How to Tell Time in Italian

| Fri, 11/08/2013 - 10:33

Italy is back to Standard Time, clocks were set back an hour in late October and winter is already knocking at our doors. So why not using this time of the year to learn how to tell time in Italian. After all, if you do not want to miss the train, the appointment with a guide or understand when a museum opens, you need to grasp the basics. 

Che ora è?  or Che ore sono? -  What time is it?

You can ask more formally: 

Scusi, che ore sono? - Excuse me, what time is it?


Per favore, potrebbe dirmi che ore sono? - Could you tell me what time it is, please?


Scusi, sa che ore sono?/Excuse me, do you know what time it is? 

For one o'clock and for noon or midnight the answer is  E' + the hour

È l'una. - It's one o'clock.


È mezzogiorno. - It's noon.


È mezzanotte. - It's midnight.


For all other times of the day, the answer is Sone le + the hour


Sono le quattro. - Four o'clock


Sono le dieci. - Ten o'clock


Sono le nove. - Nine o'clock


In both cases, however, a more informal option is that of using the number of the hour directly. 

Mezzogiorno. - Noon

L'una. - One

Le dieci. - Ten


Fractions of an hour are introduced by the conjunction  'e' followed by the minutes elapsed.

Le dieci e dieci.- Ten past ten.

Le tre e venticinque. -  Twentyfive past three. 

You can choose to indicate 'quindici or trenta minuti', (fifteen or thirty minutes),  using 'un quarto' (a quarter) or 'mezza' (a half) introduced by 'e' instead:

Le dieci e trenta. - Ten thirty. or Le tre e un quarto. - Three fifteen  

From the half hour to the next hour, time can also be expressed by giving the coming hour 'meno' (minus) the number of minutes before the next one.

Le tre meno venti. - Twenty to three.

Le quattro meno cinque. - Five to to four.

To indicate fifteen monutes, you can use also 'un quarto'  using it in the following expressions:

Le tre meno un quarto. - Fifteen to three.

Le quattro meno un quarto. - Fifteen to four. 


Keep in mind that in Italy,  as in most of Europe, time is based on the 24 hour day and not on the 12 hour clock. So, 1 PM is expressed as 13:00, 5:30 PM as 17:30, etc. That means an appointment or invitation for 19:30 is meant for 7:30 PM.