How to Say the Time in Spanish

¿Qué hora es?

On your first trip to Spain or any other Spanish speaking country you may come to appreciate that the way Spanish speakers conceive time throughout the day versus how the rest of the world does it differ quite sensibly. You could blame it on the fact they are exposed (read as blessed) to the sun for most part of the year, or on their world-famous afternoon nap called siesta, or perhaps on the combination of the two plus numerous other factors.

The point is that life rhythm for españoles and latinos follows a different pace, much slower, more relaxed and carefree. Therefore, any indication of time when meeting someone in Spain or South America is never to be intended literally, but it requires learning how to say the time in Spanish nonetheless. Additionally, as a rule, bear in mind that any event, meal, celebration you can possible think of surely occurs at a later time in the day in Spain. That, at least, should save you from wasting hours waiting for people to turn up at agreed times.

First and foremost, how do we ask the time in Spanish?

Excuse me, Perdona, Perdone,
what time is it? …¿qué hora es? …¿qué hora es?
do you know what the time is? …¿tienes hora? …¿tiene hora?
can you tell me what time it is? …¿me puedes decir la hora? …¿me puede decir la hora?


Secondly, it is of paramount importance to remember that, unlike English, hours always come before minutes, when saying the time in Spanish.

Furthermore, when the minute hand is located anywhere between 12 and 6, that is on the right side of the reloj (clock/watch), we employ the simple conjunction y (and) to link hours and minutes, which is the exact equivalent of past in English. Conversely, when on the left side of the clock where the minute handle can fall anywhere between 6 and 12, we use menos (minus), which corresponds to the English to.

Furthermore, we would say son las to introduce the information of time to say it is. It literally translates the hours are son las horas. However, the noun horas is omitted. Consequently, when referring to any time between 1 and 2, the expression es la is used as 1am/pm logically counts as a single hour.


01:00  Es la una (en punto) 10:00   Son las diez (en punto)
8:10  Son las ocho y diez 11:25 →  Son las once y veinticinco
07:40→  Son las ocho menos veinte 03:55 →  Son las cuatro menos cinco
04:15  Son las cuatro y cuarto 10:30 →  Son las diez y media


Although the time in Spanish can be given using both the 12-hour notation and the 24-hour clock, the former system is by far the most common. So, let’s revise all parts of the day in Spanish to be able to distinguish between similar times.

13:00   Es la una (en punto) de la tarde 22:15   Son las diez y cuarto de la noche
07:25   Son las siete y veinticinco de la mañana 11:30   Son las once y media de la noche
03:45   Son las cuatro menos cuarto de la tarde


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