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Telling Time in German – A No-Nonsense Guide

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If you have made it to Germany, you must be aware that Germans are punctual, almost to a fault. It is actually an important part of German etiquette to be on time. In this post we’ll share with you everything you need to know about telling time in German including how to ask for the time, tell time, and provide you with new vocabulary words surrounding the concept of time in German.

How to Ask For the Time in German

telling time in german

Practice asking for the time as much as you can! When you approach a stranger in public, try not to approach them from behind, and try not to touch them to get their attention, it’s perceived as rude in Germany.

Open with Entschuldigung “pardon” or Entschuldigen SieExcuse me or sorry”. Sie, which is the “formal you” indicates a formal relationship with a stranger. When you ask someone who you are close with, a family member or friend use Du, which is the “informal you”. 

Read more about du vs sie.

Different Ways to Ask for the Time in German

GermanEnglish
Wieviel Uhr ist es?What time is it?
Wie spät ist es?How late is it? What time is it?
Haben Sie die Uhrzeit?Do you (formal) have the time?
Wissen Sie wieviel Uhr es ist?Do you (formal) know what time it is?
Wissen Sie wie spät es ist?Do you know (formal) what time it is?

How to Indicate the Full Hour

Telling time in German is very similar to indicating time in English. Look at the examples below to get an overview of this basic form of telling time. Uhr simply means “o’clock”.

German

English

Es ist ein Uhr

It’s one o’clock.

Es ist zwei Uhr

It’s two o’clock.

Es ist drei Uhr

It’s three o’clock.

Es ist vier Uhr

It’s four o’clock.

Es ist fünf Uhr

It’s five o’clock.

Es ist sechs Uhr

It’s six o’clock.

Es ist sieben Uhr

It’s seven o’clock.

Es ist acht Uhr

It’s eight o’clock.

Es ist neun Uhr

It’s nine o’clock.

Es ist zehn Uhr

It’s ten o’clock.

Es ist elf Uhr

It’s eleven o’clock.

Es ist zwölf Uhr

It’s twelve o’clock.

AM vs PM When Telling Time in German

Well if we ask the question, you know there must be! You might be familiar with the term “military time” or “international time” and that’s the time that’s used in Germany.

Numbers from 1 to 12 are AM, numbers from 13 to 24 are PM. Germans don’t adhere to this religiously though. Numbers from 1 to 12 are often used throughout the whole day, and the context lets you know that you probably won’t be meeting your friend for coffee at 3am when they say Ich treffe dich um 3 Uhr “I’ll see you at 3”.

It is however important to be aware of those times as specific situations are often in military time. Whenever you take a bus or train, have an official meeting or appointment, it will probably be indicated in military time. See below for how to indicate PM time in German.

German

English

Es ist dreizehn Uhr

It’s one o’clock p.m / It's thirteen o'clock.

Es ist vierzehn Uhr

It’s two o’clock p.m. / It's fourteen o'clock.

Es ist fünfzehn Uhr

It’s three o’clock p.m. / It's fifteen o'clock.

Es ist sechzehn Uhr

It’s four o’clock p.m. / It's sixteen o'clock.

Es ist siebzehn Uhr

It’s five o’clock p.m. / It's seventeen o'clock.

Es ist achtzehn Uhr

It’s six o’clock p.m. / It's eighteen o'clock.

Es ist neunzehn Uhr

It’s seven o’clock p.m. / It's ninteen o'clock.

Es ist zwanzig Uhr

It’s eight o’clock p.m. / It's twenty o'clock.

Es ist einundzwanzig Uhr

It’s nine o’clock p.m. / It's twenty-one o'clock.

Es ist zweiundzwanzig Uhr

It’s ten o’clock p.m. / It's twenty-two o'clock.

Es ist dreiundzwanzig Uhr

It’s eleven o’clock p.m. / It's twenty-three o'clock.

Es ist vierundzwanzig Uhr

It’s twelve o’clock p.m. / It's twenty-four o'clock.

How to Indicate Half Past, or 30

There are two ways of indicating the 30 minute mark. The first is simply stating the hour + thirty and the second is using the term “half past”.

Hour + Thirty

Let’s first take a look at the simple example. Thirty in German is dreißig. Let’s take a look at some examples.

English

  1. It’s 2:30.

  2. It’s 10:30.
  3. It’s 7:30.

German Written

  1. Es ist 14.30 Uhr.

  2. Es ist 10.30 Uhr.

  3. Es ist 19.30 Uhr

German Spoken

  1. Es ist vierzehn Uhr dreißig
  2. Es ist vierzehn Uhr dreißig
  3. Es ist neunzehn Uhr dreißig

Did you notice something? Although Uhr “o clock” is written after the hour and the minute, when you express the time verbally, you put it between the hour and the minute. 

Half Past

If you want to use the expression “half past”, you can only use it with standard time, or the 12 hour time. It cannot be used with military time.

Another thing to note is that while in English, you would say half past two, to refer to 2:30, in German, you would say es ist halb drei, which translates to “half TIL three”. So you just need to remember that you need to refer to the next hour when you’re using this “half past” expression.

Let’s take a look at a few examples. To hopefully make things more clear, we’ll use the term “half til” instead of “half past”.

Time

  1. 10:30
  2. 5:30
  3. 7:30

English

  1. It’s half til 11.
  2. It’s half til 5
  3. It’s half till 8

German

  1. Es ist halb 11
  2. Es ist halb 6
  3. Es ist halb 8

Note: When you express time by using halb “half past” you only use the numbers 1 to 12. When you are using military time (13 to 24), make sure you use the hour + thirty rule.

How to Indicate Hours and Minutes

Indicating hours and minutes is similar to indicating half past or 30. When you use military time from 13 to 24 you indicate the minutes just as you would with 30.

Let’s take a look at some examples saying the time in German simply.

Time

  1. 14:10

  2. 14.15

  3. 14.20

  4. 14.40

  5. 14.45


  6. 14.50

English

  1. It’s fourteen ten.

  2. It’s fourteen fifteen.
  3. It’s fourteen twenty.
  4. It’s fourteen forty.

  5. It’s fourteen forty-five.

  6. It’s fourteen fifty.

German

  1. Es ist vierzehn Uhr zehn.
  2. Es ist vierzehn Uhr fünfzehn
  3. Es ist vierzehn Uhr zwanzig.
  4. Es ist vierzehn Uhr vierzig.
  5. Es ist vierzehn Uhr fünfundvierzig.
  6. Es ist vierzehn Uhr fünfzig.

As in the case with using the expression “half past”, when you use numbers from 1 to 12 you can also use expressions such as viertel “quarter”, halb “half”, nach “after” and vor “before”. Check out the following examples:

Time

  1. 10:10

  2. 10.15

  3. 10.20

  4. 10.40

  5. 10.45

  6. 10.50

English

  1. It’s ten after ten.

  2. It’s a quarter after ten.
  3. It’s twenty after ten.
  4. It’s twenty till eleven.
  5. It’s a quarter till eleven.
  6. It’s ten till eleven.

German

  1. Es ist zehn nach zehn.
  2. Es ist viertel nach zehn.
  3. Es ist zwanzig nach zehn.
  4. Es ist zwanzig vor elf.
  5. Es ist viertel vor elf.
  6. Es ist zehn vor elf.

Note: When you express time by using viertel “quarter”, halb “half”, nach “after” and vor “before” you only use it with numbers 1 to 12.

How to Indicate the Time of Day in German

When you don’t refer to an exact time but more to a time frame throughout the day you can also use the following expressions:

German

English

Es ist dreizehn Uhr

It’s one o’clock p.m / It's thirteen o'clock.

Es ist vierzehn Uhr

It’s two o’clock p.m. / It's fourteen o'clock.

Es ist fünfzehn Uhr

It’s three o’clock p.m. / It's fifteen o'clock.

Es ist sechzehn Uhr

It’s four o’clock p.m. / It's sixteen o'clock.

Es ist siebzehn Uhr

It’s five o’clock p.m. / It's seventeen o'clock.

Es ist achtzehn Uhr

It’s six o’clock p.m. / It's eighteen o'clock.

Es ist neunzehn Uhr

It’s seven o’clock p.m. / It's ninteen o'clock.

Es ist zwanzig Uhr

It’s eight o’clock p.m. / It's twenty o'clock.

Es ist einundzwanzig Uhr

It’s nine o’clock p.m. / It's twenty-one o'clock.

Es ist zweiundzwanzig Uhr

It’s ten o’clock p.m. / It's twenty-two o'clock.

Es ist dreiundzwanzig Uhr

It’s eleven o’clock p.m. / It's twenty-three o'clock.

Es ist vierundzwanzig Uhr

It’s twelve o’clock p.m. / It's twenty-four o'clock.

You might also be interested in these articles about German greetings at different times of day:

Important Phrases and Vocab for Time in German

German is a vast language that has specific words to express concepts such as übermorgen “the day after tomorrow” or vorgestern “the day before yesterday”. Familiarize yourself with the German words about time below:

German

English

morgen

Tomorrow

morgen früh

Tomorrow morning

übermorgen

The day after tomorrow 

früh

Early

spät

Late

Punkt (Punkt 1 Uhr)

(1am sharp) exactly or sharp

gestern

Yesterday

vorgestern

The day before yesterday

gestern Nacht

Last night

letzte Woche

Last week

nächste Woche

Next week

jede Woche

Every week

jede zweite Woche

Every other week

tagsübe

During the day

Conclusion

If you feel overwhelmed by the new vocabulary we looked at today, relax, Rome wasn’t built in a day and we are sure nobody ever learned German in a day either. Practice asking and telling time in Germany and you’ll be familiar with the different concepts. When you’re getting started, don’t be afraid to double-check and confirm a particular time, you don’t want to be an hour late when meeting someone.

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