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Telling Time in Spanish

time en español

Since I learned my Spanish in Mexico, I became used to using the "¿qué horas son?" format. Then when I lived in Argentina, it seemed that they almost exclusively used "¿que hora es?" Well which is it? Is it "es", or "son"? Actually, it's both, as you see outlined below. However different countries do have their own way of doing it. In general, when asking what time it is, the usual way is to say

¿Que hora es?

If the answer is 1 o'clock or any number related to 1, like 1:15, 1:30, etc. the answer would be:

Es la una. Es la una y quince, etc.

If the answer is not a variation of 1 o'clock, you answer with "SON," since it is plural.

¿Que hora es?

Son las dos. Son las ocho y quince. Son las diez y media.

Do you see the pattern? You take the hour, plus the word "y" and add the minutes. Son las cuatro y cinco. It's 4:05. Notice that you answer using the articles, la & las as well. But keep in mind that in Mexico and some other parts of Latin America it is not uncommon to listen to

¿Que hora son?

To which you would still answer according to whether it's 1 o'clock, or anything greater than that. One funny thing they often do in Spanish is to use the word "menos" or less, when answering. That threw me for a bit of a loop the first time I listen tod it! Whereas in English we might say "it's 10 till 8," to indicate 10 minutes until 8 o'clock, or 7:50, - they would say "it's 8 less 10" - or "son las ocho menos diez." This actually highlights one of the differences between Anglo and Latin culture....whereas we tend to focus on the future, they spend a lot more time looking backwards to the past.

They also frequently use the word "media" or half, in place of the word thirty. For example, "son las cinco y media" = it's 5:30.

Worksheet: Telling Time in Spanish

Quiz: Spanish Time

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