How to Tell the Time in Spanish

How to Tell the Time in Spanish

¡Hola!

Telling the time is an important skill, so we’ve given you a complete guide to telling the time in Spanish, split into handy sections. Sit back, relax, and let’s learn some Spanish!

I. Num​​​​bers

Let’s get started with the basics. 

First up: numbers! You’ll need to know the numbers 1 to 59 to tell the time, but once you’ve mastered a few, you’ll be fine with them all. 0 to 15 are probably the most difficult to learn, because they’re all quite different.


N.B. where we’ve given pronunciations, the apostrophe at the beginning of a syllable denotes that the stress falls on that syllable, e.g. in ’oo-no, the first syllable is emphasized.
0cero’theh-roh*
1uno/una’oo-noh/’oo-nah
2dosdohs
3trestrehs
4cuatro’kwah-troh
5cinco’theen-koh
6seis’seh-ees
7sietesee-’eh-teh
8ocho’oh-choh
9nuevenoo-’eh-beh
10diezdee-’eth
11once’ohn-theh
12doce’doh-theh
13trece’treh-theh
14catorcekah-’tohr-theh
15quince’keen-theh

*in this article, we’ve used the “th” sound that you’d find in words like “think” or “thanks,” but in many parts of the Spanish-speaking world, including most of Latin America, the “th” sound will be replaced with a “s” sound as in “seaside.”

From 16 onward, things start to look a bit more logical. All you need to remember is that “y” (pronounced ee) means “and.”

Example: 17 => 10 + 7 => ten and seven => diez y siete => diecisiete

16dieciséisdee-eth-ee-’seh-ees
17diecisietedee-eth-ee-see-’eh-teh
18dieciochodee-eth-ee-’oh-choh
19diecinuevedee-eth-ee-noo-’eh-beh

Then we get to 20, or “veinte.” Instead of pronouncing “veinte-ee-uno,” we mush it all together, making the word flow better: “veintiuno.”

Example: 27 => 20 + 7 => twenty and seven => veinte y siete => veintisiete

20veinte’beh-een-teh
21veintiunobeh-een-tee-’oo-noh
22veintidósbeh-een-tee-’dohs
23veintitrésbeh-een-tee-’trehs
24veinticuatrobeh-een-tee-’kwah-troh
25veinticincobeh-een-tee-’theen-koh
26veintiséisbeh-een-tee-’seh-ees
27veintisietebeh-een-tee-see-’eh-teh
28veintiochobeh-een-tee-’oh-choh
29veintinuevebeh-een-tee-noo-’eh-beh

At this point, we stop mushing things together. It’s simply ‘tens’ y ‘units.’ You’ve probably got to grips with the pattern by now, but here they all are laid out just in case:

30treinta’treh-een-tah
31treinta y uno’treh-een-ta ee ’oo-noh
32treinta y dos’treh-een-ta ee dohs
33treinta y tres’treh-een-ta ee trehs
34treinta y cuatro’treh-een-ta ee ’kwah-troh
35treinta y cinco’treh-een-ta ee ’theen-koh
36treinta y seis’treh-een-ta ee ’seh-ees
37treinta y siete’treh-een-ta ee see-’eh-teh
38treinta y ocho’treh-een-ta ee ’oh-choh
39treinta y nueve’treh-een-ta ee noo-’eh-beh
40cuarentakwah-’rehn-tah
41cuarenta y unokwah-’rehn-tah ee ’oo-noh
42cuarenta y doskwah-’rehn-tah ee dohs
43cuarenta y treskwah-’rehn-tah ee trehs
44cuarenta y cuatrokwah-’rehn-tah ee ’kwah-troh
45cuarenta y cincokwah-’rehn-tah ee ’theen-koh
46cuarenta y seiskwah-’rehn-tah ee ’seh-ees
47cuarenta y sietekwah-’rehn-tah ee see-’eh-teh
48cuarenta y ochokwah-’rehn-tah ee ’oh-choh
49cuarenta y nuevekwah-’rehn-tah ee noo-’eh-beh
50cincuentatheen-’kwehn-tah
51cincuenta y unotheen-’kwehn-tah ee ’oo-noh
52cincuenta y dostheen-’kwehn-tah ee dohs
53cincuenta y trestheen-’kwehn-tah ee trehs
54cincuenta y cuatrotheen-’kwehn-tah ee ’kwah-troh
55cincuenta y cincotheen-’kwehn-tah ee ’theen-koh
56cincuenta y seistheen-’kwehn-tah ee ’seh-ees
57cincuenta y sietetheen-’kwehn-tah ee see-’eh-teh
58cincuenta y ochotheen-’kwehn-tah ee ’oh-choh
59cincuenta y nuevetheen-’kwehn-tah ee noo-’eh-beh
(…and for luck) 60sesentaseh-’sehn-tah

*You might also hear “¿qué horas son?” in some parts of Latin America, but overall it’s less commonly used than “¿qué hora es?”.

To respond to this question, we use the verb “ser” (“to be”). Instead of x o’clock, Spanish speakers count hours.

Example: Son las 8 => it is 8 (hours) => it is 8 o’clock.

Usually, you’ll need to use “son las...” (sohn lahs)  to mean “it is” but occasionally you use “es la” (ehs lah). This is because “son las” is used for plural times, i.e. anything bigger than 1 o’clock. “Es la” is singular, so it’s used for 1 o’clock (and x minutes past 1).

II. O’clock

So, let’s have a look at the following times:

It’s 1 o’clock.Es la una.
It’s 3 o’clock.Son las tres.
It’s 6 o’clock.Son las seis.
It’s 11 o’clock.Son las once.

BONUS:

Usually, when we say “it’s 12 o’clock,” we know whether it’s the middle of the day or the middle of the night by, like, seeing if it’s dark outside. But sometimes we prefer to make it extra clear:

It’s midday.Es mediodía.ehs meh-dee-oh-’dee-ah
It’s midnight.Es medianoche.ehs meh-dee-ah-’noh-cheh

III. Half past

When it’s half past the hour, we use “y media,” (ee ’meh-dee-ah) which means “and half.” See if these examples make sense:

It’s 1:30.Es la una y media.
It’s 5:30.Son las cinco y media.
It’s 7:30.Son las siete y media.
It’s 12:30.Son las doce y media.

IV. Quarter past

To say that it’s quarter past the hour, we add “y cuarto” (ee ’kwahr-toh), which means “and quarter.”


It’s 1:15.

Es la una y cuarto.

It’s 4:15.

Son las cuatro y cuarto.

It’s 8:15.

Son las ocho y cuarto.

It’s 10:15.

Son las diez y cuarto.

Makes sense, right?!

V. Quarter to

Like in English, we can still use the word for “quarter,” but this time we say “menos cuarto” (’meh-nohs ’kwahr-toh) meaning “minus quarter.” So, we’re taking a quarter away from the hour that we’re approaching. For instance:

It’s 12:45 (quarter to one).Es la una menos cuarto.
It’s 1:45 (quarter to two).Son las dos menos cuarto.
It’s 8:45 (quarter to nine).Son las nueve menos cuarto.
It’s 9:45 (quarter to ten).Son las diez menos cuarto.

Some countries will use these versions instead to mean the same thing:

“Falta un cuarto para las x.”

“Es cuarto para las x.”

VI. Minutes past

For highly specific numbers (i.e. not quarters or halves), we have a pretty simple rule! We just say the “o’clock” bit and then say “y” (“and”) and add the number of minutes past the hour! This will become clearer once we’ve seen some examples.

It’s 1:23.Es la una y veintitrés.
It’s 1:47.Es la una y cuarenta y siete.
It’s 4:05.Son las cuatro y cinco.
It’s 4:59.Son las cuatro y cincuenta y nueve.
It’s 6:11.Son las seis y once.

VII. Minutes to

And for minutes to the hour, you guessed it, we use “menos” (’meh-nohs). Simple, right?

It’s 12:55 (five minutes to one).Es la una menos cinco.
It’s 8:52 (8 minutes to 9).Son las nueve menos ocho. #arithmetic

It’s 2:35 (25 minutes to 3).

Son las tres menos veinticinco.
It’s 11:40 (20 minutes to 12).Son las doce menos veinte.

VIII. A few extras:

If you’ve got all that, and want to know some extra vocab that will make you sound super native, take a look at these:

The morningLa mañanala mah-’nyah-nah
It’s 8 in the morning/8am.Son las ocho de la mañana.
The afternoonLa tardelah ’tahr-deh
It’s 2 in the afternoon/2pm.Son las dos de la tarde.
The evening/nightLa nochelah ’noh-cheh
It’s 11 at night/11pm.Son las once de la noche.
The early hours of the morningLa madrugadalah mah-droo-’gah-dah
Go to sleep! It’s 2am!¡Duérmete! ¡Son las dos de la madrugada!
... and a bit.… y poco*ee ’poh-koh
It’s a few minutes past 7.Son las siete y poco.
AroundAlrededor de
más o menos
ahl-reh-deh-’dohr deh
mahs oh ’meh-nohs
It’s around 5.Son alrededor de las cinco.
Son las cinco más o menos.
On the dot.En punto.ehn ’poon-toh
It’s 6 on the dot.Son las seis en punto.
At …A …ah
We cook at 2.Cocinamos a las dos.
The party starts at 1.La fiesta empieza a la una.

* You might also hear “y pico,” which is understood as “a few minutes past” in some places, but in other countries, it could refer to anything up to around 50 minutes past the hour.

IX. 12-hour vs 24-hour clock

Depending on where you’re from, you may be more used to the 12-hour clock than the 24-hour clock (military time). In Spanish-speaking destinations, you could encounter both. Like in English, spoken Spanish tends to use the 12-hour clock, even if the time is sometimes written in the 24-hour format. For example, if you were reading out theater times, the page in front of you might say “15:00,” but you’d say to your friend on the phone, “it starts at 3.”

X. Mini-test

It’s time (see what I did there?) for a mini-test!

 

Use the guide we’ve given you and see if you can figure out what the following phrases mean.

  1. Es la una.

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  1. Es mediodía.

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  1. Son las tres y media.

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  1. Son las cuatro y cuarto.

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  1. Son las siete menos cuarto.

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  1. Son las ocho y diez.

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  1. Son las nueve menos cinco.

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  1. Son las once en punto.

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  1. Son las once de la mañana.

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Scroll to the bottom to see the correct answers!

Keep practicing ...

Whether you’ve struggled with this or found it pretty easy, practicing Spanish daily will help you get to grips with telling the time. Numbers are used often in everyday life, so the more you speak, the more opportunity you’ll get to practice them! If you know any native Spanish-speakers, try and practice what you’ve learnt with them.

 ¡Buena suerte!

About the Author Annabel Beilby

Annabel is a language-enthusiast from the UK. She studied Spanish and French at the University of Southampton (with an Erasmus study year in Madrid!) and recently graduated. She has interests across the Spanish-speaking world, and is a fan of language in general.

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