Tell Time in German: Ultimate Guide to telling the time in German

In the heart of Europe lies a country where timekeeping is not just a practice but a cornerstone of the culture – Germany! This is what Denisa from Spring German (a project I’m a co-founder) talks about – along with a Bavarian joke on how to tell time in German.

Punctuality is more than just being on time; it’s a reflection of one’s character and professionalism. In German society, showing up late can be seen as a sign of disrespect and a lack of seriousness. In the corporate world of Germany, meetings will often start EXACTLY at the scheduled time, not a minute later.

In this ultimate guide, we’ll give you all the knowledge you have to know about German time-management and how to tell time in German!

1. Learn How to Tell The Time in German: Es ist…

Effortless Answers

The standard way of telling time in Germany employs the 24-hour clock format, particularly for official schedules, such as train departures and business hours.
To express full hours in German, you would start with “Es ist” followed by the number and then “Uhr.”

So:

Es ist + NUMBER + Uhr

Let’s see some examples:

  • Es ist eins Uhr (It’s 1:00 AM or 1:00 PM).
  • Es ist acht Uhr (It’s 8:00 AM or 8:00 PM).
  • Es ist vierzehn Uhr (It’s 14:00 or 2:00 PM).

2. Tell the Exact Time in German: Viertel nach, halb, Viertel vor

Once familiar with the full hours, you’ll likely want to express the exact time in German with more precision. German uses certain phrases to denote times such as ‘quarter past,’ ‘half past,’ and ‘quarter to.’

For ‘quarter past,’ use “Viertel nach“:

  • Es ist Viertel nach zehn (It’s quarter past ten).

When stating ‘half past,’ Germans say “halb” and the coming hour (which might be initially confusing):

  • Es ist halb drei (It’s half past two).

And for ‘quarter to,’ the phrase “Viertel vor” is employed:

  • Es ist Viertel vor elf (It’s quarter to eleven).

Learning these expressions not only aids in telling the time in German, but it also gives you an opportunity to learn more about the precise nature of German timekeeping.

time in german clock on street

3. How to Tell Minutes in German: Nach, vor…

Further refining your skills, telling the exact minutes in German involves using “nach” for minutes after the hour and “vor” for minutes before the hour.

This is where knowing your German numbers proves invaluable, so make sure to check out art dedicated article and learn those numbers!

  • Es ist fünfzehn nach drei (It’s fifteen minutes past three).
  • Es ist fünfundzwanzig vor vier (It’s twenty-five minutes to four).

The ability to tell minutes in German with accuracy is key for managing daily schedules and understanding time-related conversations.

4. Useful German Time Vocabulary: Tell time in German without numbers!

Expanding your German time vocabulary is crucial for fluency.

It gives you the chance to engage in more complex conversations and understand nuanced time references, not just telling time exactly in German. The Conversation Based Chunking method comes into play, teaching you German time vocabulary in the context of real-world conversation, making retention natural and practical.

Look at this table to acquaint yourself with essential German time phrases!

Essential German time phrases

GermanEnglish
die Minute
minute
die Stunde
hour
der Tag
day
die Woche
week
der Monat
month
das Jahr
year
heute
today
morgen
tomorrow
gestern
yesterday
jetzt
now
bald
soon
früh
early
spät
late
vor
before
nach
after
um
at (specific time)

And now, let’s practice the Conversation Based Chunking method with these real-life sentences:

  • Könntest du bitte eine Minute warten?” (Could you wait for a minute, please?)
  • Ich gehe morgens normalerweise um sieben Uhr joggen.” (I usually go jogging at seven in the morning.)
  • Wir treffen uns nachmittag um drei Uhr im Café.” (We are meeting in the café at three in the afternoon.)
  • Er kommt immer früh ins Büro, meistens schon vor acht Uhr.” (He always arrives early at the office, usually before eight o’clock.)
  • Heute haben wir einen Ausflug geplant.” (We have planned a trip for today.
  • Kannst du später anrufen? Jetzt bin ich beschäftigt.” (Can you call later? I am busy right now.)
  • Gestern war das Wetter viel schöner als heute.” (The weather was much nicer yesterday than it is today.)
  • Ich muss jetzt gehen, mein Zug kommt gleich.” (I have to go now, my train is coming soon.)

Knowing the days of the week in German is also really important because you can not just specify the time but exact date you’re talking about.

5. Basic vocabulary: Know How to Ask the Time in German

Equally as important as telling time is the ability to ask for the time in German.

Here are different ways you can ask about the current time.

Ask about the current time

GermanEnglish
Wie spät ist es?
What time is it?
Wie viel Uhr ist es?
How many o’clock is it?
Kannst du mir sagen, wie spät es ist?
Can you tell me what time it is?

Mastering these questions is life-saving for anyone looking to navigate their way through German-speaking environments with ease.

6. Practice Worksheets – Express Time in German

To reinforce your newfound knowledge, here’s a set of practice tasks! Fill in the blanks!

This is just one of our exercises to practice German. Request the full Practice Worksheet and find the best way to learn German.

7. Learn German Easily with Conversation Based Chunking

This ultimate guide has introduced you to the precision and the particularities of time in German. In learning how to tell time in German, we’ve outlined not only the essential vocabulary but also the sentence structures and cultural nuances that are important to Germans.

Through Conversation Based Chunking, you’ve been provided with strategies to integrate time telling into your everyday language use effectively.

Remember, the key to learning German easily is consistent exposure and practice, especially in conversation. By bringing together phrases for telling time and other basic vocabulary needed for day-to-day interactions, you’re well on your way to becoming proficient at telling time in German.

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