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Published on: Vocabulary

Mastering the Clock: How to Tell Time in Spanish

Hey there, language enthusiasts!  Ever found yourself lost in translation, wondering what time it is in a Spanish-speaking country? Well, wonder no more! Today, we’re diving into an exciting exploration of how to tell the time in Spanish, and trust me, it’s a thrilling adventure! Spanish, the melodious language spoken across many Spanish-speaking countries in Europe and Latin America, has its unique way of expressing time. Our Dedicated Teachers here at SpanishVIP have uncovered all the secrets, and we’re thrilled to share them with you.

The Basics of Time in Spanish

First things first, let’s start with the basics of time in Spanish. Unlike in English, where we use AM and PM, Spanish has specific phrases for different times of the day:

  • De la mañana“: morning.
  • De la tarde“: afternoon.
  • De la noche“: night.
  • De la madrugada“: early morning.

These phrases help you express whether it’s seven o’clock in the morning or ten o’clock at night (“las siete de la mañana” or “las diez de la noche“).

The Magic Phrase: “Qué hora es?

When you want to ask someone the time, the magical phrase to use is “Qué hora es?” It’s like a key to unlock the world of Spanish time.


There are many different ways you can ask for the time in Spanish! And you can use them to start a conversation with someone you want to meet, asking for the time can be a real conversation starter. Let’s look at a few fun ways you can do this:

  • The Classic Approach:¿Disculpe, Qué hora es?” translates to “Excuse me, What time is it?” It’s the tried-and-true method that works every time.
  • A Polite Twist: Want to add a touch of courtesy? Try “¿Podría decirme qué hora es, por favor?” which means “Could you tell me what time it is, please?” A little politeness goes a long way!
  • The Casual Check-in: If you’re among friends, you might keep it relaxed with “¿Tienes la hora?” or “Do you have the time?” It’s like asking for the time without actually asking for it!
  • The On-the-Go Version: Maybe you’re in a hurry and need to keep it snappy. In that case, “¿Hora?” or just “Time?” will likely get the job done.

These phrases show just how playful and flexible the Spanish language can be. And the best part? They all get you the information you need, whether you’re catching a train, meeting a friend, or just plain curious.

So next time you’re in a Spanish-speaking place, why not try one of these out? You’ll not only learn what time it is but also make connections and memories along the way.

Hour Expressions in Spanish

Here’s where the real fun begins! To say it’s one o’clock, you say “es la una,” but for any other hour, you’ll use “son las,” followed by the number Fof the hour. The reason is basically that the number one is singular. Let’s take a closer look:

English Time Spanish Time
One o’clock Es la una
Two o’clock Son las dos
Three o’clock Son las tres
Four o’clock Son las cuatro

Keep in mind that “
la” is used only for one o’clock, while “las” is used for other hours.

Diving into Specifics

Time to dig deeper! Spanish time isn’t just about the hour; it’s also about minutes, quarters, and halves. So, grab your explorer’s hat, and let’s journey through the fascinating world of time in Spanish.

Expressing Minutes and Specific Times

Spanish speakers love to be precise! Here’s how you can express specific times:

English Time Spanish Time
Quarter past Y cuarto (e.g., “son las tres y cuarto”)
Half past Y media (e.g., “Son las seis y media”)
Quarter Menos cuarto (e.g., “Son las ocho menos cuarto”)

Want to say it’s five past ten? Just say
“Son las diez y cinco.” Simple as that!

Time for the Whole Day

From the early morning, “de la madrugada,” to midnight, “la medianoche,” Spanish time covers the entire day. Differentiating between “de la mañana,” “de la tarde,” and “de la noche” is essential, especially if you have a doctor’s appointment or an exciting Spanish class.

Image by JESHOOTS-com via Pexels

Decoding Complex Time Expressions

Alright, folks, fasten your seatbelts! We’re about to plunge into the more complex and interesting aspects of telling time in Spanish. 

Using “Menos” for Counting Backwards

Spain-Spanish speakers have a nifty trick up their sleeves when it comes to counting down to the next hour. Instead of saying “twenty to eight,” they’d say “son las ocho menos veinte.” Fascinating, isn’t it? Here’s a quick guide:

  • Fifteen minutes to eight: “Son las ocho menos cuarto.”
  • Five minutes to seven: “Son las siete menos cinco.”
  • Ten minutes to six: “Son las seis menos diez.”

Military Time and the 24-Hour Clock

In many Spanish-speaking countries, you might hear the 24-hour clock being used, especially in formal contexts. So “son las dieciocho” means it’s eighteen o’clock or six o’clock in the evening. Handy for that train schedule, right?

Unique Phrases for Noon and Midnight

Spanish has special expressions for noon and midnight:

  • Noon: “Es mediodía.” – This translates directly to “the midday.” If someone is referring to something happening at noon, they would say: “al mediodía,” which means “at noon.”
  • Midnight: “Es medianoche.” – This translates directly to “the midnight.” If referring to something happening at midnight, it’s common to say: “al medianoche,” which means “at midnight.”

These unique phrases add some poetic flair to the language, don’t they?

Exploring Cultural Contexts

Time in Spanish isn’t just about the words; it’s also about understanding the cultural contexts in different Spanish-speaking countries. For instance, “las tres de la tarde” in Spain might be different from “las tres” in Latin America.

Time Zones and Daylight Saving

Keep in mind that Spanish-speaking countries might have different time zones and follow daylight-saving rules. A Student Success Advisor at SpanishVIP can help guide you through these complexities.

Common Time-related Phrases

Finally, here’s a little treat for the culture enthusiasts among us. Common time-related phrases like “¿Tiene hora?” (it has time) and “cuarto para” (quarter for) offers unique insights into the everyday life of Spanish speakers.

Practical Application and Practice Tips

Embarking on the path of telling time in Spanish? It’s time for some practical tips and exercises to solidify your newfound knowledge. With some practice, you’ll be living la vida Española in no time!

Practice with Real-world Scenarios

One of the best ways to internalize time in Spanish is to immerse yourself in real-world scenarios. Imagine scheduling a doctor’s appointment, booking a train at “las diez en punto,” or calling your friend at “las ocho.” Feel the rhythm of Spanish time in your daily life!

Engage with Spanish Speakers

Speak with native Spanish speakers, and don’t shy away from asking “qué hora es?” Their responses will help you tune into the nuances of how to tell time in Spanish. Remember, practice makes perfect!

Utilize Online Resources and Classes

Take advantage of SpanishVIP’s online classes and resources. Our Dedicated Teachers and Student Success Advisors are here to ensure that you master every aspect of Spanish time, from “una y media” to “las doce.

Image by congerdesign via Pexels

Telling Time in Spanish – A Rewarding Journey

Wow! What a remarkable adventure through the twists and turns of time in Spanish. From “es la una” to “son las nueve,” from “de la mañana” to “media de la noche,” we’ve uncovered the beauty and complexity of this fascinating aspect of the Spanish language. You’ve learned how to express specific minutes with phrases like “y cuarto” and “y media,” decipher complex expressions like “menos cuarto,” and even explore the cultural contexts in different Spanish-speaking countries.

Telling time in Spanish is more than just a skill; it’s a window into a rich and diverse world. So, dear friends, keep practicing, keep exploring, and most importantly, keep having fun with Spanish time!

Ready to dive deeper? SpanishVIP is here to help. Start with a  free 1:1 class or enjoy free 7 days of group classes. Our Dedicated Teachers are excited to guide you on your journey through the enchanting world of the Spanish language.

Thank you for embarking on this adventure with us, and until next time, ¡Hasta luego!

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