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How to tell time in Spanish?

By: Mango Languages Fri Dec 22 2023

To tell time in Spanish, use the verb ser along with the time. In this post, we’ll examine how to tell time in Spanish in hours, minutes, and half and quarter hours. We’ll also review how to say certain phrases, how to distinguish AM and PM, and how to talk about specific events.

Table of Contents

    How to tell time in Spanish: hours

    As a general rule, use verb ser to tell time in Spanish for hours, as well as for asking for the time:

    • ¿Qué hora es?

      What time is it?

    The answer to this question can be:

    • Son las diez.

      It’s ten.

    Did you notice that we use the plural son and the article las? This is because the word horas(hours) is implicit: Son las diez(horas)!

    Remember: It is las because horas is a feminine plural noun.

    Your turn now: How would you say “It’s two?” The answer is:

    • Son las dos.

      It’s two.

    And a tricky one: How would you say “It’s one”?

    • Es la una.

      It’s one.

    Why es and la? Because this time the implicit word is hora: Es la una (hora)!

    Use Es la… for “one (o’clock)” and use Son las… for all the other hours.


    You can use the phrase en punto to say “o’clock”!

    How to tell time in Spanish: minutes

    Telling time in Spanish with minutes is different from English. In English, there are two ways to tell the time in minutes: You can read 2:10 as “two ten” or “ten past two.” In Spanish there are three:

    Son las dos diez.Son las dos y diez.Son las dos con diez.

    It’s two ten (2:10).

    How to tell time in Spanish: half and quarter hours

    You can also express half and quarter hours in Spanish. In English for 5:30 you can say, “It’s half past five” or “It’s five thirty.”
    Same in Spanish!



    Son las cinco y media.

    It’s half past five.

    Son las cinco (y) treinta.

    It’s half past five.


    Use y media for “half past”

    Quarter past:

    Two ways in English — two ways in Spanish!



    Son las seis quince.

    It’s six fifteen.

    Son las seis y cuarto.

    It’s a quarter past six.


    Use y cuarto for “quarter”

    How to say phrases like “It’s a quarter to…” in Spanish

    To say phrases like “it’s a quarter to…” in Spanish, you can continue the formula “hour + minutes” or use menos (minus) to subtract minutes from the next hour. For example, to say 6:45, you say:



    Son las seis cuarenta y cinco.

    It’s six forty-five.

    Son las siete menos cuarto.

    It’s a quarter to seven.


    Use menos to say “to”

    In some countries, you may hear para instead of menos. The formula is a bit different in this case: minutes + para + hour. Watch the verb as well!

    Es / son quince para las ocho.
    It’s fifteen to eight.
    Es / son cuarto para las ocho.
    It’s a quarter to eight.

    How to distinguish AM and PM in Spanish?

    Here are some useful phrases to distinguish AM and PM in Spanish:

    de la mañana

    in the morning

    de la tarde

    in the afternoon

    de la noche

    in the evening/at night





    al mediodía

    at noon

    a la medianoche

    at midnight

    es el mediodía

    it’s noon

    son las doce del día
    es la medianoche

    it’s midnight

    son las doce de la noche

    How to talk about specific events?

    Ser and other verbs can also be used to talk about specific events. Quite interestingly, while in English you would say, “What time is the party?” or “What time does the train arrive?” when you talk about when an event is taking place, you need to say ¿A qué hora es/son…?(At what time is/are…?)

    ¿A qué hora es la fiesta?
    What time is the party?
    ¿A qué hora llega el tren?
    What time does the train arrive?

    To answer these questions, you use the formula: a la/las + time. For example:

    Es a las tres en punto.
    It is at three o’clock.
    Llega a la una.
    It arrives at one.

    Do you need a refresher on the Spanish numbers? How about asking questions in Spanish? Don’t worry, we have posts for that too!

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