How to Tell Time in Spanish

This basic lesson focuses on how to ask for and tell the time of day in Spanish, as well as expressing the days of the week.  Compared to other topics, it is fortunately one that you may be able to read through just a couple of times, and get the hang of it.  Don’t be afraid to read it out loud!!  Try asking yourself the questions, and then responding back.

 ¿Qué hora es? Is equivalent to “What time is it?”

Image

In expressing time, “It is” is expressed by “Es la” (for one o’clock), and “Son las” for other hours (two o’clock, three o’clock, and so on).

For example:

  • Es la unaIt’s one o’clock.
  • Son las dos (tres)It’s two (three) o’clock.

Time past the hour (up to half past) is expressed by the hour + y, followed by the number of minutes. “Half past” is expressed by “y media”; “a quarter past” is expressed by “y cuarto”.

For example:

  • Es la una y diezIt’s ten (minutes) after one. It’s 1:10.
  • Son las seis y mediaIt’s half past six. It’s 6:30.
  • Son las diez y cuartoIt’s a quarter after ten. It’s 10:15.

Alter half past, the time is expressed in terms of the following hour “menos” (minus) the minutes.

For example:

  • Son las dos menos veinteIt’s twenty minutes to two. It’s 1:40.
  • Son las nueve menos cuartoIt’s a quarter to nine. It’s 8:45.

A more difficult, yet common approach is to use “faltar” (missing) instead of menos.

  • Faltan quince para que sean las nueve. –  It’s fifteen minutes to nine.  It’s 8:45.

Try the “menos” approach first, and then try to add the “faltar” approach to your repertoire.

The expresión de la mañana corresponds to English “a.m.” (in the morning), de la tarde (in the afternoon) and de la noche (in the evening) correspond to English “p.m.”, en punto means “sharp” or “on the dot.”

For example:

  • Son las ocho de la mañana – It’s 8:00 a.m.
  • Es la una de la tardeIt’s 1:00 p.m.
  • Son las ocho de la noche en puntoIt’s 8:00 p.m (exactly).

NOTE

Instead of “media” and “cuarto”, the number of minutes may be used (treinta, quince).

For example:

  • Son las cinco y treintaIt’s five-thirty. It’s half past five.
  • Es la una y quinceIt’s one-fifteen. It’s a quarter past one.

It’s not uncommon to heat times like 12:45 and 12:50 expressed with “y”.

For example:

  • Son las doce y cuarenta y cincoIt’s twelve-forty-five.
  • Son las doce y cincuenta It’s twelve-fifty.

Otherwise:

  • Es la una menos cuarto
  • Es la una menos diez

Common time expresions:

¿Qué hora es?What time is it?

¿A qué hora?At what time?

A las dos (tres)at two (three) o’clock

de la mañanain the morning, a.m.

de la tardein the afternoon, p.m.

de la nocheat night, p.m.

Es mediodíaIt’s noon

a mediodíaat noon

Es medianocheIt’s midnight

a medianocheat midnight

Es tardeIt’s late

Es tempranoIt’s early

a tiempoon time

En puntoexactly, sharp

Now on to days and dates:

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Days of the week (Los días de la semana)

lunesMonday

martesTuesday

miércolesWednesday

juevesThursday

viernesFriday

sábadoSaturday

domingoSunday

fin de semanaWeekend

 

NOTE

“On” before a day of the week is expressed by “el” for the singular and “los” for the plural.

El / los luneson Monday / Mondays

El / los marteson Tuesday / Tuesdays

El / los miércoleson Wednesday / Wednesdays

El / los jueveson Thursday / Thursdays

El / los vierneson Friday / Fridays

El / los sábado(s)on Saturday / Saturdays

El / los domingo(s)on Sunday / Sundays       

El / los fin(es) de semanaon the weekend/ on the weekends

Note that the days of the week whose names end in –s do not change their form in the plural.

The days of the week are not capitalized in Spanish.

Months (meses)

EneroJanuary

FebreroFebruary

MarzoMarch

AbrilApril

Mayo May

JunioJune

JulioJuly

AgostoAugust

SeptiembreSeptember

OctubreOctober

NoviembreNovember

DiciembreDecember

NOTE: Like the days of the week, the months are written with lowercase (small) letters in Spanish.

 

Dates

¿Cuál es la fecha de hoy?What is today date?

¿A cuánto estamos hoy? ­– What is today date?

Es el primero de eneroIt’s January 1.

Estamos a primero de eneroIt’s January 1.

Es el dos de febreroIt’s is February 2.

Es el tres (cuatro) de mayoIt’s May 3 (4).

Mil ochocientos doce1812

El quince de abril de mil novecientos noventa y seisApril 15, 1996

Some other tips

  1. Cardinal numbers are used for all dates except “primero” (first).
  • el primero de abrilApril 1(st)
  • el tres (cuatro, cinco) de abrilApril 3 (4, 5)
  1. In English we can say past years by hundreds alone (ie. How we say “seventeen HUNDRED fifty” for 1750). The year is expressed in Spanish by thousands and hundreds: “Mil setecientos cincuenta”, literally: one thousand seven hundred fifty.
  1. The date and month are connected by the preposition “de”. The month and the year are also connected by “de”.
  • el diez de junio de mil ochocientos cuarenta(on) June 10, 1840.
  1. With dates, el corresponds to “on”.
  • El diez de abril.On April 10.

photo credit: ToniVC via photopin

photo credit: fliegender via photopin

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2 comments on “How to Tell Time in Spanish

  1. Pingback: Spanish for Busy People | Spanish Vocabulary: Days of the Week…and how to memorize them

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