?|
|What time did you get home?||¿A qué hora llegaste a casa?|
|At what time do you have class?||¿A qué hora tienes clase?|
Common Time Phrases in Spanish
Some words regarding time are so common, you’ll hear them daily. Here’s a table of the most common phrases and expressions to use when discussing time.
|in the morning||de/en la mañana|
|in the afternoon||de la tarde|
|at night||de la noche|
|in the (early) morning||de la madrugada|
|at noon||al mediodía|
|the day after tomorrow||pasado mañana|
Let’s see some examples.
- Mis clases empiezan a las 7:00 de la mañana (My classes start at 7:00 in the morning).
- ¿Podrías almorzar a las 2:00 de la tarde? (Could you have lunch at 2:00 in the afternoon?)
- Yo me duermo alrededor de las 11:00 de la noche (I go to sleep around 11:00 at night).
- Me asusto mucho cada vez que escucho algo a las 3:00 de la madrugada (I get scared everytime I hear something at 3:00 in the morning).
- Se supone que su cita es al mediodía (Her appointment is supposed to be at noon).
- Pasado mañana iremos de excursión (We’ll go hiking the day after tomorrow).
- Ella me llamó ayer para preguntarme si estaba bien (She called me yesterday to ask if I was okay).
- No pude dormir anoche, había demasiado calor (I couldn’t sleep last night, it was too hot).
Also, if you want to set a date or a meeting with someone, here’s what you can say:
- ¿Nos vemos a la 1:00 de la tarde en Olive Garden? Hecho. (See you at 1:00 p.m. in Olive Garden? Done).
- ¿Te parece si paso por ti a las 7:00 de la noche? (Is it okay if I come to get you at 7:00 p.m?)
- ¿Cómo está tu agenda para reunirnos el próximo jueves a las 5:00 de la tarde? (How is your schedule to meet next Thursday at 5:00 p.m?)
- ¿Podrías desayunar mañana a las 8:00? (Could you have breakfast tomorrow at 8:00?)
It’s About Time!
There you go! Now you’re a total pro in telling time in Spanish. If you want to learn more Spanish tricks to boost your fluency and get you talking to others in Spanish, join a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy. Our teachers are happy to introduce you to the amazing world of Spanish. See you soon!
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