how to tell time in german

Learn How to Tell Time in German in Easiest Way

Learning how to tell time in German is another essential thing you need to know when studying the German language. Especially if you want to work or live in Germany. Because for most Germans, time is very important.

They are always punctual at least 20 minutes intervals before the appointment. And for sure, you don’t want to be late for your first job interview for not knowing how to read the time in German.

German Time Vocabularies: Important Words to Remember

For telling time, there are important words that you need to know. It is better to memorize them and use them when asking and telling time.

German English
Uhrhour or o’clock
nachafter or past
übermorgenthe day after tomorrow
vorgesternthe day before yesterday
kurz vor….shortly before….

What type of Clock do Germans Use?

In some countries, they use the standard clock (AM/PM) when reading time. But in Germany, they often use a military clock or the 24-hour clock

If you don’t know what the military time is, it doesn’t use “pm” or “am” when telling time.

For example, you want to say the standard form of 4 pm or 4 O’clock in the afternoon. In the military time, it is 16:00. For 10 pm or 10 in the evening, in military time it is 22:00.

Some Germans still use the standard time (am/pm), but most of them use the 24-hour clock when telling time.

If you don’t know how to read time after 12 O’clock, below is a table of the Standard clock and Military clock.

Standard ClockMilitary Clock
1 PM / 1:00 PM13:00
2 PM / 2:00 PM14:00
3 PM / 3:00 PM15:00
4 PM / 4:00 PM16:00
5 PM / 5:00 PM17:00
6 PM / 6:00 PM18:00
7 PM / 7:00 PM19:00
8 PM / 8:00 PM20:00
9 PM / 9:00 PM21:00
10 PM / 10:00 PM22:00
11 PM / 11:00 PM23:00
12 AM / 12:00 AM00:00

In case you want to tell time from Military time to standard time, you only have to subtract “12” from the military time.

For example, if your boss told you that you have to go to work at 22:00, simply do: “22:00-12 = 10:00 pm”. Another example is: 18:00 – 12 = 6:00pm and so on.

Just bear in mind that this formula is only applicable after 12noon.

how to tell time german

How to Ask Time in German?

There are several ways how to ask the time in German.

You can say: “Wie spät ist es?” Or in English is “How late is it?”

spät” means late in English. 

Another way of asking about the time is, “Wie viel Uhr ist es?” (What time is it?)

Either of these two can be used for asking the time in German, but the most commonly used is the “Wie spät ist es“.

You can also use “wann” for asking the time. For example: “Wann kommt der Bus an” (When will the bus arrive?). Then you can answer any time of the day, like: “Der Bus kommt um 9 Uhr an” (The bus will arrive at 9 O’clock)

How to Tell Time in German

Now you know how to ask the time, the next thing you need to learn is to tell the time when someone asks you.

Since you are now starting to learn about time in German, I assume that you also know how to count or read numbers in German, because you cannot ask and tell time if you don’t know any numbers in German.

We are going to use the picture below so you can picture out the actual time.

As you can see in the picture, the  “right side” uses “nach“, the left side is using “vor“, and the number “6” is halb“.

I suggest you to memorize them as you need to apply these words when you start to tell the time.

Basically, the “hour hand” is easier to read than the “minute hand”.

Check the table below.

TimePronounced in German (o’clock – Uhr)
1 O’clockein Uhr
2 O’clockzwei Uhr
3 O’clockdrei Uhr
4 O’clockvier Uhr
5 O’clockfünf Uhr
6 O’clocksechs Uhr
7 O’clocksieben Uhr
8 O’clockacht Uhr
9 O’clockneun Uhr
10 O’clockzehn Uhr
11 O’clockelf Uhr
12 O’clockzwölf Uhr

Imagine that the clock says: One o’clock and fifteen minutes (1:15). So in German, you have to say “ein Uhr fünfzehn”. Or you can also say “viertel nach eins”.

Where do we get the viertel nach eins? I will explain it further.

If you will check the picture above, it already stated there that when the “minute hand” is pointing to “15”, then you have to say “viertel nach……”

You only have to add the number where the “hour hand” is pointing. So “viertel” means quarter and “nach” means after, when you combine them it’s “viertel nach eins” meaning its quarter after one o’clock in English.

Okay guys let’s try more examples. Check the picture above so you will be able to memorize it faster.

  • 8:05 – “fünf nach neun”
  • 7:25 – “fünf vor halb acht”
  • 1:30 – “halb zwei”
  • 4:20 – “zwanzig nach vier”

Oops. You might probably be asking me, why the number 3 example became “halb zwei”? Well, it’s because, in German, they don’t often say “ein Uhr dreißig” (1 O’clock thirty minutes), instead they say: “halb zwei” .

Literally, the meaning of “halb” is already half of 1 Oclock, and 1:30 is half of the 2 o’clock so basically that will be “halb zwei”. 

REMINDER: If you need to say the “halb” when telling time, you have to add “one hour” to the time and use the word “halb”. For instance, 6:30, say first the word “halb” then add “one hour” to the hour, so it will be: “halb sieben” for 6:30.

I hope it’s now clear with “nach” and “halb”.

Okay, let’s move on to the left side of the picture which includes “vor“.

Imagine your clock says: 1:45. If you will base the answer on the picture, you will notice, that we used again the word “viertel” but this time we’re gonna use the “vor” which means “before”, so it’s like, “before 2 o’clock”. If you want to say 1:45 in German time, it will be “viertel vor zwei” and literally means “quarter before 2 o’clock”, in English.

Yes. You got it right. You just need to add “one hour” to the time. 

Another thing you must not forget is the Germans also use “kuz vor….” or “shortly before….” in English. Let’s say your clock says: 7:58, then you can simply say; “kurz vor acht” (a few minutes or shortly before 8 O’clock.)

Again, check the picture from time to time until you memorize them and are confident enough to tell the time in German.
(You can also check the video at the end of this article on how to tell time in German)

How to Tell the Time in German Exercises

Great job! So now you know how to tell the time in German. Let’s review what you have learned.

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Wrapping Up

It is really great to learn the time in German. Not because it is very essential for work and for a daily basis, but also for you to learn more vocabulary in the German language

Start practicing what you have learned in this article and apply it with your German speaker friends.

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