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¿Qué hora es? What time is it?

After having studied Spanish numbers Numbers in Spanish., you are now prepared to learn some useful expressions of time.

  1. ¿Qué hora es?

    This expression means: "What time is it?" In fact the exact translation for this sentence would be: "What hour is it?" Note that the English word "time" is translated into Spanish as "tiempo".) And remember that Spanish requires, when asking a question, to write 2 question marks: "¿" and "?"; the first one at the beginning of the question and the second one at the end of it.

    The word "Qué" is an interrogative pronoun. Other interrogative pronouns are:

    ¿Cómo...? How...?
    ¿Cómo estás? - How are you?

    ¿Quién...? Who...?
    ¿Quién es esa chica? - Who is that girl?

    ¿Por qué...? Why...?
    ¿Por qué estás leyendo ese libro? - Why are you reading that book?

    ¿Cuando...? When...?
    ¿Cuándo vas a dormir? - When are you going to sleep?

    ¿Dónde...? Where...?
    ¿Dónde está el libro? - Where is the book?

  2. The answer to "¿Qué hora es?": "Son las..." / "Es la..."

    Imagine someone tells you:

    "Por favor, ¿Qué hora es?" ("What time is it, please?") And you need to say in Spanish the following sentence:
    "It's five o'clock" The translation would be: "Son las cinco en punto"

    • "It is..." "Son las..."

      "Son" belongs to the verb Ser (To be) (3rd person plural). Note that this verb can be omitted, so you can also say: "Las cinco en punto" (Five o'clock.) You can even say just the following: "Las cinco". There is just one exception: When you want to say that "it is one o'clock", "it is quarter to one", "ten past one", etc... instead of saying: "Son las..." we'll say "Es la una..."

      "Son las tres y media" ("It is half past three") / "Son las ocho y cuarto" ("It is quarter past eight")

      "Es la una y diez" ("It is ten past one") / "Es la una menos veinte" ("It is twenty to one")
      ("es" is the singular form of verb Ser (To be) and "son" is the plural form of the same verb.)

    • "five", "cinco"

    • "o'clock", "en punto"
      And this is an important point: The main expressions are:

      "En punto", "O'clock"
      "Es la una en punto" ("It is one o'clock")
      "Son las seis en punto" ("It is six o'clock")

      "Y cuarto", "Quarter past ..."
      "Es la una y cuarto" ("It is quarter past one")
      "Son las doce y cuarto" ("It is quarter past twelve")

      "Y media", "Half past..."
      "Es la una y media" ("It is half past one")
      "Son las siete y media" ("It is half past seven")

      "Menos cuarto", "Quarter to..."
      "Es la una menos cuarto" ("It is quarter to one")
      "Son las cuatro menos cuarto" ("It is quarter to four")

      So, now, we have learn the four main time expressions:
      - En punto
      - Y cuarto
      - Y media
      - Menos cuarto

      But, if you want to say, for example: "It's ten past four"? It's quite easy:From "En punto" (O'clock) to "Y media" (Half past...), Spanish language uses the word "y" (and).
      Let's see some examples: "Son las tres y cinco" ("It is five past three") / "Son las tres y diez" ("It is ten past three") / "Son las tres y diecisiete" ("It is seventeen past three") / "Son las tres y veinte" ("It is twenty past three") / "Son las tres y veintidos" ("It is twenty-two past three") / "Son las tres y veinticinco" ("It is twenty-five past three")

      And, from "Y media" (Half past...) to "En punto" (O'clock), Spanish uses the word "menos" (less).
      Here we have some examples: "Son las tres menos veinticinco" ("It is twenty-five to three") / "Son las tres menos veinte" ("It is twenty to three") / "Son las tres menos diez" ("It is ten to three") / "Son las tres menos cinco" ("It is five to three")

And that's all by now!

¡Que tenga un buen día!
Angeles F.

VOCABULARY IN THIS LESSON (alphabetical order):
¿Qué hora es? = What time is it?
¿Cómo? = How?
¿Cuando? = When?
¿Dónde? = Where?
en punto = O'clock
menos cuarto = quarter to
¿Por qué? = Why?
¿Qué? = What?
¿Quién? = Who?
tiempo (m) = time.
y cuarto = quarter past
y media = half past

Recommended material:

I write monthly articles for "Think Spanish" ("Piensa en español") since 2002. All "Think Spanish" articles are written in Spanish, and they include a Spanish/English glossary. You'll also have the option to buy this magazine including a CD. Nice way to learn about Spanish language and customs!
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This content was written by Angeles Fernández. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Angeles Fernández for details.


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