1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. "What time is it?"

"What time is it?"

Translation:Wie spät ist es?

January 23, 2018



We say in german "Wie spät ist es" not "Wie viel Uhr ist es?". You can say both, but often we use "Wie spät ist es?". And when you want to be funny you say "Was sagt die Uhr?" That means "What says the clock?"


What time is it? IT'S ADVENTURE TIME


I think "Wir spät ist es?" is more commonly used, isn't it?


("wie", not "wir".)

I think "Wie spät ist es?" and "Wie viel Uhr ist es?" are both similarly common. Personally, I use both.

It might be that I lean towards "Wie spät...?" when I want to make sure I'm not late / when I want to know how much time I've got left until e.g. the train leaves (because I'm pondering to buy a coffee before it does), and towards "Wie viel Uhr...?" when I'm just curious; but it really doesn't matter which you use.


"Was ist die Uhrzeit?" is wrong?


Yes. "Wie viel Uhr ist es?" and "Wie spät ist es?" are the phrases people use.

"Was ist die Uhrzeit?" sounds like you're asking - in non-standard phrasing, as it can happen in spoken conversation - when something is scheduled, e.g. as an answer to "I've got tickets for that show tomorrow, do you want to come?" or "Mr Boss, you've got a meeting with Mr Important scheduled tomorrow."

...or like you're in the middle of a military-style heist, trying to steal the crown jewels.


Why not Wie zeit ist es?


Duo suggested "Welche Uhrzeit haben wir?" as a correct answer. why does it have to be "wir" and not "Ich" or anything else?

And also, in the case of "Wie viel Uhr ist es?"- why Uhr and not Uhrzeit? If I wanted to ask "How many clocks are there"? Is the difference only the plural form?


"Wie viel Uhr ist es?" is really just an idiom that doesn't make any grammatical sense (that you could readily see - I'd guess there's some historical explanation).

...which is also why "Wie viel Uhrzeit is es?" doesn't work. "Welche Uhrzeit ist es?" sounds very clumsy (so, basically wrong); a bit better is "Welche Uhrzeit ist es in Japan?" (not recommendable), but the phrases to use are still "Wie viel Uhr / Wie spät ist es in Japan?".

(...and as for the "wir haben" construction: you could colloquially say, "Welche Uhrzeit haben sie (!) (gerade) in Japan?" ("What's the time in Japan (at the moment)?", literally: "What time do they have?"), but that still sounds too clumsy to intentionally say it. I wouldn't recommend it.)

"How many clocks are there?" = "Wie viele Uhren gibt es / sind da/dort?"


I think ‘wie viel Uhr ist es?’ makes sense if you think of (one of the possibilities for) the answer: ‘es ist X Uhr’. It would be like asking ‘how much o'clock is it?’. It's a clever use of ‘wie viel’ for a number that doesn't actually represent a quantity, I find it interesting. A similar usage is ‘der Wievielte ist heute?’ (‘the how-many'th is today?’, to ask for the date), which again substitutes a number with ‘wie viel?’ to ask a question, in a way that would be correct if the number actually represented an amount. I think it makes quite the pun (except it's now a common idiom and I doubt anyone sees the ‘punniness’ of it) and it provides a simple way to ask the question.


I tend to think it means more like "What o'clock is it?" or "How many o'clocks is it?" which ironically I've heard said during the Victorian era. OK... yes, I'm old; but, not quite that old. lol


"wir" refers to "humanity", but to that part of it that includes the speaker.

"Welche Uhrzeit haben wir?" isn't common, at least not with the people I know.

But you do say "Welches Datum / Welchen Tag haben wir (heute)?" ("What date / day of the week is it (today)?"), and "Welchen Monat / Welches Jahr...?" as well (although, of course, it's a rare thing to ask). Answer: "Wir haben den sechsundzwanzigsten (Januar)", "Wir haben 2017 / das 21. Jahrhundert" (or formal: "Wir schreiben den 26. Januar / 2018 / das 21. Jahrhundert"), but more commonly (I think) "Heute ist Freitag".

Also: "Welches / Was für ein Wetter haben wir heute / werden wir in Spanien haben?" ("What's the weather today? / What will the weather be in Spain when we are there?"), "Wir haben zehn Grad minus!" ("It's ten degrees below zero!")

Remember that it always refers to the date (or weather) for me, not for other people's as in "What's the time (or weather) in Japan?"


Why not 'Wie viel Zeit ist es?


Because this is a set phrase and this is not the idiomatic way to say it. Your version isn't a particularly intuitive wording either: it would literally mean: ‘how much time is it?’


I don't think people should get marked down, just for asking... fortunately or not, "Wie viel Uhr ist es?" is idiomatic. And when it comes to language, Americans are as idiomatic as the rest of the world.

But, it's just a thing and if one examines the meanings, and dive into the word origins, conceptually the idioms become much easier to understand and absorb. The reason for this may be twofold. 1: One spends more time on the idiom; and 2. The extra knowledge gets rooted in the mind around more than a memorized translation, IOW there's more meaning to associate with the idiom.

In fact, when I first learned it; I hadn't learned Stunde yet; and so in my mind, Uhr was associated with time first, then clock later. But, when it happened, I just thought... oh... Uhr is the word for clock... that makes sense. I have no idea what I would have thought if I learned Uhr=clock first. (Probably something similar) :-/ Since Wie viel Uhr came first, then 'clock', when Zeit came along, I didn't even think to ask for the Zeit. But, I can understand your thinking. :-)

So, that would be an English idiom, that we ask for the time. I have seen many old movies, probably mostly British and Victorian, and others refer to time as "o'clock' or (of the clock). Before the clock, there was no need for hours or minutes, so to speak. "Three moons, and two suns...." lol I mean when one thinks about it, why 7 days for a week, or 30/31 (28/29) days to a month, like that's real easy to learn. In the north, Winter is the time of Orion. Good thing most of the world uses it too!

Of course, just because that's how long we've used it doesn't mean it's NOT an Earth "idiom". The aliens, or ET's probably think we're nuts. lol "Silly Earthlings, they measure time in weird units instead of the sensible "Umvloktkt" Actually, I kind of hope they're more sensible than that, and just say... "Ah, one day is 0.84956 Umvloktkt; much closer to our time than those really strange aliens on that last planet we visited. ;-)


Why spät? It is as if you are assuming that it is already late when you ask for the time.


Wie spat: how late is it? Not what time


Why can't I say, Wie Uhrzeit ist es? Isn't Uhrzeit the time on a clock?


Why not "wie zeit ist es?"?


When do i use "was" and "wie" because i thought "was" was "what" like "was ist das?" Meaning "what is that?" Right? But i also thought "wie" also meant "how" like "wie viel" how much?


Why is 'Was Zeit ist es' wrong?

Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.