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Asking the time in German

In this lesson we find out about how to ask and tell the time. Asking someone the time is a great ice-breaker question, even if you don't really need to know the time! And what's more, asking the time is simple in German.

Resources for further reading:

All you need for asking the time in German is:

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Wieviel Uhr ist es?

What time is it?

Time

You could also ask

Wie spät ist es?

How late is it?

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

Können Sie mir bitte sagen wie spät es ist?

Could you please tell me what time it is?

The answer will start with Es ist…. It is…

For example:

Es ist neun Uhr

It is nine o'clock (9:00)

Es ist drei Uhr

It is three o'clock (3:00)

Talking about Quarter Hours and Thirty Minutes

You can also tell the time in 15- or 30-minute chunks.

viertel

15 min / quarter

viertel vor

quarter to

viertel nach

quarter past

halb

30 min / half

For example:

Es ist viertel nach zwei

It's a quarter past two (2:15)

Es ist halb zwei

It's half past one (1:30)

The sentence “Es ist halb zwei” literally translates as "it is half two." In German half two “halb zwei” means half way to two, or 1.30. Let’s have a look at some more examples

Es ist halb vier

It's half past three (3:30)

Es ist halb zehn

It's half past nine (9:30)

Es ist viertel vor vier

It's a quarter to four (3:45)

Es ist viertel nach fünf

It's a quarter past five (5:15)

Es ist viertel nach sieben

It's a quarter past seven (7:15)

You can also tell how much time remains until striking the hour:

Es ist fünf vor drei

It's five to three (2:55)

Es ist zehn vor fünf

It's ten to five (4:50)

Use the word “nach” past, to tell how many minutes past the full hour it is.

Es ist fünf nach zwei

It's five past two (2:05)

Es ist zwanzig nach vier

It's twenty past four (4:20)

If you want more lessons on German time then I recommend these ones!

Bis bald!

Paul Weber: Rocket German

Make It Stick With Rocket Reinforcement

Reinforce your learning from this lesson with the Rocket Reinforcement activities!