time in spanish

How To Tell Time In Spanish – The Ultimate Guide

How many times a day do you check your watch or your cell phone to see what time it is?

In my case, knowing the time is essential to go along with my day without coming late to classes, knowing when my lunch break is over, how long I need to wait for the next subway train or when it is time for my kids to head to bed.

In today’s world, time is a valuable resource and many aspects of our life orbit around it, don’t they?

Meetings we schedule.

Flights we take.

Doctor’s appointments we have.

Parties we get invited to.

Time can even be a good pick up line or an easy conversation starter. 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that telling time is Spanish is one of the most basic skills you should acquire.

In this lesson you’ll learn expressions like:

  • ¿Qué hora es?
  • Son las 2 de la tarde.
  • Su vuelo sale a las veintitrés horas. 
  • Nos vemos a las cuatro veinte.
  • Son 4 menos 10.
  • Me levanto a las siete y media.
  • La clase empieza a las ocho y cuarto.

The basics

Being able to talk about time in Spanish doesn’t require any complex grammar structures or vocabulary. What you need is basically numbers. 

Not even big numbers. 

1 to 24 will do just fine

Let’s have a look:

1:00Es la una.13:00Son las trece.
2:00Son las dos14:00Son las catorce.
3:00Son las tres.15:00Son las quince.
4:00Son las cuatro16:00Son las dieciséis.
5:00Son las cinco.17:00Son las diecisiete.
6:00Son las seis.18:00Son las dieciocho.
7:00Son las siete.19:00Son las diecinueve.
8:00Son las ocho.20:00Son las veinte.
9:00Son las nueve.21:00Son las veintiuna. 
10:00Son las diez.22:00Son las veintidós.
11:00Son las once.23:00Son las veintitrés.


12:00
Son las doce. 
Es mediodía.
It’s noon.


24:00
Son las veinticuatro. 
Es medianoche.
It’s midnight.

Telling time in Spanish requires you to know a few basic words as well:

🇪🇸 una hora
🇬🇧 an hour

🇪🇸 un minuto
🇬🇧 a minute

When you want to ask what time it is, you use one of the most basic question words: ¿QUÉ?

🇪🇸 ¿Qué hora es?
🇬🇧 What time is it?

or

🇪🇸 ¿Tienes hora? informal 
🇪🇸 ¿Tiene hora? – formal 

Literally: 🇬🇧 Do you “have” the time?

If you want to make it sound more polite, you can add:

🇪🇸 Disculpe, ¿qué hora es?
🇬🇧 Excuse me, what time is it?

or if you want to go even further with politeness:

🇪🇸 Disculpe caballero / señora, me puede decir la hora, por favor?
🇬🇧 Excuse me sir / madam, can you tell me the time, please?

“Round” hours in Spanish

9AM

3PM

11PM

How do I say this kind of simple hours in Spanish?

There are 2 ways to do it.

12-hour clock

The first way is similar to English and uses a 12-hour clock. 

It is common in everyday conversation with friends, co-workers, etc.

Take a look at how it is built:

🇪🇸 Son las nueve de la mañana. 
🇬🇧 It’s 9 AM.

  • Remember,  use “SON LAS” when the hours are plural. 
  • For 1 AM or 1 PM say “ES LA”:

🇪🇸 Es la 1 (una) de la mañana / de la tarde.
🇬🇧 It’s 1 AM / PM.

🇪🇸 Son las 3 (tres) de la madrugada. 
🇬🇧 It’s 3 AM. (literally: 3 at dawn)

🇪🇸 Es la 1 (una) de la tarde. Hora de almorzar!
🇬🇧 It’s 1 PM. Time for lunch!

Now, what happens when you do things “AT” a certain time?

In Spanish, use the preposition “A”, just like in the examples below:

🇪🇸 Termino a las tres de la tarde.
🇬🇧 I finish at 3 PM.

🇪🇸 Me acosté a las once de la noche.
🇬🇧 I went to bed at 11PM. 

🇪🇸 Su vuelo llega a las 5 de la mañana.
🇬🇧 Your flight arrives at 5AM. 

As you can see, the words mañana, tarde y noche, madrugada indicate whether you mean AM or PM. 

In what range of time do we use these words?

Madrugada – between 4AM and 6AM
Mañana – between 6AM and 12PM
Tarde – between 12 PM and 7PM
Noche – between 7PM and 4AM

24-hour clock

The second way of expressing time in Spanish is based on a 24-hour clock and is used in a more formal context (timetable, itineraries, appointments, etc.):

🇪🇸 Su vuelo sale a las veintitrés horas, señor.
🇬🇧 Your flight leaves at 11 PM, sir.

🇪🇸 La reunión terminará a las dieciséis horas.
🇬🇧 The meeting will finish at 4PM. 

🇪🇸 El próximo tren es a las quince horas.
🇬🇧 The next train is at 3PM. 

🇪🇸 Llegaremos a París a las veinticuatro horas directo al hotel.
🇬🇧 We’ll arrive in Paris at 12PM straight to the hotel.

🇪🇸 Su hora con el doctor Henríquez queda reservada para las diecisiete horas mañana.
🇬🇧 Your appointment with doctor Henriquez is booked for 5PM tomorrow.

Now, let’s practise minutes in Spanish

Of course things don’t always happen at exact hours.

It might be 2:25.

Or a quarter to five.

Or you’re supposed to do something at half past 8, right?

You wonder how to tell minutes in Spanish?

Here’s how:

1. Numerically

🇪🇸 Son las ocho veinte de la mañana.
🇬🇧 It’s 8:20 AM.

🇪🇸 Es la una quince de la tarde.
🇬🇧 It’s 1:15 PM.

🇪🇸 Son las once veintidós de la noche.
🇬🇧 It’s 11:22 PM

🇪🇸 Son las nueve cincuenta.
🇬🇧 It’s 9:50.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to add words mañana, tarde o noche if it is clear from the context what part of the day you are referring to. 

2. Using quarters and halves.

This is very common in English, isn’t it?

You say: it’s half past seven.

Or it’s a quarter to two.

Or a quarter past three.

Can we tell time in Spanish in the same way?

Sure we can!

🇪🇸 un cuarto
🇬🇧 a quarter

🇪🇸 media
🇬🇧 half

🇪🇸 Son las ocho y media.
🇬🇧 It’s half past eight. 

🇪🇸 Son las siete y un cuarto.
🇬🇧 It’s a quarter past seven. 

🇪🇸 Son las tres menos un cuarto.
🇬🇧 It’s a quarter to three. 

Did you pay attention to how the idea of PAST and TO are expressed?

Take another look at the examples above.

Yes, that’s right.

TO is MENOS

and PAST is Y

but

did you notice how the minutes always go AFTER the hour?

Check it out again:

🇪🇸 Son las siete y media.
🇬🇧 It’s half past seven.

🇪🇸 Son las tres y un cuarto.
🇬🇧 It’s a quarter past three.

You see? The hour always comes first

Another common way of saying that minutes are “missing” till a certain hour is by using the verb: FALTAR = TO MISS

🇪🇸 Falta un cuarto para las tres = Son las tres menos un cuarto.
Literally: 🇬🇧 A quarter is missing to three

🇪🇸 Falta un cuarto para la una = Son la una menos un cuarto.
Literally: 🇬🇧 A quarter is missing to one

Telling ANY time in Spanish

The following rule applies regardless of the number of minutes.

🇪🇸 Son las cinco veinte.
🇬🇧 It’s twenty past five = It’s five twenty.

🇪🇸 Son las ocho menos diez.
It’s ten to eight.

🇪🇸 Faltan dos para la una.
It’s two to one.

🇪🇸 Salí de la casa a las nueve menos 2.
🇬🇧 I left home at two to nine.

Other useful expressions to tell the time in Spanish

We’re almost ready.

That wasn’t so hard, was it?

As I said, it’s all about knowing your numbers.

Now, before I finish, just a couple of useful expressions that often accompany the idea of time. 

Take a look at the short dialogs below:

🇪🇸
A: ¿A qué hora termina tu reunión?
B: Terminó hace media hora ya.

🇬🇧
A: What time does your meeting finish?
B: It finished half an hour ago.

🇪🇸
A: ¿A qué hora viene Marcelo?
B: No sé exactamente, pero dijo que venía pasadas las 9.

🇬🇧
A: What time is Marcelo coming?
B: I don’t know exactly, but he said he’d come after 9.

🇪🇸
A: ¿Te acuestas tarde?
B: No, siempre me acuesto antes de las 10 de la noche.

🇬🇧
A: Do you go to sleep late?
B: No, I always go to sleep before 10PM.

🇪🇸
A: ¿A qué hora sale el tren?
B: A las 11 en punto, así que no te atrases.

🇬🇧
A: What time does the train leave?
B: At 11 sharp, so don’t be late.

🇪🇸
A: Llegaré tipo una diez.
B: OK, te espero para almorzar juntos entonces.

🇬🇧
A: I’ll arrive at about ten past one.
B: OK, then I’ll wait for you to have lunch together.

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Joanna Lupa

Joanna Lupa

Polish by birth, Chilean by the turns of life. Has spent 20 years in that beautiful South American country working as a language teacher and translator. Has taught Spanish and English to students of all proficiency levels. Passionate about languages, books, and traveling. A mother of 2 trilingual teenagers.