Spanish Telling Time


It's easy to “decir la hora” (to tell time) in Spanish as long as you know your cardinal numbers and ser conjugations.

Time is fleeting

Need to know what time your meeting starts, when you should be in class or when your favorite show is airing? Then you need to know how to tell time in Spanish! Let’s get started!

Step 1: When telling time in Spanish, we use two phrases: “son las” and “es la”. We use son las for all hours 2-12 and es la only when talking about 1:00. For example: 2:00 = son las dos but 1:00 = es la una.

Step 2: Here is the simple formula for telling time in Spanish:

Son las or Es la + HOUR + Y + MINUTE

               Examples: 6:05 son las seis y cinco, 3:20 son las tres y veinte

Step 3: At the end of this phrase we can add these phrases to tell which time of the day we are in:

                AM = de la mañana

                PM = de la tarde (afternoon) or de la noche (night)

Step 4: We have two special words for certain minutes in the day. We do not use the number words for these but these special phrases instead.

                :15 = cuarto (3:15 = son las tres y cuarto)

                :30 = media (6:30 = son las seis y media)

Step 5: With minutes :45-:59 we use a special phrasing of “menos”. This is the equivalent to the phrase “5 till” or “quarter till” in English. Just like in English, we will go to the next hour up and calculate the minutes until the next hour. Here is our new formula:



6:55 = son las + siete (see how this is the next hour up from 6:00?) + menos cinco (this is the difference from :55 to the next hour). You ending phrase will be: son las siete menos cinco. 3:50 = son las + cuatro (see how this is the next hour up from 3:00?) + menos diez (this is the difference from :50 to the next hour). You ending phrase will be: son las cuatro menos diez.

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:

Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.

Specific Capabilities at this Level

I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Spoken Production:
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Spoken Interaction:
I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.