Time is on your side.
While you need time itself for consistent German practice, actually knowing how to tell time in German can also help you become fluent.
It may seem rudimentary at first, but this skill actually ties into all of your German learning.
You see, it’s nice to know when your favorite German TV show is on, and you may just want to schedule a reading date with yourself or a session with your exchange partner at a certain time during the day.
Plus, whenever you first step foot on German-speaking soil, the time is something that any stranger may ask you for—so being able to immediately interact with native speakers by answering will be a huge confidence builder.
Therefore, German time learning is essential to becoming fluent in an efficient manner. So if you haven’t yet learned how to tell time in German, keep reading!
How Learning to Tell Time in German Can Improve Your Speaking, Reading and Listening Skills
- It assists with business interactions, social situations, school, dating and more, as you can hear and read when appointments and events are. (And then get to them on time!)
- It’s extremely important when it comes to doing business in Germany, since you’re supposed to show up on time, yet not too early.
- You adjust to both the 12-hour and 24-hour clocks because both are used in Germany.
- It becomes easier to travel with German-speaking people, as you can communicate your calendar to everyone and keep folks on task.
Additional Tools for Learning How to Tell Time in German
Learning to tell time goes hand in hand with actually reading the time or telling another person what the time is. However, you must effectively learn how to understand time in German and how to pronounce the words and phrases involved.
We’ll soon go over a step-by-step process on the quickest way to learn how to tell time, but we first wanted to highlight some online tools and resources for practicing with time. These put you in certain situations for telling time, and they train you to be on your toes. After all, when a person on the street asks what time it is, you don’t have all day to respond!
- Babel – Interactive German Time Telling Clocks — This resource has interactive pictures of clocks for you to click on and hear a person reading off the time. It helps with hearing how it sounds and pronouncing certain time words.
- Video on How to Tell Time in German — Although much of the content in this video is covered in this article, it helps to see a clock and hear some people talking about how to say common time phrases like “Es ist Zwölf Uhr,” (It’s 12 o’clock) or “Wie viel Uhr ist es?” (What time is it?)
- Another Handy Video for Time in German — Besides the fact that the “Get Germanized” YouTube channel is filled with awesome videos for you to learn from, this one has a friendly host with a simple and intuitive learning process. The host compares English and German time telling, and he includes text on the screen so you can read the phrases.
- German Time Quiz — The About.com German page offers a simple, 10-question quiz to test your knowledge and further learn how to tell time. After you go through the test, ask for your score to see how you did.
- Learning German Numbers — As you’ll notice in our steps below, number knowledge is required before learning to tell time in German, so this page covers common time-telling numbers, along with some pronunciations.
The Quickest Way to Learn How to Tell Time in German
1. Know How to Ask What Time It Is
Since you’re just as likely to ask about the time as someone is to refer to you about it, a wise first step is memorizing this phrase:
Wie viel Uhr ist es? (What time is it?)
The phrase comes in handy when traveling, while working with Germans and at just about any other point where the time could be an issue.
2. Commit All German Numbers from 1 to 59 to Memory
Although we highly recommend practicing all numbers, anything over 59 is not used when telling time, so there’s no reason to learn them for this purpose. The goal here is to commit the German numbers from 1 to 59 to memory. This way, you won’t be fumbling around thinking about numbers instead of telling the time quickly.
Here’s our recommended way to learn how to count in German, including resources and tricks for remembering these common numbers.
3. Learn the German Words for “to,” “after,” “quarter” and “half”
Germans use a wide range of phrases for telling and reading time. From phrases that say something like “a quarter after” to phrases for telling someone exactly when you would like to meet them for a conference. Therefore, it’s wise to brush up on these essential German time phrases at this point.
Since we’re trying to quickly learn how to tell time, the most important words are the following:
- Nach (after)
Es ist fünfzehn nach drei. (It’s fifteen after three.)
- Vor (to/before)
Zehn vor zehn. (Ten before ten, or 9:50)
- Viertel (quarter)
Viertel nach acht. (Quarter past eight, or 8:15)
- Halb (half)
Halb sieben. (Half way to seven, or 6:30)
4. Learn How to State the Time on the Hour
One of the most common ways to tell time is right on the hour. Use the following phrase for these situations:
Es ist ~ Uhr. (It’s ~ o’clock.)
Once you have this phrase locked into your brain, simply plug in the number required.
- Es ist acht Uhr (It’s eight o’clock.)
- Es ist zehn Uhr. (It’s 10 o’clock.)
- Es ist ein Uhr. (It’s one o’clock.) Keep in mind that with time you say ein as opposed to eins.
5. Practice Stating the Time Before and After the Hour
Now that you know the numbers and words for before and after the hour, you can plug those into a common time-telling phrase.
Let’s go over a few common phrases:
- Es ist Viertel nach… (It’s a quarter past…)
Es ist Viertel nach sieben. (It’s a quarter past seven.)
- Es ist Viertel vor… (It’s a quarter to…)
Es ist Viertel vor zwei. (It’s a quarter to two.)
- Es ist halb… (It’s half an hour before…)
Es ist halb sechs. (It’s half an hour before six.)
6. Figure Out How to State Precise Times
Let’s say it’s 9:12. Do you know how to say that in German? Learning this is a little different than what we talked about above. For precise times, you basically just say the hour first, then the word Uhr and finally the minutes.
Here are some examples for you to practice with:
- Es ist neun Uhr zwölf. (It’s 9:12.)
- Es ist zwei Uhr sieben. (It’s 2:07.)
- Es ist sechs Uhr siebzehn. (It’s 6:17.)
7. Don’t Forget About the 24-hour Clock
The 24-hour clock is sometimes used in Germany, so you can add 12 hours to a p.m. time to know the 24-hour time. Simply move into higher numbers when stating the time. For example:
neunzehn Uhr neun (19:09) = 7:09 p.m.
For the quick calculation, you take 7:09 p.m. and add 12 to the hour, giving you 19:09. If adding 12 seems difficult, split it up into 10 and 2. To add the 10, you just throw a 1 in the tens digit next to 7, and then you add 2 to 7.
Change your phone and computer to 24-hour time for super quick learning.
And there you have it! Consider going through these steps on a daily basis to ensure that you’ve effectively learned how to tell time in German.
After going through these steps, you’ll know you have it down when you can rattle off the German time in the morning as you roll out of bed!
And One More Thing…
The easiest way to learn time-telling or any other practical German skill is by seeing it in a real-life context.
That’s where FluentU can help.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the German language and culture over time. You’ll learn German as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU brings native videos within reach using interactive transcripts.
Just tap on any subtitled word to see an in-context definition, usage examples and a helpful illustration.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s Learn Mode. Simply swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends examples and videos to you based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.