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Speak Spanish like a Native

Knowing how to tell the time in Spanish (decir la hora en español) is vital for your daily and social life. Let's get straight to it!

1. Use the verb ser

In Spanish, the verb ser is always used when telling the time. O'clock is horas but, like in English, this is normally omitted:

  • Son las 8 horas (It's 8am)
  • Son las 8 (It's 8am)
  • Es la 1 (It's 1am)

2. The time is plural (apart from one o'clock)

For any time apart from one o'clock, use ser in it's plural form. This is the same regardless of whether you're talking in the past, present, or future. In the past make sure to use the imperfect tense, eran, and not the preterite, fueron:

  • Son las 2 (It's 2am)
  • Eran las 9:30 (It was 9:30am)
  • Serán las 18:43 (It'll be 6:43pm)
  • Es la 1 (It's 1am)
  • Era la 1:30 (It was 1:30am)
  • Será la 1:43 (It'll be 1:43am)

3. Use a las/la to say 'at a particular time'

  • Te veo a las las 11 (I'll see you at 11am)
  • Te veo a la las 1 (I'll see you at 1am)

4. When writing use the 24h clock

When writing the time in Spanish you use the 24 hour clock so there’s no need to use AM or PM. When speaking, however, you just use the normal 12 hour clock.

  • Quedamos a las 13 (Meet at 1pm)
  • Queamos a las 22 (Meet at 10pm)

Watch the video guide

5. Times of day

  • La madrugada (Early hours)
  • La mañana (Morning)
  • La tarde (Afternoon)
  • La noche (Night)

La madrugada is approximately the time period between 1-5am. You can think of it as the ‘wee hours’ or ‘small hours’. As such, for 3am you don’t say, Son las tres de la mañana but son las tres de la madrugada. To say 'in the morning, 'in the afternoon', or 'at night' use de la. If you want to be a bit more vague, you can also use por la.

  • Llegó a las 2 de la madrugada (He arrived at 2 in the morning)
  • La cafetería abre las 8 de la mañana (The cafe opens at 8 in the morning)
  • Salgo a correr por la tarde (I go running in the afternoon)
  • Me voy a la cama a las 11de lanoche (I go to bed at 11 at night)

6. Quarter past, half past, and quarter to

  • Y cuarto (Quarter past). Son las ocho y cuarto
  • Y media (Half past). Son las ocho y media
  • Menos cuarto (Quarter to). Son las ocho menos cuarto

6. How to ask what the time is

  • ¿Qué hora es? (What time is it?)
  • ¿Tienes hora? (Have you got the time?)

7. How to say watch or clock

Both watch and clock are un reloj in Spanish. If you want to be more specific then you can use:

  • Reloj de pulsera (Wristwatch)
  • Reloj de pared (Wall clock)
  • Reloj de pie (Grandfather clock)

8. Watch/clock hands

The hands are called manecillas or agujas. More specifically:

  • Manecilla de las horas (Hour hand)
  • Manecilla de los minutos/Minutero (Minute hand)
  • Manecilla de los segundos/Segundero (Second hand)

9. Vocabulary

  • En el sentido de las agujas del reloj/en sentido horario (Clockwise)
  • En sentido contrario de las agujas del reloj/antihorario (Anticlockwise)
  • Sobre las/A eso de las (Around). Llego sobre las 8 (I'll arrive around 8)
  • Clavadas/En punto (Bang on/Exactly). Llegó a las 8 clavadas (She arrived bang on 8)
  • Y pico/Y algo (Just after). Llegó a las 8 y pico (She arrived just after 8)
  • Tener prisa (To be in a hurry)

Now you know how to tell the time in Spanish like a native :)

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