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How to Tell Time in German

Telling time in German requires three basic ingredients: the numbers from 1 to 59, the German for "to" and "after," and the fractions "quarter" and "half" (past).

Difficulty Level: average      Time Required: 45 minutes


Here's How:
  1. Learn or review the German numbers from 1-59. (See link below.)
  2. An hour is divided up like a pie into quarters (viertel) and halves (halb).
  3. For "half past," you say halb and the next hour. "Halb acht" = 7:30, i.e., half (way to) eight.
  4. After is nach. "Es ist zehn nach zwei" = 2:10 (It's ten after two).
  5. For "quarter past," you say Viertel nach: "Viertel nach neun" = 9:15.
  6. To or before is vor (FOR). "Viertel vor zwei" = 1:45. "Zehn vor elf" = 10:50.
  7. English "o'clock" is Uhr in German. "Es ist fünf Uhr" = 5:00 (five o'clock).
  8. For precise times, you say Uhr between the hour and the minutes: "zehn Uhr zwölf" = 10:12.
  9. For many common situations (timetables, TV guides), Germans use 24-hour (military) time.
  10. Add 12 to a pm time to get the 24-hour form: 2 pm + 12 = 14.00 (vierzehn Uhr).
  11. To express 24-hour time, be precise: "zwanzig Uhr neun" = 20.09 = 8:09 pm.
  12. Practice your German time-telling skills with every clock or schedule you see.
Tips:
  1. Make sure you know your German numbers well. Watch out for eins. With time it's "ein Uhr" (1:00).
  2. Accept the fact that there are different ways of telling time in different cultures, none of which is "better" or "worse" than the others.
  3. Remember that understanding the time is usually more important than being able to say it.

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