How to ask and tell the time in Italian

How to ask and tell the time in Italian

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Welcome to our Italian course for beginners! Today we're going to talk about telling time.
Telling time involves using both numbers and specific phrases. Telling time in Italian might seem a bit tricky at first, but with a little practice, you'll master it in no time. Let's break it down.

How to tell the time

First, let's start with the basics. In Italian, we often use the 24-hour clock, so it's a bit different from the 12-hour clock you might be used to. But don't worry, it's not too complicated.
The structure for saying the time is "Sono le" for "It is," followed by the hour and minutes.
Sono le tre (It's 3 o’clock.)
Sono le dieci (It's 10 o'clock.)
Exception: we should use È l'una when you are going to say "1 o’clock."

To express the hours from 1 to 12, use the numbers (from uno to dodici.) Here is more information about the Italian numbers.

If you need to specify the time, you can use the words mezzogiorno (noon, 12:00 PM), and mezzanotte (midnight, 12:00 AM). If it is necessary to say not only about hours, but also minutes, we use "e" ("and.")
For example:
Sono le tre e venti (It's 3:20.)

If it's exactly an hour, we can add "in punto." For instance:
Sono le cinque in punto (It is 5 o'clock.)

If we don't know exactly what time it is, we can add Circa (approximately).
For example:
Sono le sette e cinquanta, circa (It is about 7:50.)
If it's quarter past (fifteen minutes) and half past (thirty minutes) we need to add "Un quarto" (a quarter past) and "E mezza" (half past.)
Sono le sei e un quarto (It is six fifteen.)
Sono le sette e mezza (It is seven thirty.)

If you want to indicate minutes before the next hour, you can use the word "meno" (minus). If it's 4:45, we can say:
Sono le cinque meno un quarto (It is five minus a quarter.)

To clarify between morning and afternoon hours, you can say "del mattino" (morning), "del pomeriggio" (afternoon) or "di sera" (evening).
Sono le nove di mattina (It's 9 AM.)
Sono le quattro e un quarto del pomeriggio (It's 4:15 PM.)
Sono le undici e trenta di sera (It's 11:30 PM.)

How to ask about the time

And if you want to ask "What time is it", you can use the following expressions:
Che ore è? / Che ora sono? (What time is it?)
Sai che ore sono? (Do you know what time it is?)


Telling time is a practical skill. Practice on a regular basis to learn how to tell the time in Italian like a pro!
We are waiting for you in the next lesson, where we will talk about key phrases you need to know when traveling. Good luck!