Telling the time in Spanish

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How to tell the time in Spanish

Formal Informal in Spain
6:00 las seis en punto las seis
6:05 las seis y cinco minutos las seis y cinco
6:15 las seis y quince minutos las seis y cuarto
6:20 las seis y veinte minutos las seis y veinte
6:30 las seis y treinta minutos las seis y media
6:31 las seis y treinta y un minutos las seis y treinta y uno
6:40 las seis y cuarenta minutos las siete menos veinte
6:45 las seis y cuarenta y cinco minutos las siete menos cuarto
6:50 las seis y cincuenta minutos las siete menos diez

Formal version

When telling the time in a formal way we have to explicitly indicate if the time is on the hour (en punto) or indicate the minutes (minutos). If the situation calls for the exact time, we can also add the word horas.

10:30 → diez y treinta minutosliterally: ten and thirty minutes
11:30 → once horas y treinta minutosliterally: eleven hours and thirty minutes

Spanish also uses the 24-hour clock. In scientific contexts it is necessary to be as precise as possible, so we also use the word horas.

18:57 → dieciocho horas y cincuenta y siete minutosliterally: eighteen hours and seven minutes

Informal version

Spanish generally uses the 12-hour clock together with adverbs of time to indicate whether we are referring to the morning or the afternoon. The 24-hour clock is used in written contexts such as bus timetables or the TV guide. The adverbs we use when telling the time in Spanish are:

  • de la madrugada (1:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m.)
    1:00 a.m. → la una de la madrugada
  • de la mañana (6:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.)
    10:00 a.m. → las diez de la mañana
  • del mediodía – las 12 (midday)
    12:00 p.m. → las doce del mediodía
  • de la tarde - (1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.)
    18:00 → las seis de la tarde
  • de la noche - (8:00 p.m. – 12:00 p.m.)
    9:00 p.m. → las nueve de la noche


When telling the time in English we use the phrase it is + time. Spanish uses a similar construction, but the verb is only used in the singular (es) to talk about 1 o’clock and its variants; with all other times the verb is in the plural (son). The verb is also followed by the corresponding feminine definite article in either the singular or the plural (la or las).

Es la una y media. → It’s half past one.
Son las dos y cuarto. → It’s quarter past two.
not: Es la dos y cuarto.
Son las nueve menos cuarto. → It’s quarter to nine.
not: Es la nueve menos cuarto.

However, when we ask for the time we use the verb in the singular es, although the answer is usually plural.

¿Qué hora es?What time is it?
Son las diez.It’s ten (o’clock).