Telling the time in German

How to say what time it is

Being able to tell the time is a useful skill in a foreign language. To ask what time it is in German, you can say: Wie spät ist es? This literally means ‘how late is it?’

To answer, say es ist (it is), followed by the number of the hour, and then Uhr (o’clock). Uhr also means clock or watch.

  • Es ist acht Uhr - It is eight o'clock (it is 08:00).
  • Es ist zwölf Uhr - It is 12 o'clock (it is 12:00).

Remember: To say ‘it is one o'clock’, say es ist ein Uhr, not eins Uhr.

24-hour clock

Most people use the 24-clock in German. So, three o'clock in the morning is drei Uhr (03:00) and three o’clock in the afternoon is fünfzehn Uhr (15:00).

  • Es ist dreizehn Uhr - It is 13:00.
  • Es ist zwanzig Uhr - It is 20:00.
  • Es ist dreiundzwanzig Uhr - It is 23:00.

Quarter past, half past and quarter to

To say quarter past and quarter to the hour, start with the hour and then add the number of minutes:

  • Es ist zwei Uhr fünfzehn - It is quarter past two (02:15).

  • Es ist zwanzig Uhr dreißig - It is eight thirty (20:30). (It is half past eight.)

  • Es ist neun Uhr fünfundvierzig – It is quarter to ten (09:45).

To say half past, use halb (half). In German, you say half to the hour, instead of half past the hour. So half past six in English would be halb sieben (half to seven) in German.

  • Es ist halb zehn - It is 09:30 (literally half to ten).
  • Es ist halb siebzehn - It is 16:30 (literally half to five).
  • Es ist halb vierzehn - It is 13:30 (literally half to two).

Saying what you do at different times of the day

To say at when referring to a time, use um. Meal times are a good example of this:

  • Frühstück ist um sieben Uhr - Breakfast is at 07:00.
  • Mittagessen ist um zwölf Uhr dreißig - Lunch is at 12:30.
  • Abendessen ist um achtzehn Uhr - Dinner is at 18:00.
das Frühstückbreakfast
das Mittagessenlunch
das Abendessendinner / evening meal

Talking about your daily routine

To talk about your daily routine, use um (at).

  • Ich gehe um neun Uhr in die Schule - I go to school at 09:00.
  • Ich mache meine Hausaufgaben um sechzehn Uhr - I do my homework at 16:00.

Can you talk about your daily routine using the phrases in the table below?

ich frühstückeI have breakfast
ich verlasse das HausI leave the house
ich gehe in die SchuleI go to school
ich esse zu MittagI eat lunch
ich gehe nach HauseI go home
ich mache meine HausaufgabenI do my homework
ich übe KlavierI practise piano
ich spiele Fußball / VideospieleI play football / video games
ich esse zu AbendI eat dinner / evening meal
ich gehe ins BettI go to bed

Word order

German word order changes if you use a time phrase at the start of the sentence. The verb has to be the second idea, so make sure you swap the verb and the subject round.

  • Ich gehe um acht Uhr dreißig in die Schule - I go to school at 08:30.
  • Um acht Uhr dreißig gehe ich in die Schule - At 08:30 I go to school.


Watch the video and test your understanding in this short quiz!

Where next?

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Game - FestiLingo: German
Word order in German
Describing your free time in German
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