In German, the most common way to ask for the time is “Wie spät ist es?” which translates to “How late is it?” It’s rarely “What time is it?” and certainly never “How early is it?” Rather than simply asking for the time, as most other languages do, German speakers appear to be haunted by the imminent risk of being too late. Learn how to tell time in German to develop a sense of punctuality – a key virtue of German people.

Asking someone for time is a great way to start a conversation. So, if you find yourself in a German-speaking environment and want to practice your German, knowing how to tell the time in German will be a huge help. Simply ask anyone, “Entschuldigung, wie spät ist es?” and you will have a perfectly legitimate reason to strike up a conversation in German – even with a stranger.

Once you know how to tell the time in German, you will be able to understand some amusing time-related German expressions and idioms.

It’s difficult to escape time because it never stops. When you are learning a language, you will come across situations where you need to tell the time. If your coworker schedules a meeting, your friends want to meet you for lunch, or you are simply wondering when the grocery store will close, time is an unavoidable factor in all aspects of daily life. So mastering it in the language you are learning is advantageous.

To begin, it is essential that you first learn how to count in German. You will need the numbers 1 to 24, because Germans use a 24-hour format, also known as military time. Once you have learned these, you can add the German word “Uhr” [uə̯/] to the respective number to get the full hour.

Asking what time it is in German

The German word for time is “Zeit” [t͡saɪ̯t] which has made its way into the English language as part of the noun “zeitgeist,” which is commonly used to describe the mood of a particular time period. As a result, many English speakers are familiar with it. Surprisingly, there is no German way of asking for the time that includes the word “Zeit.”

time in German - Zeit

If you ask “Wie ist die Zeit?” most German speakers will understand, but you will not hear a native speaker use that expression. If you want to know the time, you can ask “Wie viel Uhr ist es?” which translates to “How many o’clock is it?” but it’s more common to ask “Wie spät ist es?” [ʋi ʃpɛːt ɪst.

What’s the time?Wie spät ist es?[ʋi ʃpɛːt ɪst ɛs]
What’s the time?Wie viel Uhr ist es?[ʋi fiːl uə̯ ɪst ɛs]

How to tell the time on the hour

It’s one o’clock.Es ist ein Uhr.
It’s two o’clock.Es ist zwei Uhr.
It’s three o’clock.Es ist drei Uhr.
It’s four o’clock.Es ist vier Uhr.
It’s five o’clock.Es ist fünf Uhr.
It’s six o’clock.Es ist sechs Uhr.
It’s seven o’clock.Es ist sieben Uhr.
It’s eight o’clock.Es ist acht Uhr.
It’s nine o’clock.Es ist neun Uhr.
It’s ten o’clock.Es ist zehn Uhr.
It’s eleven o’clock.Es ist elf Uhr.
It’s twelve o’clock.Es ist zwölf Uhr.

By learning how to tell time, you can become fluent in German as many daily conversations are related to time.

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How to say half past, quarter past, and quarter to in German

From 11 o’clock to twelve o’clock in stages of 15 minutes, it is like:

  • – Elf Uhr
  • – Viertel nach elf
  • – Halb zwölf
  • – Viertel vor zwölf
  • – Zwölf Uhr

EnglishGermanPronunciationExample sentence
It’s half pastEs ist halb[ɛs ɪst halp]Es ist halb 4.
It’s quarter pastEs ist viertel nach[ɛs ɪst fɪʁtl naːx]Es ist viertel nach 3.
It’s quarter toEs ist viertel vor[ɛs ɪst fɪʁtl foːɐ̯]Es ist viertel vor 4.

How to say the time of day in German

German time is measured in years, months, weeks, and days, as is all time. Each day begins in the morning (“Morgen”) and ends in the evening (“Nacht”), with a number of times in between listed for you.

EnglishGermanPronunciationExample sentence
MorningMorgen[ˈmɔʁɡn̩]Es ist zehn Uhr morgens.
MidmorningVormittag[ˈfoːɐ̯mɪˌtaːk]Wir sehen uns am Vormittag.
AfternoonNachmittag[ˈnaːxmɪˌtaːk]Es ist vier Uhr nachmittags.
DaybreakTagesanbruch[ˈtaːɡəsˌʔanbʁʊx]Wir wollen bei Tagesanbruch los.
SunriseSonnenaufgang[ˈzɔnənˌʔaʊ̯fɡaŋ]Wir wollen vor Sonnenaufgang los.
SunsetSonnenuntergang[ˈzɔnənˌʔʊntɐɡaŋ]Wir sind vor Sonnenuntergang zurück.
EveningAbend[ˈaːbm̩t]Es ist sieben Uhr abends.
NightNacht[naxt]Es ist drei Uhr in der Nacht.
At nightNachts[naxts]Es ist elf Uhr nachts.
MiddayMittag[ˈmɪtaːk]Wir treffen uns am Mittag.
At noonMittags[ˈmɪtaːks]Wir treffen uns mittags.
MidnightMitternacht[ˈmɪtɐˌnaxt]Um Mitternacht schlafe ich.
DuskAbenddämmerung[ˈaːbn̩tˌdɛməʁʊŋ]Ich gehe zur Abenddämmerung ins Bett.
DawnMorgendämmerung[ˈmɔʁɡn̩ˌdɛməʁʊŋ]Ich stehe zur Morgendämmerung auf.
BedtimeSchlafenszeit[ˈʃlaːfn̩sˌt͡saɪ̯t]Es ist Schlafenszeit.
NightfallNachteinbruch[naxtˈaɪ̯nˌbʁʊx]Sei vor Nachteinbruch zuhause!
Breakfast TimeFrühstückszeit[ˈfʁyːʃtʏksˌt͡saɪ̯t]Es ist Frühstückszeit.
Second BreakfastZweites Frühstück[ˈt͡svaɪ̯təs ˈfʁyːˌʃtʏk]Es ist Zeit für ein zweites Frühstück.
LunchtimeMittagszeit[ˈmɪtaːksˌt͡saɪ̯t]Es ist Mittagszeit.
Time for coffee and cakeKaffee und Kuchen[ˈkafe ʊnt ˈkuːxn̩]Am Nachmittag gibt es Kaffee und Kuchen.
DinnertimeAbendessenzeit[ˈaːbn̩tˌʔɛsn̩st͡saɪ̯t]Es ist Abendessenzeit.

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How to tell the exact time in German

In German, you name the hour first, followed by “Uhr” and the precise number of minutes. For the first twelve hours of the day, German uses the numbers 0-12 and then continues to count from 13 to 24 o’clock for the second half.

This replaces AM and PM, so 1:07 pm becomes 13:07, pronounced: “Dreizehn Uhr sieben”. In Germany and Austria, a Doppelpunkt (15:07) separates the hours from the minutes, whereas in Switzerland, a dot (15.07) is used.

Few time-related phrases in German

EnglishGermanPronunciationExample sentence
DayTag[taːk]Es ist Tag.
WeekWoche[ˈvɔxə]Die Woche war gut.
MonthMonat[ˈmoːnat]Der Monat war zu kurz.
YearJahr[ˈjaːʁ]Das Jahr war lang.
YesterdayGestern[ˈɡɛstɐn]Ich war gestern hier.
TodayHeute[ˈhɔɪ̯tə]Ich bin heute da.
TomorrowMorgen[ˈmɔʁɡn̩]Morgen werde ich arbeiten.
Last yearLetztes Jahr[ˈlɛt͡stəs ˈjaːʁ]Letztes Jahr war ich im Urlaub.
This yearDieses Jahr[ˈdiːzəs ˈjaːʁ]Dieses Jahr bleib ich zuhause.
Next yearNächstes Jahr[ˈnɛːçstəs ˈjaːʁ]Nächstes Jahr fahre ich wieder.
Next timeNächstes mal[ˈnɛːçstəs maːl]Nächstes mal komm ich mit.
Last monthLetzten Monat[ˈlɛt͡stn̩ ˈmoːnat]Letzten Monat konnte ich nicht kommen.
This monthDiesen Monat[ˈdiːzn̩ ˈmoːnat]Diesen Monat bin ich dabei.
Next monthNächsten Monat[ˈnɛːçstəs ˈmoːnat]Nächsten Monat komme ich wieder.
Take your timeLass dir Zeit[las diːɐ̯ t͡saɪ̯t]Lass dir Zeit!
Once upon a timeEs war einmal[ɛs ˈvaːɐ̯ aɪ̯nˈmaːl]Es war einmal eine Prinzessin.
A long timeLange Zeit[lɑ̃ʒe t͡saɪ̯t]Das hab ich lange Zeit geglaubt.
SometimeIrgendwann[ˈɪʁɡəntˈvan]Irgendwann komm ich mit.
OccasionallyAb und zu[ap ʊnt t͡suː]Ab und zu gehe ich aus.
Have a great timeViel Spaß[fiːl ʃpaːs]Viel Spaß bei der Arbeit!
Until next timeBis zum nächsten Mal[bɪs t͡sʊm ˈnɛːçstən maːl]Bis zum nächsten Mal!
Over timeMit der Zeit[mɪt deːɐ̯ t͡saɪ̯t]Es wird besser mit der Zeit.
TimelessZeitlos[ˈt͡saɪ̯tˌloːzn]Das Lied ist zeitlos
To buy timeZeit verschaffen[ˈt͡saɪ̯t fɛɐ̯ˈʃafn̩]Ich muss mir mehr Zeit verschaffen.
To make up timeZeit aufholen[ˈt͡saɪ̯t ˈaʊ̯fˌhoːlən]Ich hole die Zeit wieder auf.
To spend timeZeit verbringen[ˈt͡saɪ̯t fɛɐ̯ˈbʁɪŋən]Wir haben viel Zeit zusammen verbracht.
To take up timeZeit beanspruchen[ˈt͡saɪ̯t bəˈʔanʃpʁʊxn̩]Das Projekt beansprucht viel Zeit.
To waste timeZeit verschwenden[ˈt͡saɪ̯t fɛɐ̯ˈʃvɛndn̩]Sie verschwendet ihre Zeit.
In sb’s timeZu seiner Zeit[zû ˈzaɪ̯nɐ ˈt͡saɪ̯t ]Er kommt zu seiner Zeit.
All in due time.Alles zu seiner Zeit[ˈaləs zû ˈzaɪ̯nɐ ˈt͡saɪ̯t]Alles passiert zu seiner Zeit.
In a timely mannerZeitnah[ˈt͡saɪ̯tˌnaː]Erledige das bitte zeitnah.

Frequently asked questions

Q. How do I ask “how long” in German?

A. How long is said as “wie lang?” in German.

Q. How do I tell the time in German for the military?

A. Military time counts the day in 24 hours, so 1-12 noon is the same as in English, but 1-12 after that is replaced by 13-24.

Q. What is the purpose of German military time?

A. Because there is no equivalent of the English a.m. and p.m., German speakers use the system known as military time. So, to be clear whether they are talking about daytime or nighttime, they use precise numbers ranging from 0 to 24.


We admit that not every German is always punctual but being on time is a big deal in German-speaking countries. Therefore, knowing how to tell the time in German is an important part of learning the language. It’s always something o’clock, so you have plenty of opportunities to practice.

In fact, excessive practice can make you learn German in a short time. Try telling time in German every time you are asked, it will develop your command of the language.

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