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How to tell the time: Italian grammar lesson 15

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Knowing how to tell the time is important in all languages. There are a few Italian phrases you’ll find very useful when you want to tell the time or when you want to ask what time it is.

In this post, you’ll learn how to tell the time in Italian.

Let’s get started!

Telling the time in Italian

Useful questions

Interestingly, when we talk about time in Italian we talk about hours and not about time.

For this reason, we can use the singular or the plural. Both options are correct.

Che ora è?

What time is it? (Literally “What hour is it?)

Che ore sono?

What time is it? (Literally “What hours are they?)

If we want to ask “at what time” we use the singular form:

A che ora vai a scuola?

At what time do you go to school?

Che ora e che ore sono

Useful answers

We use the singular form “Èonly when we talk about 1 AM or 1 PM, midday or midnight.

We don’t always specify whether we’re talking about “del mattino” (in the morning), “del pomeriggio” (in the afternoon), “di sera” (in the evening), or “di notte” (in the night), since sometimes it’s pretty obvious.

Also, in English people tend to say “AM” or “PM”. In Italian, it’s not that common.

Have a look at the following sentences:

È l’una del pomeriggio.

It’s 1 in the afternoon.

È l’una di notte.

It’s 1 in the morning.

È l’una e mezza.

It’s 1:30 (am or pm, depending on the time of the day).

È mezzogiorno.

It’s midday.

È mezzanotte.

It’s midnight.

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For the other “hours”, we use the plural form “Sono“. Sometimes we use the 24-hour format (especially when we write and in formal contexts), so you might hear people say 17 instead of 5 or 21 instead of 9.

Here are some examples:

Sono le 5 (cinque) del pomeriggio.

It’s 5 in the afternoon.

Sono le 2 (due).

It’s 2 (AM or PM, depending on the time of the day).

Sono le 7 (sette).

It’s 2 (AM or PM, depending on the time of the day).

Sono le 21 (ventuno).

It’s 9 PM.

How to tell the time in Italian

Practice with Quizlet

Here's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.

How to tell the minutes

Let’s now learn how to tell the minutes:

  • 5:05 – Sono le cinque e cinque.
  • 5:10 – Sono le cinque e dieci.
  • 5:15 – Sono le cinque e un quarto.
  • 5:20 – Sono le cinque e venti.
  • 5:25 – Sono le cinque e venticinque.
  • 5:30 – Sono le cinque e mezza.
  • 5:35 – Sono le cinque e trentacinque.
  • 5:40 – Sono le sei meno venti.
  • 5:45 – Sono le sei meno un quarto.
  • 5:50 – Sono le sei meno dieci.
  • 5:55 – Sono le sei meno cinque.

Just so you know, you can always just read the time and say “sono le undici e cinquanta” instead of “sono le dodici meno dieci”.

You’ll be referring to exactly the same time. Both ways are correct.

It’s the same in English: you can either say “it’s eleven fifty” or “it’s ten to twelve”.

How to tell the time in Italian 1

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