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