How to Tell the Time in Spanish

Do you want to know what time it is? Asking the time is simple in Spanish. All you need to ask is:

¿Qué hora es?

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¿Qué hora es?
What time is it?

Literally, this question means: What hour is it? But we translate it as: What time is it?

If you wish to ask a stranger for the time in a more polite way, you could say

¿Me puede decir la hora, por favor?
 

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¿Me puede decir la hora, por favor?
Can you please tell me the time?

This question means, Can you please tell me the time?

You already have all the vocabulary you need to understand the answer. All you need are the verb ser and the numbers.

The sentence structure for telling the time is similar to English.

What time is it? - It is twelve thirty.
¿Qué hora es? - Son las doce y media.

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Son las doce y media.
It is twelve thirty.

In most cases, you will start the answer with Son las….

Por ejemplo:

1. ¿Qué hora es? (9:25)– (Son las nueve y veinticinco.)

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Son las nueve y veinticinco.
It is 9:25

2. ¿Me puede decir la hora, por favor? (3:32) –(Son las tres y treinta y dos.)

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Son las tres y treinta y dos.
It is 3:32

Exception at One O’Clock

Nevertheless, there is an exception. If it is only one o’clock, you will start the answer with Es la….

¿Qué hora es? (1:00) – Es la una.

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Es la una.
It is 1:00

That is because the verb ser must agree with the quantity of the subject, hours.

Do you know why the feminine “la” and “las” are used?
Hint: what gender is “hora”?

International Variations

In some parts of the Spanish-speaking world, you hear the question, “¿Qué hora es?” asked as “¿Qué hora son?” Your answer will always begin “Son las…”, regardless of whether the hour that follows is singular or multiple. Por ejemplo … “¿Qué hora son?” “Son las una."

Talking about Quarter Hours and Thirty Minutes

As in English, you can also tell the time in 15- or 30-minute chunks.

15 min/quarter = cuarto
30 min/half = media

Por ejemplo:

1. ¿Qué hora es? (2:15) – Son las dos y cuarto.
It’s a quarter past two.

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Son las dos y cuarto.
It’s a quarter past two.

2. ¿Qué hora es? (1:30) – Es la una y media.

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Es la una y media
It’s half past one.

It’s half past one.

You can also tell how much time remains until striking the hour. For example,

a quarter to… = cuarto para las…

Por ejemplo:

1. ¿Qué hora es? (3:45) – Es cuarto para las cuatro.

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Es cuarto para las cuatro.
It's a quarter to four.

2. ¿Qué hora es? (2:55) – Son cinco para las tres.

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Son cinco para las tres.
It's five to three.

Is it Morning or Night?

You can indicate morning or afternoon by using am and pm just as you would in English.

Alternatively, you may say
de la mañana - (in the morning)
de la tarde - (in the afternoon), or
de la noche - (for in the evening)

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de la mañana
in the morning
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de la tarde
in the afternoon
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de la noche
in the evening

Por ejemplo:

1. ¿Qué hora es? (10:23am)
– Son las diez y veintitrés de la mañana

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Son las diez y veintitrés de la mañana
It is 10:23am

2. ¿Qué hora es? (6:05pm) – Son las seis y cinco de la tarde

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Son las seis y cinco de la tarde
It is 6:05pm

3. ¿Qué hora es? (11:45pm) – Es cuarto para las doce de la noche

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Es cuarto para las doce de la noche
It is 11:45pm

Asking at What Time Something will Occur

When you need to ask the time that a meeting or certain activity is going to take place, you can use the phrase:

¿A qué hora…?

This means, At what time…?

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¿A qué hora...?
At what time...?

Por ejemplo:

1. ¿A qué hora te levantaste hoy?
- At what time did you get up today?

2. ¿A qué hora nos juntamos esta noche?
- At what time should we meet tonight?

In the next section we’ll work on Spanish Verbs in the Present Tense and Conjugation

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