how to tell time in spanish

How to Tell Time in Spanish (Plus Vocabulary and a Quiz)

Even though it’s a very useful skill and excellent practice of numbers, learning how to tell time (la hora) in Spanish is sometimes skipped by self-learners and classes.

In this post, we’ll teach you many time-related phrases and vocabulary to communicate effectively when you’re llegando tarde (running late) or de camino (on the way). 


How to Ask for the Time in Spanish

There are three main ways to ask for the time in Spanish:

¿Qué hora es? (What time is it?)

¿Qué horas son? (What time is it?)

¿Tiene(s) la hora? (Do you have the time?)

Note that ¿Qué hora es? is the most common way you’ll hear or use.

How to Tell Time on the Hour in Spanish

Then to tell someone what the time is, you’ll need to follow this formula:

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Es/son + la/las + [hour].

So if the time just happens to be on the hour, you might say:

Es la una. It's 1:00.
Son las dos. It's 2:00.
Son las tres. It's 3:00.
Son las cuatro. It's 4:00.

And if you need to review your numbers, you can do that here

Now let’s take a deeper look at the components of this formula:

  • Use ser, not estar. Though it may be counterintuitive, we always use ser to tell the time, not estar. Apparently, time is a permanent entity and therefore doesn’t want to be described using estar, which suggests temporariness.
  • Singular versus plural. We actually only use es for one o’clock and all times between 1:00 and 1:59: this is because one hour is singular. Use son for two o’clock and beyond.
  • Time is feminine. That’s why we say, Son las seis (It’s six o’clock), for example. Because time is feminine, you should always use las and la to describe time, never el or los.

How to Tell the Exact Time in Spanish

To say any time between the hour and half past, this formula is the most common:

Es/son + [the hour] + [number of minutes past the hour]

You can also tell the time with different prepositions in the following formulas, however they are slightly less common:

Es/son + [the hour] + y + [number of minutes past the hour]

Es/son + [the hour] + con + [number of minutes past the hour]

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For example:

Son las dos diez.
Son las dos con diez.
Son las dos y diez.
It's 2:10.

How to Tell Time Past and to the Hour in Spanish 

To say that it is half past the hour, use this formula:

Es/son + [the hour] y media/treinta.

Notice that it’s not y medio since hora is feminine.

To say that it’s quarter past the hour, use this:

Es/son + [the hour] y cuarto/quince.

Note that cuarto does end in o because it means “quarter” and the word is masculine.

Once you get past the 30-minute mark, you need to use menos or para and refer to the hour that is approaching, just like when you use “quarter to” in English:

Es/son + [the hour approaching] + menos cuarto.

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Es/son + cuarto + para + [the hour approaching].

Let’s look at some examples:

Son las dos y media.
Son las dos y treinta.
It's 2:30.
Son las ocho y cuarto.
Son las ocho y quince.
It's 8:15.
Son las cinco menos cuarto.
Son cuarto para las cinco.
It's quarter to 5.
Son las cinco menos veinte.
Son viente para las cinco.
It's twenty to 5.
Son las ocho menos diez.
Son diez para las ocho.
It's ten to 8.

Spanish Time Expressions and Vocabulary

Besides the numbers zero to 60 and the sentence structures I just went over, there are some more expressions and vocabulary that’ll help you talk about time in Spanish. Here are a few of them:

En punto Exactly, sharp Nos veremos a las ocho en punto.
(We're meeting at eight o'clock sharp.)
Mediodía Midday Durmió hasta mediodía el domingo.
(She slept until midday on Sunday.)
Medianoche Midnight Llegué de trabajar a medianoche.
(I got back from work at midnight.)
La madrugada Early morning, first thing in the morning Me desperté en la madrugada por la lluvia.
(I woke up first thing in the morning because of the rain.)
El amanecer Dawn, sunrise Me encanta ver el amanecer solo.
(I love watching the sunrise alone.)
De la tarde In the afternoon Son las seis de la tarde.
(It's 6 o'clock in the afternoon.)
De la mañana In the morning El sol de la mañana es muy lindo.
(The sun in the morning is really pretty.)
La semana pasada Last week Fui a ver mis papás la semana pasada.
(I went to see my parents last week.)
El mes pasado Last month El mes pasado cumplí veintinueve años.
(Last month I turned 29.)
El año pasado Last year Empecé a aprender francés el año pasado.
(I started learning French last year.)
Ayer Yesterday Ayer me dijo que puede venir hoy.
(Yesterday she told me she can come today.)
Anteayer The day before yesterday Se fue anteayer con su amigo.
(He left the day before yesterday with his friend.)
Mañana Tomorrow Vienes mañana, ¿cierto?
(You're coming tomorrow, right?)
Pasado mañana The day after tomorrow Se supone que pasado mañana habrá tormenta.
(Apparently the day after tomorrow there's going to be a storm.)
Fin de semana Weekend Este fin de semana no voy a hacer nada.
(This weekend I'm not going to do anything.)
Finde Weekend (short way of saying fin de semana) ¿Qué haces el finde? ¿Estás ocupado?
(What are you doing on the weekend? Are you busy?)
Día por medio Every other day Tomo clases de baile día por medio.
(I take dance classes every other day.)
Semana por medio Every other week Este gato me viene a visitar semana por medio.
(This cat comes to visit me every other week.)
Mes por medio Every other month Me pide dinero mes por medio, estoy harta.
(He asks me for money every other month, I'm sick of it.)
Año por medio Every other year Vamos de vacaciones año por medio si es que podemos.
(We go on vacation every other year if we can.)
A qué hora At what time ¿A qué hora llegas a casa?
(What time do you arrive home?)
A la hora At the hour Salimos a la hora acordada.
(We leave at the agreed time.)
Al mediodía At noon Vamos a almorzar al mediodía.
(We're going to have lunch at noon.)
A medianoche At midnight Celebraremos el año nuevo a medianoche.
(We'll celebrate New Year at midnight.)
Por la noche In the evening/night Me gusta pasear por la noche.
(I like to take a walk at night.)
A primera hora First thing in the morning Iré al gimnasio a primera hora de la mañana.
(I will go to the gym first thing in the morning.)
A última hora At the last minute Entregué el proyecto a última hora.
(I submitted the project at the last minute.)
A partir de ahora From now on A partir de ahora, voy a estudiar más.
(From now on, I will study more.)
A tiempo On time Llegó a tiempo a su cita.
(He arrived on time for his appointment.)
Tarde o temprano Sooner or later Tarde o temprano, conseguirás lo que quieres.
(Sooner or later, you will get what you want.)
Cada hora Every hour La alarma suena cada hora.
(The alarm sounds every hour.)
En cualquier momento At any time Puede llamar en cualquier momento.
(You can call at any time.)
De vez en cuando From time to time Salimos a cenar fuera de vez en cuando.
(We go out for dinner occasionally.)
En un abrir y cerrar de ojos In the blink of an eye En un abrir y cerrar de ojos, terminó el examen.
(In the blink of an eye, the exam was over.)
Sin pérdida de tiempo Without wasting time Empecemos sin pérdida de tiempo.
(Let's start without wasting time.)
En el momento justo At the right moment Llegaste en el momento justo.
(You arrived at the right moment.)
Hace mucho tiempo Long time ago Hace mucho tiempo que no te veo.
(It's been a long time since I last saw you.)
Tardar mucho tiempo To take a long time Voy a tardar mucho tiempo en terminar este proyecto.
(I will take a long time to finish this project.)
A tiempo parcial Part-time Trabajo a tiempo parcial en una cafetería.
(I work part-time at a café.)
Al mismo tiempo At the same time Quiero aprender a tocar guitarra y piano al mismo tiempo.
(I want to learn to play guitar and piano at the same time.)
En poco tiempo In a short time Aprenderás el idioma en poco tiempo si practicas todos los días.
(You will learn the language in a short time if you practice every day.)
De tiempo atrás From time back Estas tradiciones vienen de tiempo atrás.
(These traditions come from a long time ago.)
A tiempo determinado At a specific time La tarea debe entregarse a tiempo determinado.
(The task must be submitted at a specific time.)
Perder el tiempo To waste time No quiero perder el tiempo, necesito estudiar.
(I don't want to waste time, I need to study.)
Tiempo libre Free time Los fines de semana disfruto de mi tiempo libre.
(I enjoy my free time on weekends.)
Durante mucho tiempo For a long time Viajé por Europa durante mucho tiempo.
(I traveled around Europe for a long time.)
Todo el tiempo All the time Mi hermana habla por teléfono todo el tiempo.
(My sister talks on the phone all the time.)
Tiempo de espera Waiting time El tiempo de espera en el aeropuerto fue de dos horas.
(The waiting time at the airport was two hours.)
Llegar a tiempo To arrive on time Es importante llegar a tiempo a la reunión.
(It's important to arrive on time for the meeting.)
En tiempo real In real time El sistema muestra los datos en tiempo real.
(The system displays data in real time.)
En su debido tiempo In due time Recibirás la respuesta en su debido tiempo.
(You will receive the response in due time.)
A tiempo completo Full-time Trabajo a tiempo completo en una empresa de tecnología.
(I work full-time at a technology company.)
Tiempo de calidad Quality time Dedico tiempo de calidad a mis hobbies.
(I dedicate quality time to my hobbies.)
Tiempo perdido Lost time No quiero considerar ese proyecto como tiempo perdido.
(I don't want to consider that project as wasted time.)
Con el tiempo Over time Con el tiempo, aprenderás de tus errores.
(With time, you will learn from your mistakes.)
Tomarse su tiempo To take one's time Me gusta tomarme mi tiempo al tomar decisiones importantes.
(I like to take my time when making important decisions.)
A largo plazo Long-term Estoy planeando mi carrera a largo plazo.
(I am planning my career in the long term.)
A corto plazo Short-term Tenemos que resolver este problema a corto plazo.
(We need to solve this problem in the short term.)
El tiempo vuela Time flies No puedo creer que ya sea viernes, el tiempo vuela.
(I can't believe it's already Friday, time flies.)
En tiempo y forma In a timely manner Entregué el informe en tiempo y forma.
(I submitted the report in a timely manner.)
El paso del tiempo The passage of time El paso del tiempo deja huellas en nuestra piel.
(The passage of time leaves traces on our skin.)
Llevar tiempo haciendo algo To have been doing something for a while Llevo tiempo aprendiendo a tocar guitarra.
(I have been learning to play guitar for a while.)
En todo momento At all times Debes llevar tu identificación contigo en todo momento.
(You must carry your ID with you at all times.)

Time Telling Quiz

Write these times in Spanish:

1. 1:05

2. 3:55

3. 11:15

4. 9:30

5. 9:00

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6. 5:45

7. 6:50

Answer Key:

1. Es la una cinco.

2. Son las tres cincuenta y cinco. / Son las cuatro menos cinco. / Son cinco para las cuatro.

3. Son las once y cuarto/quince.

4. Son las nueve y media/treinta.

5. Son las nueve.

6. Son las cinco cuarenta y cinco. / Son las seis menos cuarto. / Son cuarto para las seis.

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7. Son las seis cincuenta. / Son las siete menos diez. / Son diez para las siete.

How to Practice Telling Time in Spanish

  • Use online games. You can test yourself using this online game—or with this one or this one, which are time-telling games of various levels with reviews to test your newly learned skills.
  • Ask your Spanish-speaking friends to test you. To practice beforehand, try listening to Spanish podcasts or watching some Spanish videos. The language learning program FluentU actually has authentic media clips—covering everything from telenovelas (soap operas) to news reports—that show you how native speakers naturally communicate time (among other things).

    FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

    You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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  • Integrate time telling into your regular life. Every time you look at your watch, phone or tablet in your normal English-speaking life, you could say the time aloud in Spanish. You could even set up an alert on your phone to remind you to do this, perhaps asking “¿Qué hora es?” until you get into the habit of doing this regularly. A more low-tech version of this would be to put a sticky note next to your alarm clock.
  • If someone asks for the time, say it in both languages. Warning: this one maybe is best done with close friends, as strangers on the bus might not appreciate your bilingual time-telling skills!


So there you have it. Now you know how to tell the time in Spanish! Give it a whirl right away: what time is it now?

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