how to tell time in spanish

¡En horabuena! Spanish language learners will find that telling time in Spanish is quite simple when it is broken down into small bites as it is done in this article.

You will, of course, have to memorize some basic numbers in Spanish, but don’t worry — you will find the list for the entire sixty minutes of the clock amongst these lines.

Telling Time in Spanish – Vocabulary

So let’s start with the basic vocabulary used to learn how to say what time it is in Spanish.

SPANISH ENGLISH
Hora Hour
Minuto Minute
Segundo Second
Día Day
Horario Timetable
Reloj Clock
Tiempo Time

Remember that in Spanish, as in French, it is important to know whether a noun is feminine or masculine, as this will inform how to conjugate the verbs.

In the table below you can see the articles that indicate their gender and on the next column to the right how to form their plurals.

This is pretty simple, as you just have to add an ‘s’ to the words that end in a vowel and an ‘es’ to the ones that end in a consonant.

SINGULAR PLURAL
La Hora Las Horas
El Minuto Los Minutos
El Segundo Los Segundos
El Día Los Días
El Horario Los Horarios
El Reloj Los Reloj
El Tiempo Los Tiempo

Hence, it would be ‘una hora’ and ‘un minuto’, and similarly ‘unas horas’ and ‘unos minutos’.

How to Say What Time It Is in Spanish

telling time in spanish

These two phrases are used to ask ‘What time is it?’ in Spanish.

SPANISH LITERAL TRANSLATION
¿Qué hora es? What hour is it?
¿Qué horas son? What hours are they?

The literal translations don’t make sense but the two options are correct. However, the first one (in singular) is considered more appropriate for refined Spanish, therefore advocated by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (Real Academia de la Lengua Española).

The ‘hour’ (la hora) means ‘a defined moment of the day’ and thus the singular is the best option here.

Nevertheless, is very common to hear ‘¿Qué horas son?’ in many places of Latin America, including Mexico, among less cultured people.

Alternatively, these two phrases are used to ask ‘What’s the time?’ Notice how the formal and informal ‘you’ is always implied:

SPANISH LITERAL TRANSLATION
¿Qué hora tiene? (Usted) What hour do you have? Formal ‘you’
¿Qué hora tienes? (Tú) What hour do you have? Informal ‘you’

‘Usted’ is used for proper occasions such as addressing someone higher in rank or social position, as well as strangers.

‘Tú’ is used for casual occasions such as addressing relatives, friends or colleagues.

How to Tell Time in Spanish

how to tell time in spanish

How to answer back when someone asks ‘what time is it?’ in Spanish? This one is easy!

You always start with ‘son las’ followed by the number.

Example: Son las tres or Son las seis.

  • The exception is ‘es la una’ (one o´clock).
  • To indicate the minutes you complete with ‘y’ (and) followed by the appropriate number.

Example: 6:10 – Son las seis y diez.

  • Alternatively, you can break the hour in half or in quarters.
SPANISH ENGLISH
Y media Half past
Y cuarto Quarter past
Cuarto para Quarter to

Examples:

  1. 4:30: Son las cuatro y media – It is half past four.
  2. 8:15: Son las ocho y cuarto – It is quarter past eight.
  3. 11:45: Son cuarto para las doce – It is quarter to twelve.

Let´s review how to say the numbers in Spanish:

1 Uno
2 Dos
3 Tres
4 Cuatro
5 Cinco
6 Seis
7 Siete
8 Ocho
9 Nueve
10 Diez
11 Once
12 Doce
13 Trece
14 Catorce
15 Quince
16 Dieciséis
17 Diecisiete
18 Dieciocho
19 Diecinueve
   
20 Veinte
21 Veintiuno
22 Veintidós
23 Veintitrés
24 Veinticuatro
25 Veinticinco
26 Veintiséis
27 Veintisiete
28 Veintiocho
29 Veintinueve
30 Treinta
31 Treinta y uno
32 Treinta y dos
33 Treinta y tres
34 Treinta y cuatro
35 Treinta y cinco
36 Treinta y seis
37 Treinta y siete
38 Treinta y ocho
39 Treinta y nueve
40 Cuarenta
   
41 Cuarenta y uno
42 Cuarenta y dos
43 Cuarenta y tres
44 Cuarenta y cuatro
45 Cuarenta y cinco
46 Cuarenta y seis
47 Cuarenta y siete
48 Cuarenta y ocho
49 Cuarenta y nueve
50 Cincuenta
   
51 Cincuenta y uno
52 Cincuenta y dos
53 Cincuenta y tres
54 Cincuenta y cuatro
55 Cincuenta y cinco
56 Cincuenta y seis
57 Cincuenta y siete
58 Cincuenta y ocho
59 Cincuenta y nueve
60 Sesenta

Periods of the Day in Spanish

how to say what time it is in spanish

When you are telling the time, you would normally specify if it was the morning, the afternoon or the evening.

SPANISH ENGLISH
Mañana Morning
Tarde Afternoon
Noche Night

You would do this by completing the phrase with ‘de la’ (of the), because all three words are feminine, followed by each period of the day.

Example: Son las tres de la tarde or Son las tres de la mañana.

Both time systems, 12 hours and 24 hours, are widely used in Spanish speaking countries around the world.

Additionally, please note that the initials ‘a.m.’ and ‘p.m.’ are exactly the same in English and Spanish because they are in Latin.

  • a.m. – Ante meridiem – before midday
  • p.m. – Post meridiem – after midday

How to say noon and midnight in Spanish

‘Mediodía’ (noon) is considered at 12:00 p.m., marking the end of the morning or the first 12 hours of the day (a half day). When spelled like ‘medio día’ it literally means ‘half a day’ as in “I only work part time” not as in a specific moment of the day. Contrary, ‘medianoche’ (midnight) is considered at 12:00 a.m., marking the end of a full day.

SPANISH ENGLISH
Mediodía Noon
Medianoche Midnight

They are always used in singular. ‘Mediodía’ is masculine and ‘medianoche’ is feminine.

Examples:

  1. ¿A qué hora es la fiesta? – At what time is the party?

   La fiesta es al mediodía. – The party is at noon.

  • ¿A qué hora llegaste anoche? – At what time did you get in last night?

Llegué a media noche. – I arrived at midnight.

Spanish Words for Types of Clocks

Here is a list of the Spanish names for the most common clocks:

SPANISH ENGLISH
Reloj de arena Hourglass
Reloj de pared Wall clock
Reloj de bolsillo Pocket watch
Reloj despertador Alarm Clock
Reloj de mano Wrist watch
Cronómetro Chronometer
Temporizador Clock timer
Manecillas del reloj Clock hand/pointer
Tic tac Tic toc

As a side note, it is interesting to observe how the onomatopoeia for the clock’s sound changes from English to Spanish.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is free-pdf-download-lead-magnet.jpg

Popular Spanish Sayings about Time

SPANISH ENGLISH
¡Enhorabuena! Congratulations.
A la hora pico. At rush hour.
Tarda horas y horas. Something that takes a very long time.
¿Qué horas son estas? Don´t you know how late is it?
Irse a buena hora. To leave at a reasonable or decent time.

Beyond learning how to tell time in Spanish, dive into the basics of speaking the language with our FREE Spanish Survival Crash Course.

Comments are closed.