Telling Time in Spanish

time of day in spanish
    time of day in spanish

Telling time in Spanish is one of the most important and basic skills you need to use the language. Luckily, regardless of the Spanish-speaking country you’re traveling through, telling time is universal. These time expressions will make asking for the time, telling time and setting appointments a breeze!

How to ask for the time

When asking for the time, we always use the 3rd person singular form of the verb ser.

¿Qué hora es?

Note: In some Latin American countries you may hear ¿Qué hora son?, or ¿Me regalas la hora? (Can you give me the time?) which are largely regionalisms.

How to say the time

When telling time we always use the 3rd person, plural form of the verb ser in both present and past tense. The only exception is when we say 1:00 o’clock in which we use the 3rd person, singular form. We also express the hour with the feminine article form of la or las.

Son las 10:00 (de la mañana) It is 10:00 o’clock (in the morning).
Es la 1:00 (de la tarde) It is 1:00 o’clock (in the afternoon)
Eran las 9:00 de la noche cuando escuche un ruido afuera. It was 9:00 o’clock at night when I heard a noise outside.
Era la una de mañana, cuando despertó el bebé. It was 1:00 o’clock in the morning when the baby woke up.

You can also express time numerically:

Son las diez treinta y seis It is 10:36.
Es la una veinte It is 1:20.

It is also common to use 15 and 30 minute increments:

Son las cuatro y media. It is four and a half (4:30).
Son las cinco y cuarto. It is a quarter past 5:00 (5:15)

* Note: It is also common to say al mediodia/a la medianoche or, at noon/midnight.

¿Qué si comemos al mediodía? How about we eat lunch at noon?
Voy a llegar a la medianoche. I will arrive at midnight.

Other ways to express time:

son/es (la/las) + hour + menos + minutes (in Spain)

11:45 - Son las doce menos cuarto It is 12:00 minus 15 minutes
12:50 - Es la una menos diez It is 1:00 minus 10 minutes

son + minutes + para (la/las) + hour (in Latin America)

11:45 - Son quince minutos para las doce It is 15 minutes until 12:00
12:50 - Son diez minutos para la una It is 10 minutes until 1:00

To set a meeting or an appointment

When setting a time for a meeting or an appointment, we use the expression:

a las/a la + time

Nos vemos a las 5:00 en el restaurante. We will see each other at 5:00 at the restaurant.
Tengo una cita con la dentista a la 1:00. I have a dentist appointment at 1:00.

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Vocabulary: Time Expressions

por la mañana, por la tarde, por la noche in the morning, afternoon, evening (no specific time)
Estoy disponible manana por la tarde. I am available tomorrow afternoon.
por la mañana, por la tarde, por la noche in the morning, afternoon, evening (at a specific time)
Tengo una cita las 3:00 de la tarde. I have an appointment at 3:00 in the afternoon.
segundo second
minuto minute
hora hour
semana week
mes month
año year

* Reminder: When we pluralize a unit of time, you must add an “s”

un año → dos años, tres años…

un minuto → dos minutos, tres minutos…

pasado mañana the day after tomorrow
ayer yesterday
anoche last night
la noche anterior the night before last
el lunes que viene next Monday
la semana que viene next week
el año que viene next year
el lunes pasado last Monday
la semana pasada last week
el año pasado last year
alrededor de around
durante el día during the day
a tiempo on time
en punto exactly, on-the-dot
tarde late
temprano early

Vocabulary: Numbers

uno one
dos two
tres three
cuatro four
cinco five
seis six
siete seven
ocho eight
nueve nine
diez ten
once eleven
doce twelve
trece thirteen
catorce fourteen
quince fifteen
diez y seis sixteen
diez y siete seventeen
diez y ocho eighteen
diez y nueve nineteen
veinte twenty
veintiuno twenty-one
veintidos twenty-two
treinta thirty
treinta y uno thirty-one
treinta y dos thirty-two
cuarenta forty
cincuenta fifty
sesenta sixty

As with all new vocabulary and grammatical concepts in Spanish, start with the basics and work your way to the more complicated expressions. If you have just learned your numbers and it’s easiest for you to begin with saying the numerical expressions son las cinco treinta instead of son las cinco y media, that’s a great place to start! And better yet, you will be completely understood by locals. Happy time telling!