TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. How to Ask for Time in Chinese?
» Polite Way to Ask Strangers
» Casual Way to Ask Friends
2. Telling Time in Chinese
• Telling Time in Day or Night
• Saying Digit “2” in Hour, Minutes and Seconds
• “A Quarter” vs 15, 30, 45 in Minutes
3. Vocabulary Relating to Time
• Time-Related Words
• Different Times of Day
4. How to Say “Hour” in Chinese?
• Using Right Word for Hours
• Chinese Time Format
5. How to Say “Minutes” in Chinese?
• Telling Time with Minutes
• Duration in Minutes
6. How to Say “Seconds” in Chinese?
7. Enquiry: How Long … & How Many …
8. More Examples of Time in Chinese
How to Say Time in Chinese – Hour, Minutes, Seconds?
How to say Time in Chinese? Time is 时间 Shíjiān in Mandarin. To say the Time – Hour, Minutes, Seconds in Chinese, you must be familiar with the numbers in Chinese from 1 to 60. We will discuss in detail the various segments about time in Chinese.
How to Ask for Time in Chinese?
» Polite Way to Ask Strangers
When you are outside and forget to bring your watch, how do you ask for the Time in Chinese from a stranger? If you want to interrupt people to ask a question, you can use the phrase 不好意思 Bù hǎoyìsi which means “Excuse me / Pardon” or “I am sorry to have disturbed you”.
请问 Qǐngwèn means “May I” and is a polite form to use when asking a question. In the two sentences below, with or without the word 钟 Zhōng mean the same.
Excuse me, what is the time now?
Miss, what is the time now?
Bù hǎo yì si, qǐng wèn xiàn zài jǐ diǎn le?
Xiǎo jiě, qǐng wèn xiàn zài jǐ diǎn zhōng le?
» Casual Way to Ask Friends
When you are in a casual environment with your friend, you do not have to say out the full sentences above as they are more formal. Shorten them and ask “(现在)几点了？(Xiànzài) jǐ diǎnle?” or “几点钟了？Jǐ diǎn zhōngle?“
Telling Time in Chinese
Telling Time in Day or Night
Note that when telling time in Chinese, you do not have to mention the period if the time is understood in a logical sense. You emphasise it when you want to highlight whether it is daytime or night-time in writing or specific circumstances.
For example, you work at 9 pm. Then, you say specifically the time “I work at 9 pm. 我晚上9点工作。Wǒ wǎnshàng 9 diǎn gōngzuò”. Otherwise, people would assume it to be 9 am if you had mentioned “I work at nine. 我9点工作。Wǒ 9 diǎn gōngzuò”.
The time is 02:15 now.
It is quarter past two now.
It is now 2:30 am / 2:30 pm.
Xiàn zài shì 2 diǎn 15 fēn.
Xiàn zài shì 2 diǎn yī kè.
Xiàn zài shì 2 diǎn bàn.
Saying Digit “2” in Hour, Minutes and Seconds in Chinese
- You read the digit 2 as 两 Liǎng and not 二 Èr when you say the Hour in Chinese.
- On the contrary, if you want to tell the Minutes and Seconds in Mandarin, you say it as 二 Èr and not 两 Liǎng. Say the “Two” according to how you would read the Chinese Numeral 2.
Quarter Placement of Minutes in Chinese
- For 15 minutes in the Minute placement – 14:15, you say it as 两点十五分 Liǎng diǎn shíwǔ fēn or 两点一刻 Yīkè which means one quarter.
- For 30 minutes placement – 14:30, you say 两点半 Liǎng diǎn bàn.
- For 45 minutes – 14:45, you express it as 两点四十五分 Liǎng diǎn sìshíwǔ fēn.
In conclusion, 一刻 Yīkè only applies to the first quarter of any other hour in Chinese.
Vocabulary Relating to Time in Chinese
Let us learn some basic useful vocabulary relating to Time in Chinese which you can describe in daily life. They are also used in the Mandarin sentences below to reinforce your understanding.
|Clock, Alarm Clock||时钟，闹钟||Shízhōng, Nàozhōng|
|Hour||点，时，小时，钟头||Diǎn, Shí, Xiǎoshí, Zhōngtóu|
|Seconds||秒，秒钟||Miǎo, Miǎo zhōng|
|15 Minutes / Quarter||一刻，一刻钟||Yīkè, Yīkè zhōng|
|From (Time) to (Time)||从。。。到。。。||Cóng… Dào…|
|In-between, Within||之间，之内||Zhī jiān, Zhī nèi|
左右 (literally “left-right“)
|Dàyuē, Dàgài, Zuǒyòu|
|Almost||差不多，快要，快到||Chàbùduō, Kuàiyào, Kuài dào|
|At least||起码，最少||Qǐma, Zuìshǎo|
Different Times of Day
|Morning||上午，早上，早晨||Shàngwǔ, Zǎoshang, Zǎochén|
|Evening||晚上，晚间，夜晚||Wǎnshàng, Wǎnjiān, Yèwǎn|
|Wee Hours||深夜，凌晨||Shēnyè, Língchén|
How to Say “Hour” in Chinese?
Using Right Word for Hours in Chinese
If you notice in the table above, the Hours in Chinese have four different names – 点，时，小时，钟头.
1. 小时 Xiǎoshí and 钟头 Zhōngtóu are nouns and have the same meaning.
We will have a meeting 1 hour later.
我们一个(小时 / 钟头)后开会。
Wǒmen yīgè (xiǎoshí / zhōngtóu) hòu kāihuì.
2. When saying the Hour in Chinese, always use the word 点 Diǎn above all else.
The time is now 5.25 pm.
Xiànzài shì 5 diǎn 25 fēn.
3. We only use the single word 时 Shí for formal writing and never in a conversation. 11 am to 1 pm 11时 – 13时.
Chinese Time Format
You can write the time in 24-hours time format such as 19:35 on paper, but we never express the Hour in Chinese as 19（
十九点）in talking. Instead, we convert the 24-hour to 12-hour time format in Chinese. Hence, we will say 7点 45分 or 晚上 7点 45分。
A day has 24 hours.
Yī tiān yǒu èr shí sì gè xiǎo shí.
My working hours every day is from 9 am to 5 pm.
Wǒ shàng bān shí jiān shì měi tiān jiǔ diǎn dào wǔ diǎn.
My bedtime is approximately around 12 midnight. I am a night owl!
Wǒ shuì jiào de shí jiān dà yuē shì líng chén shí’èr diǎn zuǒ yòu. Wǒ shì gè yè māo zi!
I still have to wait in the hospital for how many hours?
Wǒ zài yī yuàn hái yào děng jǐ gè zhōng tóu ya?
You want me to wait half an hour for you is not a problem. But, I have to rush home before 12 pm to cook.
Nǐ yào wǒ děng nǐ bàn gè zhōng tóu bù shì wèn tí. Bù guò, wǒ bì xū zài shí’èr diǎn zhī qián gǎn huí jiā zuò fàn.
My exam time is 3 hours. Hope to complete it within 2.5 hours.
Wǒ de kǎo shì shí jiān shì sān gè xiǎo shí. Xī wàng néng zài liǎng gè bàn xiǎo shí nèi wán chéng.
How to Say “Minutes” in Chinese?
Expressing Minutes When Telling Time in Chinese
Minutes in Chinese is 分 fēn and more straightforward to express compare to ‘hour’ which more Chinese terms to learn. To reiterate, 一刻 Yīkè or 十五分 Shíwǔ fēn is how you would say the minutes of the time xx:15. 12.10 pm would be 十二点十分.
Expressing Minutes as a Duration in Chinese
To use Minutes in Chinese as a noun for expressing a duration, you have to end it with a Chinese word 钟 Zhōng – 十五分钟 or x分钟. The exception is 30 minutes or half an hour which we say either 半个小时 Bàn gè xiǎoshí, 半个钟头 Bàn gè zhōngtóu or 三十分钟 Sānshí fēnzhōng.
Another way to say the duration is to add 时间 Shíjiān after 分钟. “Give me 20 minutes’ time. 给我二十分钟(的)时间。 Gěi wǒ èrshí fēnzhōng (de) shíjiān”.
If you think it is confusing, here is a summary to say Minutes in Chinese.
- When you tell the time, always say it with 分 without the
- To mention a duration, use 分钟.
The time is now 22:55, almost 23:00.
Xiàn zài de shí jiān shì shí diǎn wǔ shí wǔ fēn, kuài yào shí yī diǎn le.
An hour has 60 minutes.
Yī gè xiǎo shí yǒu liù shí fēn zhōng.
I used almost 2 hours 15 minutes time to complete my exam paper.
Wǒ yòng le chà bù duō liǎng xiǎo shí shí wǔ fēn zhōng de shí jiān wán chéng wǒ de kǎo juàn.
Please give me 5 minutes to explain clearly to you.
Qǐng gěi wǒ wǔ fēn zhōng shí jiān xiàng nǐ jiě shì qīng chǔ.
Hurry up! We are only left with 30 minutes’ time.
Kuài diǎn! Wǒ men zhǐ shèng xià sān shí fēn zhōng de shí jiān.
Sorry, I will be slightly late. Reaching around 17:25. Please give me another half an hour.
Bù hǎo yì si, wǒ huì chí yī diǎn dào. Dà gài wǔ diǎn èr shí wǔ fēn zuǒ yòu. Zài gěi wǒ duō bàn gè zhōng tóu.
How to Say “Seconds” in Chinese?
For indicating seconds of the time in Chinese, we use 秒 Miǎo. For the noun, we use 秒钟 Miǎo zhōng. However, there are more exceptions for ‘seconds’ than ‘minutes’ because we do not always use 秒钟 as a noun. The word 钟 Zhōng is quite insignificant here.
Similar to the formula of ‘Minutes in Chinese’ above, when we say 20 seconds’ time 二十秒(的)时间 Èrshí miǎo (de) shíjiān, it is also another way to express it as a noun or duration.
If you are not sure whether to use 秒 or 秒钟, it is not a big deal. In many Chinese sentence construction, both can be correct. When in doubt, use 秒钟 Miǎo zhōng as a noun.
When there is a decimal point after the Seconds in Chinese, read the number as an individual numeral and not as a double-digit number.
A minute has 60 seconds. Then, one hour has how many minutes?
Yī fēn zhōng yǒu liù shí miǎo. Na yī gè zhōng tóu yǒu jǐ miǎo zhōng ne?
In a Q&A competition, I used 3 seconds to answer one question.
Wǒ zài zuò dá bǐ sài zhōng, yī dào tí yòng le sān miǎo zhōng lái zuò dá.
He was only late for a few seconds and was scolded by the boss.
Tā zhǐ shì chí dào le jǐ miǎo zhōng, jiù bèi lǎo bǎn mà le.
I give you 30 seconds to come home! (Literally: I give you 30 seconds to roll back home! – *expressing anger*)
Wǒ gěi nǐ sān shí miǎo de shí jiān gǔn huí jiā!
Usain Bolt used a short duration of 9.69s to finish the 100m race, setting a new world record.
Ěr Tè yòng duǎn duǎn jiǔ diǎn liù jiǔ miǎo pǎo wán liǎo 100 mǐ, chuàng xià le xīn de shì jiè jì lù.
She used 2h 30m 52s to win the Women’s Championship in a 40 km Marathon Race.
Tā zài 40 gōng lǐ mǎ lā sōng bǐ sài zhōng yòng le liǎng xiǎo shí sān shí fēn wǔ shí’èr miǎo duó dé nǚ zǐ guàn jūn.
Enquiring on Time in Chinese: How Long and How Many Hours / Minutes / Seconds?
We can also ask questions on the time length or amount of time with 多久，多长时间. For enquiring hours, minutes and seconds, we use 几 in front of the term that you want to know.
|How long, What is the length of time?||多久，多长时间||Duōjiǔ, Duō cháng shíjiān|
|Hours||几个小时，几个钟头||Jǐ gè xiǎoshí, Jǐ gè zhōngtóu|
|Seconds||几秒，几秒钟||Jǐ miǎo, Jǐ miǎo zhōng|
How long do you want me to wait? A few hours?
Nǐ yào wǒ děng duō jiǔ? Jǐ gè xiǎo shí?
How many minutes do we rest here?
Wǒ men yào zài zhè lǐ xiū xí jǐ fēn zhōng ne?
How many seconds does a leopard need to run 100 metres?
Bào zi pǎo 100 mǐ xū yào jǐ miǎo zhōng?
More Examples of Time in Chinese
Here are more examples of the time and the period used with what we have learned.
Around dusk between 18:30 to 19:00, when the sun sets, I like to have a slow jog.
Wǒ xǐ huān zài páng wǎn 6 diǎn bàn dào 7 diǎn zhī jiān, tài yáng xià shān de shí hòu màn pǎo.
My lunch hour is not fixed. I try to eat in between noon from 11:00 to 13:00.
Wǒ wǔ cān shí jiān bù gù dìng. Wǒ jǐn liàng zài zhōng wǔ 11 diǎn dào 1 diǎn zhī nèi yòngcān.
Usually, after lunchtime approximately after 14:00, the shop has fewer customers.
Píng shí guò le yòng cān shí jiān, dà gài xià wǔ 2 diǎn zhī hòu, diàn lǐ de gù kè huì bǐ jiào shǎo.
Yesterday night, the next door neighbour returned home around 2 or 3 plus am after drinking.
Gé bì lín jū zuó wǎn hē dào líng chén liǎng sān diǎn duō cái huí jiā.
Tonight after 12 midnight is the Chinese Lunar New Year. Looking forward to it！
Jīn wǎn guò le wǔ yè 12 diǎn jiù shì huá rén nóng lì xīn nián le. Hǎo qí dài!
Do you prefer to attend the morning 09:30 or evening 19:30 English class?
Nǐ bǐ jiào xǐ huān shàng zǎo shang 9 diǎn bàn hái shì wǎn shàng 7 diǎn bàn de yīng yǔ kè ne?
I reckon that this travel journey would require at least 6 to 7 hours of road trip. The estimated time arrival to destination would be approximately 22:30.
Wǒ cāi xiǎng zhè cì de lǚ chéng qǐ mǎ xū yào 6 dào 7 gè xiǎo shí de lù chéng. Gū jì wǎn shàng 10 diǎn bàn zuǒ yòu cái huì dǐ dá mù dì de.
Hope that you have benefitted from this long post on telling Time in Chinese. Check out the related articles below on saying Date in Chinese.