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Telling Time

Telling Time

Author: Sophia Tutorial

Express the time correctly in Spanish.

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what's covered
In this lesson, you will learn how to express the time correctly in Spanish.
  1. ¿Qué Hora Es? (What Time Is It?)
  2. Describing Time
  3. ¿A Qué Hora? (At What Time?)

1. ¿Qué Hora Es? (What Time Is It?)

When giving the current time in Spanish, there are certain steps for you to follow:

step by step
  1. Start your sentence with Son las..., unless you are starting with one o'clock, in which case you would say, Es la una: Es la una. Son las dos. Son las tres. "Son las" is used with all of the plural hours.
  2. State the nearest hour. If it is 4:15, you would begin your phrase, "Son las cuatro...." If it is 4:45, you would begin your phrase "Son las cinco...."
  3. Connect the hour and the minutes with either: y (and) or menos (minus). If it is the first half of the hour (from one minute to thirty minutes past), then you will use "y." If it is the second half of the hour, you will use "menos." Using the above examples, 4:15 would be "Son las cuatro y..." and 4:45 would be "Son las cinco menos."
  4. Next, you need to state the number of minutes either after the hour or before the hour that you stated (the latter will require some math!): 4:15 would be "Son las cuatro y quince" and 4:45 would be "Son las cinco menos quince."
  5. Finally, add any descriptive phrases you'd like. You will find these in the list below, along with some other helpful expressions you can use when talking about time.

Additionally, there is an easier, more casual way of telling time. You can simply state the hour and then add the number of minutes.


4:50 could be stated as "Son las cuatro y cincuenta."

Some Spanish speakers will use para when subtracting minutes from the next hour and stating the minutes.


Instead of "Son las siete menos diez," they might say, "Son las diez para siete," which would translate to "It’s ten till seven" or "It’s ten of seven."

did you know
Many digital clocks in Spanish-speaking countries and many schedules will display military time. At 1:00 p.m., the military time would display as 13:00 and so on until 24:00, which is midnight.

2. Describing Time

In Spanish, they do not say a.m. or p.m. to describe the part of day. Instead, you will choose from:

  • De la mañana
  • De la tarde
  • De la noche
Use de la mañana to talk about any morning hour from midnight to noon. De la tarde refers to the afternoon hours. Depending upon what time supper is eaten in each of the different Spanish-speaking countries, "de la tarde" might be used until 10 o’clock. De la noche is used from supper time until midnight.

The following table lists descriptive phrases and other helpful expressions you can use when talking about time.

English Spanish
half (30 minutes) past ...y media (or: y treinta)
quarter (15 minutes) past ...y cuarto (or: y quince)
quarter (15 minutes) until ...menos cuarto (or: menos quince)
on the dot ..en punto
a.m. la mañana
p.m. (until ~6:00) la tarde
p.m. (~6:00 until midnight) la noche
midnight medianoche
noon mediodía
24 hours veinticuatro horas
hour(s) hora(s)
minute(s) minuto(s)
second(s) segundo(s)
day día
night noche
week semana
month mes
season estación
year año
now ahora
later más tarde
today hoy
tomorrow hoy
yesterday ayer
this weekend este fin de semana
next weekend el fin de semana que viene
next que viene
last week la semana pasada
last pasado/a

3. ¿A Qué Hora? (At What Time?)

When telling someone at what hour something will occur, you can start by following the exact same steps as above and using the same list of expressions to help you.

However, instead of beginning your sentence with "Es la..." or "Son las...," you will begin your sentence with A la... or A las....

The following dialogue demonstrates a typical exchange between a patient and pharmacist.

Patient: Estoy aquí para recoger mi receta. (I’m here to pick-up my prescription.)
Pharmacist: Su receta no está lista. (It's not ready.)
Patient: Pues, ¿qué hora es? (Well, what time is it?)
Pharmacist: Ahora, son las cuatro y veinte. (Now, it’s 4:20.)
Patient: ¿A qué hora necesito volver? (At what time do I need to return?)
Pharmacist: ¿Pudiera volver a las seis menos cuarto? (Could you please return at 5:45?)

In this lesson, you learned the steps to follow to ask or state what time it is by using "Es la..." or "Son las...." You also learned some useful expressions for describing the time when having casual conversations. To state at what time something will occur, you can follow many of the same steps as you would for stating what time it is, except you will use "A la..." or "A las...."

¡Buena suerte!


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Source: This content has been adapted from "Pharmacy Spanish" by Stephanie Langston.