Time in Spanish = hora or tiempo
If you’re referring to the actual hour of time you would use the hora. This will be critical for you to know if you want to learn how to tell time in Spanish. We will cover some critical points of the word hora here in a few minutes but for now, you at least know the initial word for literal time in Spanish.
If you’re referring to a period of time as in, “the event was a good time”, you would use the word tiempo.
What time is it = ¿Qué hora es?
This is really the most commonly used phrase for getting the time in Spanish. Understanding the time in Spanish can also be as easy as just pointing at your wrist watch, but if you really would like to know how to tell time in Spanish or ask “what time it is” in Spanish, ¿Qué hora es? is the most appropriate way to ask for the the time in Spanish.
So the next logical piece to this puzzle is telling time in Spanish when someone asks you 🙂 This is where things get a bit hairy for new Spanish speakers. The best way for me to explain this is that in English, we explain time as a singular thing – its mostly all singualar.
For example – It is 7pm – It is Noon, It is 4am (nothing good comes from being up at 4am btw lol)…and so on.
However, when we look at Spanish it’s a bit different. In Spanish, we refer to the actual hours in plural.
For example – (English to Spanish translation here real quick) – There are 4 – There are 6 and half….and so on.
Weird to your brain, I know. Once you do it 50 times you won’t think twice about it, you’ll just get it.
Now that you understand the process of telling time with my English translation, let me lay it out for you with some Spanish. In order for you to understand what’s going on here you need to understand one single Spanish verb before we start.
Ser = the verb “to be”
The two forms of ser are the plural form, son las (“they are”) and the singular form, es la (“it is”). Only use es la when the hour is one o’ clock. Use son las for all other times of day. For example:
Son las dos. It’s two o’clock.
Es la una. It’s one o’clock.
Telling time in Spanish using full hours. Before telling time in Spanish, you should learn how to say the time just using hours. You can say es la una to indicate that it’s one o’clock, and use son las followed the number associated with any hour other than one to say the time. Here are some examples:
Son las dos. It’s two o’clock.
Son las tres. It’s three o’clock.
Son las seis. It’s six o’clock.
Son las nueve. It’s nine o’clock.
Son las once. It’s eleven o’clock.
Let’s take a quick look at telling time in Spanish at night. Midnight and noon are whole hours, but you should say that it’s midnight or noon. If wanted to tell the time in Spanish in the evening I would use the following:
Es mediodía. It’s noon.
Es medianoche. It’s midnight.
What if we want to talk about telling time in Spanish using hours and minutes? Let me break down this process for you real quick so it makes sense. Telling time in Spanish with minutes and hours is a looks a little bit weird compared to English. With telling time in Spanish, you’ll never need to use a number higher than 29. Here are a couple ways to break this part of telling time down:
To tell the time in the first half hour, simply state the correct form of ser followed by the hour, followed by y (“and”) and the number of minutes. Here are some examples:
Son las siete y ocho. It’s 7:08.
Son las diez y veintiuno. It’s 10:21.
Son las once y cinco. It’s 11:05.
You need to know that there is one exception: if you’re pointing out that it’s the half hour, then don’t say treinta (“thirty”) but say media (“half”) instead.
For example: Son las tres y media. It’s 3:30.
Telling time in Spanish in regards to the second half hour, you’ll need to first point out the the correct form of ser followed by the next hour, followed by menos (minus) and the amount of minutes left until the following hour. Let me show you what I mean real quick.
Son las nueve menos cinco. It’s 8:55.
Son las dos menos veinte. It’s 1:40.
Es la una menos veinticinco. It’s 12:35.
Son las cuatro menos cuarto. It’s 3:45.
You should say cuarto (“a quarter”) rather than of quince (“fifteen”).
You are officially on your way to know what time it is in Spanish and also telling time in Spanish. Are you interested in knowing some other great Spanish phrases? Check out my articles on how to say I love you in Spanish, how to say good morning in Spanish, how to say hello in Spanish, and how to say goodbye in Spanish.