Asking and telling time in Spanish: common expressions and questions

The time is called EL TIEMPO or LA HORA in Spanish. Knowing how to ask and tell time in Spanish may be very useful for everyday activities and simple conversations, but there are some differences between the way we talk about time in Spanish and how we do it in English. In this lesson you will learn some common ways to ask what time it is in Spanish, how to tell time and how all these things can be used in a conversation. We will discuss the mistakes you should avoid when talking about time and include some useful time expressions in Spanish.

Questions and expressions to ask and tell time in Spanish (examples + audio)

We will begin this lesson by learning some time expressions in Spanish (expresiones de tiempo) using an interesting picture with several clocks (relojes) and examples about time in Spanish. There is a very important question in the picture as well: ¿Qué hora es? or What time is it? in Spanish. To tell time in Spanish we use the verb SER in its forms ES and SON. For a specific hour in a part of the day, we use the time expressions: DE LA MAÑANA, DE LA TARDE and DE LA NOCHE so we may say Son las 5 de la tarde (It’s 5 in the afternoon). When these expressions are not linked to a specific hour, we use the preposition EN instead of DE so these expressions would change to EN LA MAÑANA, EN LA TARDE and EN LA NOCHE like in the sentence Yo cocino el desayuno en la mañana. All the words in blue in the picture are very common words and phrases for time in Spanish so do your best to remember them. Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Time phrases in Spanish: asking what time is it in Spanish

Asking and telling time in Spanish

Here is a list of examples of questions and sentences used to ask and tell time in Spanish. You will find some casual expressions as well as some formal ones. Try to identify the main difference between the way we talk about time in Spanish and how you do it in English. We will explain lated how all these things work. Press PLAY to listen to the examples.

English Questions and sentences for time in Spanish Listen
What time is it? – It´s 8 o´clock ¿Qué hora es?Son las ocho en punto
What time is it? – It´s 10 to 2 ¿Qué hora es? – Faltan diez para las dos
What time is it? – It´s 4:25 ¿Qué hora es? – Son las cuatro y veinticinco.
What time is it? – It´s 1:30 ¿Qué hora es? – Es la una y treinta/ Es la una y media
Excuse me, can you tell me what time Disculpe, ¿me puede decir la hora? – Son las ocho y cinco
The show starts at 7 in the morning. El programa comienza a las 7 de la mañana
We get out of work at 2 in the afternoon Salimos del trabajo a las 2 de la tarde.
The party starts at 10 at night. La fiesta comienza a las 10 de la noche.
Yesterday was a busy day Ayer fue un día ocupado
Today is a good day Hoy es un buen día
Tomorrow I’ll read for several hours Mañana leeré varias horas
How long does it take you to clean your house? ¿Cuánto tiempo te lleva/toma limpiar tu casa?
What time are you leaving? ¿A qué hora te vas?
We will leave in some minutes Nos iremos en unos cuantos minutos

Days of the week in Spanish: Lunes, martes, miércoles, jueves, viernes, sábado y domingo.

Months of the year in Spanish: Enero, febrero, marzo, abril, mayo, junio, julio, agosto, septiembre, octubre, noviembre, diciembre.

How to make questions and sentences to ask and tell time in Spanish

We will discuss a little about the ways for asking time in Spanish. To ask what time it is in Spanish, we often use the question ¿Qué hora es? with the word HORA (hour) not TIEMPO (time) so saying ¿Qué tiempo es? in incorrect. This question varies according to the formality of the conversation. A more formal way to ask time in Spanish would be adding the expression DISCULPE or DISCULPA before the question ¿Qué hora es? as in Disculpe, ¿Qué hora es?. There are other questions to ask time in Spanish including ¿Me puede decir la hora? (Can you tell me the time?) that uses the Spanish verbs PODER and DECIR (to tell). The phrase LA HORA would correspond to the time. It is also possible to ask with the word TIEMPO using the question ¿Qué tiempo tiene?, which literally means what time do you have in Spanish, or ¿Qué hora tiene? replacing the word TIEMPO for HORA.

Sentences to tell time in Spanish follow a pretty simple structure. First, we use the common irregular verb SER (to be) in two different conjugations: ES and SON. We use ES only for the time when it is from 1:00 to 1:59, otherwise we will use SON. The basic pattern for telling time in Spanish is: [Es/son + la(s) + time]. If you want to say something like it’s 1:30 you should say Es la una y treinta (using ES) but if you want to say it’s 4:50 you should say Son las cuatro y cincuenta (using SON). You can see how this rule was applied to the examples above. The time expression UN CUARTO PARA means “a quarter to” in Spanish, and it is often used with the verb FALTAR (to lack/to be left) in the structure [Falta/Faltan + time left + para la/las + hour] so something like it’s a quarter to ten would be translated as Falta un cuarto para las diez. MEDIA means a half in Spanish and following the same structure would be used as Falta media hora para la una (It’s a half hour to 1:00) or saying the same in an easier way Es la una y media. The words LA and LAS are definite articles in Spanish. LA is used for time between 1:00 and 1:59 as in La una y cincuenta, whereas LAS is for any other time in as in Las tres y treinta.

Finally, we use the question ¿A qué hora…? (What time do…) to ask for a specific hour of an activity as in ¿A que hora nos vamos? (what time are we leaving?) and ¿A qué hora te levantas? (What time do you get up?). The answer for this type of question usually takes part of the question and adds the time in Spanish, for example: Nos vamos en 30 minutos (We are leaving in 30 minutes) and Yo me levanto a las 8 de la mañana (I get up at 8 o´clock).

Spanish tip: If you need to ask a stranger the time in Spanish, it is better to use a polite question like Disculpe, ¿me puede decir la hora? or Disculpe, ¿qué hora es?

Main conversation in Spanish: What time is it? – ¿Qué hora es?

Listen to a conversation between two friends talking about time in Spanish. Take notes of the most relevant details in the conversation like the time when the conversation happens, the day and month in Spanish. Press PLAY to listen to the conversation.

Spanish listening quiz: Time in Spanish - ¡Ya es hora!

The following questions are related to the conversation about the time in Spanish that you listened to. Every time you get a right answer, you will see an explanation telling you why that is the right choice. Read each question carefully and answer according to the information provided in the Spanish conversation. Press “START” to begin the Spanish listening comprehension quiz.
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See conversation script

Spanish practice: Telling the right time in Spanish - La hora

A quiz about questions and phrases for time in Spanish

Here is a set of questions related to common time expressions in Spanish. Read each question carefully and choose the best answer from the given options. Again, you will get a Spanish tip every time you find a correct answer. Press “START” to begin this interactive quiz.
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Answer the following questions about your life with complete sentences in Spanish: ¿A qué hora te levantas en la mañana? ¿A qué hora desayunas y almuerzas? ¿Con qué otras personas comes? ¿A qué hora te vas a dormir?


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