Learning how to tell time in Spanish is very useful. Although most of us have a phone or a watch, this is one of the basic things you have to know. Plus, if you are asked what time is it?, you should know how to respond.
In Spanish, there are two or three ways to ask for the time: people may say: “¿Qué hora es?” (What time is it?).
If you are asking somebody you don’t know, then you would usually use Usted (formal you). It is also common to ask: “¿Tiene la hora?” A close translation would be: “Do you have the time?”
But to use “Tú” (informal you), you would say, ¿Tienes la hora?
1. A general guide to telling the time in Spanish: Tiempo may mean time and weather
The word Tiempo (time) in Spanish is also used to refer to the weather, but don’t worry, Spanish speakers never use the word Tiempo when talking about time.
2. How to tell time in Spanish
When asked for the time, one may say:
- “Es la una” (It is one o’clock) or
- “Son las dos” (It is two o’clock).
It is not difficult because the word es (conjugation of the verb Ser, To be) will be used when it is one o’clock.
In Spanish, people say “Es la una” and use the feminine article la because people are giving la hora (time), which is feminine and singular. For the rest of las horas (hours), people use las, in plural: “Son las 3” (It is 3 o’clock).
If somebody asks, ¿Qué hora es? (What time is it?) We say, “Son las 5” (It is 5 o’clock).
3. How to tell the exact time and minutes in Spanish
Of course we also want to learn how to say the exact time.
In English, people say “ten past six” (6:10), but in Spanish, people tell the hour first and then the number of minutes: “son las seis diez” (literally, it’s six ten).
Another example is “Son las cuatro veinte” (4:20). Again, the hour comes before the number of minutes, but this changes on four different occasions:
1. When it’s 15 minutes past the hour, then people say the hour plus y cuarto (and a quarter).
For example, “Son las cuatro y cuarto” (It’s quarter past four). You may also say “Son las cuatro quince” and everybody will understand.
Another example: Es la una y cuarto (It’s quarter past one).
2. When it’s half an hour, then we say the hour plus y media (and half). Like this:
Son las cinco y media (It’s half past five, 5:30) — Once again, you may also say: Son las cinco treinta.
Son las tres y media (It’s half past three).
3. When it’s 40 minutes past, we take the number of minutes left of the whole hour and say: Son veinte para las seis (It is 20 minutes to 6). A closer translation would be: 6 minus 20. Yes, you may also say “son las seis cuarenta”.
Another example: Son veinte para las diez (It is twenty to ten, 9:40).
4. When it’s “quarter to”, people say “Son cuarto para las siete” (It is quarter to seven) or “Son cuarto para las ocho” (it is quarter to eight).
4. Useful time phrases in Spanish
For more specific times of the day, you may say mediodía, which means “half day”.
You may say:
- “Es el mediodia” (It is midday) or
- “La hora más calurosa es el mediodía” (Midday is the warmest time of the day).
If you have an appointment, “Tengo una cita al mediodía” (I have an appointment at midday). Al means “at”.
As regards midnight, Spanish speakers say medianoche.
Día (day) is masculine and noche (night) is feminine.
So, someone might say:
- “La medianoche me da miedo” (I’m scared of midnight) or
- “La fiesta termina a la medianoche” (The party ends at midnight).
5. Remember the time of day in Spanish
BEFORE mediodía (midday), we will always say “de la mañana” (AM) — a literal translation would be “of the morning”.
AFTER mediodía, people say “de la tarde” (PM) — a literal translation would be “of the afternoon”, and people also say “de la noche” (at night).
- Son las 3 de la tarde. (It is 3 pm.)
- Es la una y cuarto de la mañana (It’s 1:15 in the morning.)
- Son las 11 y media de la noche. (It’s 11:30 at night.)
If you think you need a bit of help remembering los números (the numbers), you can always watch our video on the numbers. 🔢
6. Practical examples to ask for the time and time telling
Ready to give me the time?
Let’s see some examples:
- Tengo una cita con el dentista al mediodía. (I have a dentist appointment at midday.)
- ¿Qué hora es? Son las tres y cuarto. (What time is it? It is 3:15)
- Yo me levanto a correr a las seis de la mañana. (I wake up at 6 am to go running.)
- La película empieza al cuarto para las siete. (The movie starts at quarter to seven.)
- Mi hermana siempre duerme después de la medianoche. (My sister always falls asleep after midnight.)
7. Learn more about Spanish time with FREE Spanish training
¡Muy bien! So, ¿qué hora es? Now you may respond to this question depending on what time it is in the country you are living in! If you would like to learn more, feel free to check out the other on our channel!
Now, if you’re ready to take it a step further and get serious about learning Spanish, we have a free Spanish training on our website where you’ll discover the method we use in our Spring Spanish Academy to teach students to speak fluent Spanish. You also get some free sample Spanish lessons there that come straight from our Academy! If you’re interested, just click the link in the description to sign up!