time in italian

How to Tell Time in Italian: The Definitive Guide for Beginners and Beyond

“What time does the restaurant close?”

No matter where you are in the world, telling time is hugely important.

That way, you can make plans, arrange events and meet up with friends.

So, let’s start learning how to tell time in Italian!


Basic Time Vocabulary in Italian

To ask what time it is, you can say either of the following:

Che ore sono?

Che ora è?

To answer, you’ll (usually) begin with Sono le. For example:

It’s 8 o’clock. — Sono le otto.

It’s 11 o’clock. — Sono le undici.

However, if it’s 1 o’clock, use the singular è.

It’s 1 o’clock. — È l’una.

If you’re planning a visit abroad, it’s important to note that Italy, like much of Europe, uses the 24-hour clock format.

Instead of 1 p.m., you’ll see 13:00. The numbers then continue increasing until 11 p.m., which is 23:00.

Since midnight is technically the start of the day, the clock rolls right back to zero (00:00) once midnight strikes (although some places also write it as 24:00).

So you’ll often hear the following in Italian:

It’s 4 p.m. (16:00) — Sono le sedici.

It’s 10 p.m. (22:00) — Sono le ventidue.

1-60: Italian Numbers for Telling Time

As you no doubt already know, the most important words for telling time in Italian (or in any language) are the numbers 1 to 60.

Let’s start with the basics: 1-10.

1 — Uno

2 — Due

3 — Tre

4 — Quattro

5 — Cinque

6 — Sei

7 — Sette

8 — Otto

9 — Nove

10 — Dieci

Next up are the teens. They’re similar to their single-digit counterparts, with dici added to signify that we’re in the tens now.

Pay attention to 17-19, which turn the formula backward!

11 — Undici

12 — Dodici

13 — Tredici

14 — Quattordici

15 — Quindici

16 — Sedici

17 — Diciassette

18 — Diciotto

19 — Diciannove

Here’s where it gets a little simpler. The twenties have the same pronunciation as the single digits, with venti added to the beginning.

There are two exceptions to this: 21 and 28 drop the i, so venti becomes vent.

20 — Venti

21 — Ventuno

22 — Ventidue

23 — Ventitré

24 — Ventiquattro

25 — Venticinque

26 — Ventisei

27 — Ventisette

28 — Ventotto

29 — Ventinove

From here, you just apply the same principles (including the 1 and 8 rule—drop the -a before adding uno or otto) to the thirties, forties and fifties, until you get to sixty.

30 — Trenta

40 — Quaranta

50 — Cinquanta

60 — Sessanta

And now you know all the Italian numbers you need for telling time!

More Italian Vocabulary for Telling Time

Here are some more words and phrases that are helpful to know when telling time in Italian.

Hour — Ora

Minute — Minuto

Second — Secondo

Clock — Orologio

It’s also nice to know what time of day you’re talking about. Whether you’re getting a coffee in the morning or having a late-night meal, you’ll want to properly express those times.

Again, Italians don’t use a.m. or p.m. Instead, they state the exact part of the day. They use morning when the time is before noon, afternoon between noon and dinner time (around 5 p.m.), evening (between dinner time and 11 p.m.) and night (11 p.m. to early morning hours).

(In the) morning — (Di) mattina

(In the) afternoon — (Del) pomeriggio

(In the) evening — (Di) sera

(In the) night — (Di) notte

Between these times, you also have noon and midnight:

Noon — Mezzogiorno

Midnight — Mezzanotte

By using the singular è again, you can simply say the general time of day (including noon and midnight).

It’s the afternoon. — È pomeriggio.

It’s midnight. — È mezzanotte.

By now you may be wondering, what about the times that aren’t on the hour? We’ve got you covered there, too. Here are some common expressions to remember:

A half hour — Una mezz’ora

A quarter hour — Un quarto d’ora

And for some examples:

It’s a quarter to (hour) — Sono le (ora) meno un quarto

It’s a quarter past (hour) — Sono le (ora) e un quarto

It’s half past (hour) — Sono le (ora) e mezzo

It’s (hour):(minute) — Sono le (ora) e (minuto)

Asking About Times and Making Plans in Italian

Now that you’ve got your time-telling vocabulary down, it’s time to work it into conversation (pun intended).

More often than not, you’ll find yourself asking “what time…?” Below are a few helpful “what time” phrases to have in your pocket!

(At) what time? — A che ora?

What time does it start? — A che ora inizia?

What time does it open? — A che ora apre?

What time does it close? — A che ora chiude?

How long does it take? — Quanto tempo ci vuole?

How long does… last? — Quanto dura…?

What about when you’re making plans with friends? Whether you’re going out to eat, going shopping or just hanging out, you’ll need to agree on a time.

Here are some phrases to make sure you and your friends are in sync:

When are we meeting? — Quando ci incontriamo?

I’m late — Sono in ritardo

I’m early — Sono in anticipo

Around — Intorno a (alle) / Verso (le)

Now — Adesso / Ora

Right away/Immediately — Subito

On the dot — In punto

Talking About Activities with Times in Italian

When you want to say that you do something at a particular time, you have to use the preposition a (at) and combine it with the article l’ (the) or le (the).

Since we use the article l’ for 1 o’clock, it combines with a to become all’. With all the other times, the preposition a combines with le to become alle.

I sleep at 1 a.m. Dormo all’una.

In the morning, I wake up at 7 a.m. Di mattina mi sveglio alle sette.

We eat dinner at 5 p.m. (17:00) Ceniamo alle diciassette.

I start work at 9 a.m. on the dot. Comincio a lavorare alle nove in punto.

You now have all the tools you need to tell time in Italian! Let’s put them to use and get some practice.

Practice Telling Time in Italian

The best place to start your practice is with your numbers. Once you’ve perfected your number game, you can move on to practicing time-telling.

Here are three resources that’ll help you, in the order that we recommend you tackle them:

  • Quiz yourself on the numbers 1-100: Sporcle’s quiz will help you practice your numbers not just up to 60, but all the way to 100. So you’ll be able to name every number on the clock without a hitch.
  • Practice expressing time: This quiz, also from Sporcle, will help you nail down all the different vocabulary you’ve learned to express the time.
  • Hone your time-telling with flashcards: If you want a real challenge with the added bonus of fun and games, check out this Quizlet course. It helps you work on your vocabulary with flashcards, writing, spelling and hearing the words. Plus, it has some fun matching games when you want to shake it up a little!
  • For time/numbers flashcards with more context clues, there’s FluentU. It’s a language learning program based on watching authentic videos that also helps you retain what you’ve learned through flashcards that use a spaced repetition system (SRS) and multimedia information to jog your memory.

Once you’ve sharpened your time-telling talent, you’ll never have to wonder when restaurants or shops close, when a show starts or when you need to line up for the tour you’re taking. You’ll always know “what time!”

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