Telling Time In German

Let's learn how to read the clock and ask for the time, in German.

Let's learn how to ask for and tell the time in German. There are a few expressions and important words to learn, but once you have them memorised, you'll be ready to make appointments and schedule meetings without a problem!

For this lesson, you will need to know the German numbers 1-60. For a refresher on this topic, you may turn back to the previous article on German numbers. Otherwise, read on!

Telling Time: Important Vocabulary

Let's begin, with a couple important, time-related words:

die Uhr
die Zeit
die Uhrzeit
time of day

You might use them like this:

Ich habe keine Zeit!

I don't have time
Die Uhrzeit passt mir.

This time suits me.
Kannst du mir die Uhrzeit sagen?

Can you tell me the time?

Okay, great. Let's continue.

Die Uhrzeit (clock time) only refers to time as represented on the clock, whilst die Zeit (time) may also refer to the passage of time or a measurable period in general.

How To Ask For The Time

Now, let's learn how to ask for the time, using the words we have just learned.

Wieviel Uhr ist es?

What time is it?
Wie spät ist es?

How late is it?
Können Sie mir die Uhrzeit sagen?

Do you have the time? (formal)

The German word Uhr does not only refer to a clock (object), but also to o'clock. With this in mind, Wie viel Uhr ist es? literally means: How much o'clock is it?

How To Read The Clock

1. To the hour

Now, let's turn our attention to reading the time in German. This is where things get a little more complicated, with more vocabulary to learn.

Though, not quite yet!

In order to tell the time to the hour, we just need the word Uhr again!

Es ist neun Uhr.

It is nine o'clock
Es ist acht Uhr.

It is eight o'clock.
Es ist ein Uhr

It is one o'clock.

Note that in German, there is no AM or PM, although the words morgens, mittags and abends can be used to refer to a certain time period in the day.

in the morning
at / around noon
in the afternoon
in the evening

These words may be used like so:

Es ist sieben Uhr morgens.

It is two o'clock in the morning.
Es ist zehn Uhr abends.

It is ten o'clock in the evening.
Es ist zwei Uhr mittags.

It is two o'clock in the afternoon.

However, in German, we may also read the time to the hour as measured in 24 hours. So, 3pm can be referred to simply as fünfzehn Uhr, or 8pm as zwanzig Uhr.

Es ist sieben Uhr.

It is 7am.
Es ist zweiundzwanzig Uhr.

It is 10pm.
Es ist vierzehn Uhr.

It is 2pm.

What time are the clocks below describing?

Click on the grey bars, to reveal the correct answers.

Es ist zwei Uhr.
Es ist neun Uhr.
Es ist fünf Uhr.

One more helpful word to learn, here:


The word gegen can be used to describe a rough reading of the time:

Ich komme gegen 7 Uhr vorbei.

I'll come by around 7 o'clock.
Gegen 8 Uhr müssen wir los.

Around 8 o'clock we have to leave.

Well done! 🎉

You now know how to tell the time to the hour.

Let's continue, by getting a little more specific.

2. To the half hour

In English, we may say something like 'half past two', to refer to the time: 2:30.

In German, we may say something like 'halb zwei'. However, this refers to the time 1:30. This might be a little confusing at first, but try to imagine what halb zwei or, literally, half of two o'clock would look like on a watch face.

Hopefully the most intuitive answer that comes to mind is two o'clock minus half an hour!

halb zwei
half past one

Halb zwei → half of two o-clock → half past one

When telling the time to the half hour, we read the time as measured in 12 hours. So, 10:30pm would be read as halb elf and not as halb zweiundzwanzig.

Here are some illustrations of a clock telling the time. What times are being shown here?

Click on the grey bars, to reveal the correct answers.

Es ist halb acht.
Es ist halb zwölf.
Es ist halb vier.

3. To the quarter hour

Much like how in English we make use of the words to and past to describe a quarter hour before or after a certain time, we may use the German words vor and nach to do the same thing.


We may use these words like so:

Es ist viertel nach eins.

It is quarter past one.
Es ist viertel vor neun.

It is quarter to nine.

When telling the time to the quarter hour, we read the time as measured in 12 hours. So, 10:15pm would be read as viertel nach zehn and not as viertel nach zweiundzwanzig.

Here are some more illustrations of a clock telling the time. What times are being shown here?

Click on the grey bars, to reveal the correct answers.

Es ist viertel vor fünf.
Es ist viertel nach eins.
Es ist viertel nach zehn.

4. To the minute

Lastly, we may also tell the time to the minute:

Es ist ein Uhr dreißig.

It is one-thirty.
Es ist zwanzig Uhr fünfzehn.

It is eight-fifteen.
Es ist zwei Uhr fünfundvierzig.

It is two-forty-five.

We may also use the words vor und nach here, too:

Es ist dreiunddreißig nach drei.

It is thirty-three minutes past three.
Es ist sechzehn vor sieben.

It is sixteen minutes to seven.
Es ist einundfünfzig nach neun.

It is fifty-one minutes past nine.

What times are being shown below?

Click on the grey bars, to reveal the correct answers.

Es ist neun Uhr zwölf.
Es ist vier Uhr zweiundvierzig.
Es ist elf Uhr achtunddreißig.

Well done 🎉! You have learned how to tell the time, in German!

Here are some more helpful words to learn, as you gain confidence in reading the clock.

on time
die Sekunde
die Minute
die Stunde
der Morgen
der Mittag
der Nachmittag
der Abend
die Mitternacht

Well done! 🎉

You have completed this lesson. When you're ready, let's move on to the next one: Asking Questions.

/ Podcast

Explore Our Podcast

Explore our intermediate podcast about contemporary German culture, history, philosophy & more. Each episode is spoken at a slow pace, and includes a transcript.


Sloeful German is a language learning platform focused on immersive learning. We assist you in achieving fluency, through engaging content tailored to your level.


Join Us