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Week 4 Day 5: Telling Time

What’s in store for you today: Telling time and Learning Dates

Today’s goals are:

●     To learn to tell time

●     Vocabulary: At Work

Listen to Track 4.5.1


Hombre: ¿Qué hora es? (What time is it?)

Mujer: Son las tres y cuarto. ¿Por qué? (It’s 3:15. Why?)

Hombre: Tengo que estar en la casa de mi tía a las cuatro y media. (I have to be at my aunt’s house at 4:30.)

Mujer: ¿Está lejos? (Is it far?)

Hombre: No. Está al lado del restaurante. (No. It’s next to the restaurant.)

Mujer: Sí. Está muy cerca. (Yes. It is very close.)

Hombre: Tengo que salir de aquí a las cuatro en punto. (I have to leave here at 4:00 on the dot.)


¿Qué hora es?

If you remember, when we were talking about ser and estar, we discussed how we will use ser when talking about time. As promised, today we’re going to learn how to do just that.

Listen to Track 4.5.2


When answering the question, ¿Qué hora es? (“What time is it?”), there are two important expressions to keep in mind:

  • Son las…
    • Son las dos. (It is 2:00.)
    • Son las cinco. (It is 5:00.)
    • Son las diez. (It is 10:00.)
  • Es la…
    • Es la una. (It is 1:00.)


  • We use “son las” with any number that isn’t “one.
  • We use “es la” with “one.”
  • We use the feminine definite articles (“la” and “las”) because we are referring to the time (la hora).


¿Y or Menos?

Listen to Track 4.5.3


In English, sometimes we say, “It’s a quarter past…” or “It’s a quarter to…”. Using y (and) and menos (minus) in Spanish is kind of like that (only a lot more frequent).

  • Son las dos y cuarto. (It is 2:15 [a quarter past two].)
  • Son las dos menos cuarto. (It is 1:45 [a quarter to two].)

Take note: Cuarto means “quarter.”

We don’t just use “y” and “menos” with cuarto, though. We use it all the time!

  • Son las cinco y veinte. (It is 5:20.)
  • Es la una menos cinco*. (It is 12:55.)

* Note: Even though it’s “12:55” we will say “one minus five.” This means that we will need to say “es la” since we will be saying “una.”

* Another note: We use “una” for one because, again, time is feminine.

How to know when to use “Y” and when to use “Menos”

Listen to Track 4.5.4


Deciding when to use “y” (and) and when to use “menos” (minus) is simple:

  • If it’s before :30, use “y.”
    • Equation: [Hour] y [minutes]
      • It’s 12:06. – son las doce y seis
      • It’s 1:23. – es la una y veintitrés
      • It’s 9:29. – son las nueve y veintinueve
    • If it’s after :30, use “menos.”
      • Equation: [Hour approaching] menos [minutes until that hour]
        • It’s 10:47. – son las once menos trece (eleven minus thirteen).
        • It’s 7:41. – son las ocho menos diecinueve (eight minus nineteen).
        • It’s 12:53. – es la una menos siete (one minus seven).

In theory, telling time in Spanish isn’t that difficult. What makes it a little bit of a challenge is changing your way of thinking. Getting used to subtracting the minutes from the hour may take a little time. But if you keep practicing, you’ll get used to it. Promise.

Y media

We’ve talked about what to do when the minutes fall before or after the halfway mark. Now, let’s look at what to do when it’s :30 on the dot:

  • Son las once y media. (It’s 11:30.)
  • Es la una y media. (It’s 1:30.)
  • Son las tres y media. (It’s 3:30.)

You will use y, and the word media (half). You will never say menos media.


¿A qué hora es…?

Listen to Track 4.5.5


To answer the question, “What time is… at?” we will use the following expressions:

  • A las…
    • A las diez.
    • A las seis y media.
    • A las ocho menos cinco.
  • A la una.
    • A la una y media.
    • A la una y cuarto.
    • A la una menos diez.

Things to note

  • Las is used with numbers higher than “one.”
  • La is used with “one.”

Morning? Noon? Or Night?

We may want to explain that we’re talking about 8:00 in the morning, or 12:00 noon. Here are the expressions we need to do that:

Listen to Track 4.5.6


  • De la mañana – In the morning
  • De la tarde – In the afternoon
  • De la noche – At night
  • El mediodía – Noon
  • La medianoche – Midnight

Before, we talked about the expressions por la mañana, por la tarde, and por la noche. Those are used for non-specified times. When we use the preposition de instead of por, we are talking about a specific time.

For example: Tengo una reunión a las ocho de la noche. (I have a meeting at 8:00 pm.) VS. Tengo una reunión hoy por la noche (I have a meeting tonight.).

Here is how we use mediodía or medianoche:

  • Es mediodía. (It’s noon.)
  • Es medianoche. (It’s midnight.)
  • Al mediodía. (At noon.)
  • A la medianoche. (At midnight.)


Vocabulary: En el trabajo…

Track 4.5.8


For our last vocabulary section of this book we’re going to look at things that we have all had to do at one point or another. We’re going to talk about typical “workplace” activities.

  • Ir a una reunión – To go to a meeting
  • Dirigir una reunión – To chair a meeting
  • Hacer una llamada – To make a call
  • Hacer fotocopias – To make photocopies
  • Enviar un fax – To send a fax
  • Contestar el teléfono – To answer the phone
  • Responder a correos electrónicos – To reply to emails
  • Llamar a clientes – To call clients
  • Tener una cita con* – To have an appointment with

*Fun side note: Tener una cita can also mean “To have a date.” Esta noche tengo una cita con María. (Tonight I have a date with María).


Additional Vocabulary

Here are a few more words you might want to know:

  • Antes de (+infinitive) (Before… -ing)
  • Después de (+ infinitive) (After… -ing)
  • Jefe (Boss)
  • Gracias por llamar a… (Thank you for calling…)
  • Día a día (Day to day)
  • En punto (On the dot)


Today, we talked about telling time:

  • We discussed using “y” for times before :30.
  • And using “menos” for times after :30.

We also looked at using:

  • Son las…
  • Es la…


  • A las…
  • A la…