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Telling Time in Spanish

Telling time in Spanish is an important skill to know. When you are speaking to other people you may have to tell someone what time it is or you may have to ask for the time. In addition, while traveling, you will have to know times for your flights, trains, adventures, etc. 

Let’s start by learning how to ask what time it is. 

¿Qué hora es? = What time is it?

Now, let’s focus on answering that question. 

How to tell time in Spanish Video

How to tell time in Spanish, and ask the time in Spanish. Learn Spanish (Lesson 19)

Today we are going to learn two different ways to tell time. It may vary a bit country to country or amongst Spanish speakers therefore, it is important that you learn to do it both ways. 

To answer the question ¿Qué hora es? There are two things you need to know. 

When we are talking about 1, we will use:

Es la una … 

We do this because 1 is singular. We are talking about 1 hour. 

For everything else, we are going to say:

Son las …

We do this because we are talking about multiple hours. 

Let’s talk about a  bit of vocabulary you will need:

:00 (o’clock) = en punto

:15 (and a quarter) = y cuarto

:30 (and a half)  = y media

:45 (minus a quarter)  = menos cuarto

Let’s start telling time … 

Let’s look at these clocks together. 

¿Qué hora es?

Just like this, you will continue the pattern with all of the other numbers. Now, you should be able to tell time in Spanish when it’s on the dot (o’clock).

With that out of the way, let’s focus on the two different forms to tell time. 

We are going to divide our clock from o’clock (:00) to half past the hour (:30) when it comes to minutes. Let’s focus on this part of the clock for now, and we will cover the other half later. 

Let’s look at some examples:

Here are a few more examples:

At this point you should be able to tell time from :00 (o’clock) to :30 (half past the hour).


Now let’s move onto the other part of the clock in regards to minutes from :30 (half past the hour) to :00 (o’clock).

How do you do that?  Here are rules:

Let’s break this down together. 

Look at this clock.  

What time is it? ¿Qué hora es?

Let’s break it down further. 2:40. 

  1. Round it up to the next hour

It’s 3:00

Son las tres

  1. Subtract the minutes 

until the next hour

minus 20 minutes

menos veinte

Son las tres menos veinte. 

menos = minus

That’s it! Let’s practice a few more together. 

Pay close attention to this one…  

What time is it? ¿Qué hora es?

Es la una menos diez

What time is it? ¿Qué hora es?

Extra Vocabulary

Es la medianoche It’is midnight

Es el mediodia It’s noon.

… de la mañana in the morning

… de la tarde in the afternoon

… de la noche in the evening

To say it is 7:00 a.m. (in the morning) you would say:

Son las siete en punto de la mañana. 

To say it is 7:00 p.m. (at night) you would say. 

Son las siete en punto de la noche. 

To talk about when an event is taking place, use… 

A la una …. 

A las … 

For example: La fiesta es a la una y media de la tarde. 

La clase es a las cuatro menos cuarto de la tarde.

Remember when I told you there is another way of telling time? Well, it’s time we take a look at that in case you find yourself in a situation where a Spanish speaker uses this form. 

A lot of the vocabulary we just learned will still apply. Right now I want you to continue thinking of the clock as an addition problem. Just like we did in the first part of this lesson.

What time is it? ¿Qué hora es?

Son las tres menos veinte  OR  Son las dos y cuarenta. 

Both answers are correct. 

Depending on the country or the speaker you may treat the clock as an addition problem the entire time OR you may divide it into two parts (one an addition problem and another a subtraction problem).


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