You can’t really go a whole day without using time-related vocab, can you? This is true for speakers of all languages, and Italian is no exception.
If you’re learning the beautiful Italian language, then knowing how to tell the time in Italian is a must!
Maybe you need to arrange meetings with Italian speakers, book a table at a well-known Neapolitan pizzeria, or just call a museum to ask for the opening times.
No matter what you want to learn it for, telling the time in Italian is quite simple. All you need to know are the numbers from 1 to 59, and a few expressions!
Let’s get started!
Why learn how to tell the time in Italian?
Telling the time in Italian will have countless applications in your daily life. Let’s look at some of them to keep our motivation high.
1. For travelling
One thing you need to have under control when travelling is definitely time, in whatever country you happen to be.
If you’re visiting Italy, knowing how to tell the time in Italian (and understanding time expressions) is undoubtedly one of the first skills you want to master.
It will help you with:
- train times;
- hotel check-ins and outs;
- museum opening times;
- your transport itinerary;
and the list goes on.
For example, if you’re waiting for a train in a deserted small town station and ask an old lady for information, you definitely want to know that “è in ritardo di tre quarti d’ora” means “It’s 45 minutes late.” So at least you can go look for the closest gelateria and make the most of your time.
2. For work
If you need to communicate with Italian speakers at work, knowing time vocab will make everything easier. It is one of the first things you will want to learn, and use. You’ll never be late for a meeting again… Or, well, at least you’ll never be late because you had misunderstood the time!
And, if you’re running late, you’ll be able to send a text saying: “arrivo tra dieci minuti, scusate il ritardo” (I’ll be there in 10 minutes, sorry about the delay), and you’ll be already half forgiven.
3. For fun
If you’re learning Italian online or in-person just for pleasure, or because you think it’s the most beautiful language ever (we agree!), then just have fun with it!
Learn how to tell the time in Italian and then practice at your local Italian restaurant, or with your online language pals. Asking a cute barman “Scusa, sai che ore sono?” (Excuse me, do you know what time it is?) could spark up an interesting conversation, who knows!
How to tell the time in Italian
As we mentioned above, you don’t need much to learn how to tell the time in Italian, but you do need to know Italian numbers perfectly, and the verb essere. If you just realized you don’t know these, or you require a quick revision, go have a look at them.
In the following paragraphs, we’ll look at all the different ways you can ask and tell the time in Italian, and we’ll also learn the most common Italian time vocabulary.
If you’re just starting out on your language-learning journey and need a little confidence boost, don’t worry: we also included a phonetic transcription of the Italian pronunciation, so that you can practice reading the expressions out loud and be ready to use them in real life as soon as possible.
How to ask what the time is in Italian?
First of all, you’ll notice that if you look at the dictionary, the word “time” can be translated as tempo. This translation however refers to the general term, as in:
- Io trovo sempre il tempo di meditare. I always find the time to meditate.
Another translation of “time” can be orario. This comes from ora (hour) and refers to the specific time of something, or to a timetable.
- Che strano orario per cenare. Sono solo le 18.
What a strange time to have dinner. It is only 6pm.
- Mi dai l’orario di settimana prossima?
Can you give me next week’s timetable?
So how do you say “What’s the time?” in Italian? Well, for this, you do not need to use the word time at all. You just need the word ora / ore (hour / hours) and the third-person singular or plural (respectively) of the verb essere (to be): è / sono.
Look at the table below:
|Hour/s||ora / ore||oh-rah / oh-reh|
|What’s the time?||Che ora è?||Keh oh-rah eh?|
|What’s the time?||Che ore sono?||Keh oh-reh soh-noh?|
|(At) what time…?||A che ora…?||Ah keh-oh-rah …|
More ways to ask the time in Italian
Here are some more expressions you might hear or use to ask the time in Italian.
|Can you tell me the time?||Mi sai dire l’ora?||Mee sah-ee dee-reh loh-rah?|
|Do you know what time it is?||Sai che ore sono?||Sah-ee keh oh-reh soh-noh?|
|Would you tell me the time?||Potresti dirmi l’ora?||Poh-treh.stee dyr-mee loh-rah?|
How to tell the time on the hour
To tell the time on the hour, you can use the set structure Sono le for all hours, except 1 o’clock, which is singular and therefore uses È l’una (It is one).
If you want to state that something is happening at one specific hour, use the expression alle (at):
- A che ora sei uscita da scuola? Sono uscita da scuola alle 14 oggi.
What time did you finish school today? Today I finished school at 2pm.
If it is 1 o’clock, you’ll have to use all’ (at):
- All’una vado dal dottore.
I am going to the doctor at 1.
Notice that all other numbers remain the same, but uno (one) becomes feminine: una. This is because it refers to ora (hour), which is a feminine noun.
|It’s one o’clock / at one o’clock||È l’una / all’una|
|It’s two o’clock / at two o’clock||Sono le due / alle due|
|It’s three o’clock / at three o’clock||Sono le tre / alle tre|
|It’s four o’clock / at four o’clock||Sono le quattro / alle quattro|
|It’s five o’clock / at five o’clock||Sono le cinque / alle cinque|
|It’s six o’clock / at six o’clock||Sono le sei / alle sei|
|It’s seven o’clock / at seven o’clock||Sono le sette / alle sette|
|It’s eight o’clock / at eight o’clock||Sono le otto / alle otto|
|It’s nine o’clock / at nine o’clock||Sono le nove / alle nove|
|It’s ten o’clock / at ten o’clock||Sono le dieci / alle dieci|
|It’s eleven o’clock / at eleven o’clock||Sono le undici / alle undici|
|It’s twelve o’clock / at twelve o’clock||Sono le dodici / alle dodici|
How to say half past, quarter past, and quarter to
As we do in English, we do not always tell the time just by using numbers, but by approximation, dividing the hour into quarters.
Un quarto is a quarter in Italian. Mezz’ora is half an hour. And tre quarti is 45 minutes.
To tell the time we use:
sono le + number + e (and) + un quarto / mezza / tre quarti
Let’s look at the table below to see how to use these expressions of time in a sentence.
|English||Italian||Pronunciation||In a sentence|
|It’s half past||Sono le … e mezza.||Soh noh leh … eh me-dzah||Sono le 3 e mezza.|
|It’s quarter past||Sono le … e un quarto.||Soh noh leh … eh oon kwar-toh||Sono le 4 e un quarto.|
|It’s 45 minutes past||Sono le … e tre quarti.||Soh noh leh … eh treh kwar-tee||Sono le 5 e tre quarti.|
Remember to use “è” with 1: È l’una e un quarto / È l’una e mezza / È l’una e tre quarti.
To tell times like “a quarter to/ten to” etc. we have two formulas:
- Manca (un quarto/dieci/cinque) alle 5.
It is (a quarter/ten/five) to 5.
- Sono le 5 meno (un quarto/dieci/cinque).
It is (a quarter/ten/five) to 5.
|English||Italian||Pronunciation||In a sentence / example|
|It’s a quarter to…||Manca un quarto alle…||Mahn-cah oon kwar-toh ah-leh—||Manca un quarto alle 3.|
|It’s a quarter to…||Sono le …. meno un quarto.||Soh-no leh … meh-noh oon kwar-toh||Sono le 4 meno un quarto.|
How to say the time of day in Italian
You can use both the 24h or 12h system to answer. If the context is obvious, you do not need to add anything to the hour. If, however, you want to use the 12h system and specify the time of day, use the following:
- Di mattina (in the morning) usually from 4 to 11 am
- Del pomeriggio (in the afternoon) from 1 to 6pm
- Di sera (in the evening): from 6 to 12 at night.
- Di notte (of the night): from 1 to 4 am
|English||Italian||Pronunciation||In a sentence|
|Morning||Mattina||maht-tee-nah||Sono le 10 di mattina.|
|Afternoon||pomeriggio||poh-meh-ree-joh||Sono le 3 di pomeriggio.|
|Evening||sera||seh-rah||Sono le 7 di sera.|
|Night||notte||noh-teh||Sono le 2 di notte.|
|Midday / noon||Mezzogiorno / mezzodì||meh-dzo-jor-noh||È mezzogiorno.|
|Dusk||Tramonto||trah-mon-toh||Sono uscita al tramonto.|
|Dawn||Alba||al-bah||Mi sono svegliato all’alba.|
|Dinnertime||Ora di cena||Oh-rah dee che-nah||Ci vediamo all’ora di cena.|
How to tell exact minutes in Italian
To tell the time with the hour and minutes, simply use the structure we’ve learned above (Sono le / È l’), followed by the hour + e + the number of minutes:
- Sono le nove e zero cinque.
- Sono le quindici e trentasette.
- Sono le dodici e quarantacinque.
You can even add the word minuto (if it’s one minute) / minuti if you want to be extra specific.
- È l’una e diciotto minuti.
- Sono le quattro e un minuto.
Other time-related phrases in Italian
Of course being able to tell the time is not all you’ll need in any time-related circumstances.
Here we’ve created a little list with contextualized examples to help you; combine all your knowledge and you’ll speak Italian fluently in no time at all.
|English||Italian||In a sentence|
|Day||giorno||Che giorno è oggi?|
|Week||settimana||Questa settimana non lavoro.|
|Month||mese||Il mio mese preferito è Aprile.|
|Yesterday||ieri||Ieri era domenica|
|Today||oggi||Oggi è lunedì.|
|Tomorrow||domani||Domani è martedì.|
|Last year||l’anno scorso||Mi sono laureata l’anno scorso.|
|This year||quest’anno||Quest’anno andrò al mare.|
|Next year||l’anno prossimo||L’anno prossimo mi trasferisco.|
|Next time||la prossima volta||La prossima volta vieni anche tu.|
|Last month||Il mese scorso||Mary è nata il mese scorso.|
|This month||Questo mese||Ho iiziato questo mese.|
|Next month||Il mese prossimo||Il mese prossimo vado in vacanza.|
|Take your time||Prenditi il tuo tempo||Prenditi il tuo tempo, non c’è fretta.|
|Once upon a time||C’era una volta||C’era una volta una bambina coraggiosa…|
|A long time||Tanto tempo||Ci ho messo tanto tempo.|
|Sometimes||Qualche volta||Chiamami qualche volta.|
|Occasionally||Occasionalmente||Vado in piscina occasionalmente.|
|Have a great time||Divertiti!||Divertiti!|
|Until next time!||Alla prossima||Ciao, alla prossima!|
|Over time||Con il tempo||Con il tempo capirà.|
|Now||Adesso / ora||Adesso / ora devo andare.|
|Later||Dopo||Ci vediamo dopo.|
|To be late||Essere in ritardo||Sono in ritardo stamattina.|
|To be punctual||Essere puntuali||Luca è sempre puntuale.|
|To be early||Essere in anticipo||Spesso arriva in anticipo.|
Time in Italian FAQs
Do you use PM and AM in telling time in Italian?
In Italian, you can choose to use the 12h or 24h systems. In formal settings, we’d prefer the 24h structure. Even if am and pm are understood worldwide, in Italy it is better to use the expressions di mattina (in the morning), del pomeriggio (in the afternoon), di sera (in the evening) or di notte (at night).
How do you say midday and midnight in Italian?
Mezzogiorno is midday and mezzanotte is midnight. It is spelt without spaces, all together.
- Che ore sono? È mezzogiorno / mezzanotte.
What time is it? It is midday / midnight.
How do you say “o’clock” in Italian?
There is no such a term as “o’clock” in Italian. You can just say the hour. In a formal setting you might hear Sono le ore 15 (It is 3 o’clock).
If you want to say “3 o’clock sharp” use in punto.
- Ci vediamo alle 2 in punto.
I’ll see you at 2 o’clock sharp.
How to practice telling the time in Italian
You can practice telling the time in Italian in many ways.
- You could, for example, set your phone and computer in Italian and use the calendar and planning features in this language (yes, Siri and Alexa work in different languages too!).
- You could make a habit, at the beginning, of writing down times in words, and not just numbers. It can be a little tedious at first, but it will work wonders for your Italian skills.
- You can ask your Italian friends or colleagues to talk to you in Italian and send you voice messages instead of texts.
- Another great way of practicing is listening to Italian radio stations, which tell the hour often.
Well then, “che ore sono?”
È ora di imparare l’italiano! It’s time to learn Italian!
We hope this article on how to tell the time in Italian was helpful, and that it inspired and motivated you to continue your language-learning adventure.
The most important thing, when studying a foreign language, is to enjoy it and find ways to practice in real life situations.
So, get out there and use your newly acquired time-related vocab!
Continue your Italian language vocabulary journey by checking out our Italian language blog here, or exploring the featured blog articles below.