A Beginner’s Guide to Telling Time in Spanish – Rosetta Stone

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No matter where you are or what language you speak, the clock keeps ticking. Once you’ve learned how to count in Spanish, being able to tell time will let you schedule tasks and make social plans with people. It’s also easy to learn the basics, even if you don’t have a thorough understanding of the language. By the end of this post, you’ll have the essential skill of being able to tell time in Spanish!

For a helpful follow-up, take a look at our post on Spanish days of the week to learn even more about setting dates. Or, check out our guide on the 100+ most common Spanish phrases

If you’re interested in going beyond the basics, check out Rosetta Stone. Its unique Dynamic Immersion method can help you learn Spanish intuitively, and every unit is broken into bite-sized lessons that you can easily fit into your daily schedule. Plus, you can choose between Latin American or European Spanish to ensure you master the nuances of each! 

How to ask for the time in Spanish

Asking for the time in Spanish is simple. Just memorize one or both of these phrases and you’re set:

  • ¿Qué hora es? = What time is it?
  • ¿Tiene la hora? = Do you have the time?

When you ask someone for the time, you may get a general answer rather than a specific one. In cases where you need to know precisely what time it is, you can add “exactly” to your question:

  • ¿Qué hora es exactamente? = What time is it exactly?
  • ¿Tiene la hora exacta? = Do you have the exact time?

How to tell the time in Spanish

Here are two common ways you can express time to other people. Note that when you’re talking about the time you’re referring to the hour, or hora, which is a feminine noun, so you should use the articles la and las instead of el and los.

Hour and minutes

The most straightforward way to express time is by giving the hour and the minutes. To do this, you’ll use a form of the verb ser (“to be”).

For most times, you should use the plural form son followed by the plural article las. For instance:

  • Son las cinco. = It is five o’clock.
  • Son las doce. = It is twelve o’clock.

When you’re talking about one o’clock, noon, and midnight, you’ll instead use the singular form of ser, which is es. For one o’clock, you’ll follow that with the singular article la. Take a look at these examples:

  • Es la una. = It is one o’clock.
  • Es mediodía. = It is noon.
  • Es medianoche. = It is midnight.

Here’s a quick list of phrases you can use to tell time in Spanish when it’s on the hour: 

Spanish English
Es la una.  It’s one o’clock. 
Son las dos.  It’s two o’clock. 
Son las tres.  It’s three o’clock. 
Son las cuatro.  It’s four o’clock. 
Son las cinco.  It’s five o’clock. 
Son las seis.  It’s six o’clock. 
Son las siete.  It’s seven o’clock. 
Son las ocho.  It’s eight o’clock. 
Son las nueve.  It’s nine o’clock. 
Son las diez.  It’s ten o’clock. 
Son las once.  It’s eleven o’clock. 
Son las doce.  It’s twelve o’clock. 

To include minutes, simply add y (“and”) after the hour and then say the number for how many minutes have passed, like so:

  • Son las ocho y veintiséis. = It is 8:26.
  • Es la una y catorce. = It is 1:14.

“Quarter past,” “half past,” and “quarter to”

Like in English, it’s also common in Spanish to divide an hour into quarters and halves. You can express time in this way using the word media for a half-hour and cuarto for a quarter-hour. Here are some examples:

  • Es la una y media. = It is half past one.
  • Son las once y cuarto. = It is a quarter past eleven.

If it’s a quarter to the next hour, you would instead say that it’s the next hour menos cuarto, like this:

  • Son las tres menos cuarto. = It is a quarter until three.

How to use “menos” to tell time 

When a time falls from 31 to 59 minutes past the hour (i.e. 10:39PM), you have two options. The first is to just say the hour and minutes, like in these examples:

  • Son las diez y treinta y nueve. = It is 10:39.
  • Es la una y cincuenta y dos. = It is 1:52.

The second is to say how many minutes there are until the next hour, similar to how you would say menos cuarto to mean it’s a quarter to the next hour. 

  • Son las once menos veintiuno. = It is twenty-one until eleven.
  • Son las dos menos ocho. = It is eight until two.

12-hour clock vs. 24-hour clock

While it’s common in English-speaking countries to use a 12-hour clock, many Spanish-speaking countries use a 24-hour clock (also known as military time). Depending on the country, they may use:

  • both a 12-hour clock and 24-hour clock interchangeably 
  • a 24-hour clock when writing and a 12-hour clock when speaking
  • the 24-hour clock exclusively

If you’re saying the time in Spanish while using a 12-hour clock, know that Spanish doesn’t have perfect equivalents to a.m. and p.m. Instead, you can add one of these phrases after the time.

Time Spanish English
Midnight to noon de la mañana in the morning
Noon to 6 p.m. (or until sunset) de la tarde in the afternoon/evening
6 p.m. (or after sunset) to midnight de la noche at night

Here are a couple of example sentences:

  • Son las ocho de la noche. = It is eight o’clock at night.
  • Es la una y treinta de la mañana. = It is 1:30 in the morning.

Times of day in Spanish

Many Spanish speakers will make plans around general periods of the day instead of exact times. When you’re setting a meeting in Spanish, these times of day are useful to know:

  • mañana = morning
  • tarde = afternoon/evening
  • noche = night
  • amanecer = dawn
  • mediodía = noon/midday
  • anochecer = dusk
  • medianoche = midnight
  • madrugada = midnight to dawn
  • hora del desayuno = breakfast time
  • hora de almorzar = lunchtime
  • hora de cenar = dinnertime
  • hora de acostarse = bedtime
  • siesta = naptime*

*Siesta typically lasts from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., though this can differ depending on the country and region.

Learn Spanish in no time with Rosetta Stone

Knowing how to tell time in Spanish is an important building block to learning the language, but where do you go from there? Learn how to converse in Spanish with Rosetta Stone. Not only will you build your vocabulary and grammar knowledge, you’ll also get feedback on your pronunciation through Rosetta Stone’s TruAccent technology so you can work on your accent. You can even take your lessons on the go with the Rosetta Stone app!

Start your first lesson today at rosettastone.com.

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