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  5. "Het is half zeven."

"Het is half zeven."

Translation:It is half past six.

July 18, 2014

98 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

In British English usage, "half six" is a relatively recent colloquialism that abbreviates "half past six". Most British English speakers today seem to consider this a totally normal expression and are surprised it's virtually unknown in the rest of the English-speaking world.

I found colloquial British usages of "half six" and similar constructions in the 19th century where it is clear from context (from explanations even) that 5:30 etc. was meant as in Dutch and in fact most Germanic languages. The best one is this:

The hour of meeting varied with the season and the length of the day, ranging from 5.30 in Winter to 7.30 in Summer, or as it is sometimes expressed in the quainter language of an era when railway time-tables were yet in the future, from "half-six" to "half-eight" o'clock. (Robert Burns, June 1892)

So it appears that expressions such as 5:30 in the omnipresent railway tables caused British English speakers to abandon "half six" in favour of "half past five" in order to minimise confusion. About a century later, practically everybody had forgotten about the original construction and its meaning, and people became free to re-interpret it when they were confronted with it in old books.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AndreiTata1

For some (apparently stupid) reason, it seems that i was using "half six" to mean 5:30 in english until now... Guess i'm a time traveller of sorts.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SebastianChw

That is a very captivating history of the construction. Please accept a lingot for your effort in doing the small research.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rafeind

This makes a lot of sense.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/turner227

Oh no, the time system in Dutch is exactly like German. It took me so long to get used to it, and now I can't escape it. Damn.

I'm going to start being late to real life things now.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rafeind

It is like that in Dutch, German, Danish, Icelandic and I assume Norwegian and Swedish too. English is the odd one out. (And I always get confused. I answered this as half seven and meant six thirty.)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Alex_Kinsey

Same in Czech (a Slavonic language)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Iker74

And in Hungarian too


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/altusvantonder

Afrikaans also does this, same as all the other Germanics :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jason2Song

It's funny that even Chinese dont do this way, we do six thirty as 六点半 which is literally translated to six half. And I think the most confusing part is that six thirty is still in the territory of six o'clock and what is the business with seven. (just kidding)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

I don't think this is surprising at all. The traditional Chinese system was completely different and was superior to the European system. I doubt that the European time system came to common use in China before the switch from "half seven" to "half past six" in English. Moreover, I am just speculating here, but I would expect that in China the European system was first used in railway timetables, which (with their use of "6:30") also caused the switch in English.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Hrafnunga

I wouldn't say that it's "superior." Neither is more accurate than the other. The difference is in how they relate to the European system:

Old Chinese major ke: 1/100th of a day (or 14.4 minutes). Old Chinese fen: 1/6000th of a day (or 14.4 seconds). New Chinese ke (to conform with the European system): 1/96th of a day (or 15 minutes). New Chinese fen: 1/60th of a European hour (or 1 minute).

Thus, neither is superior, but those who favor a decimal system would be drawn to the old Chinese system. Those who favor easy conversion between systems would prefer the new system, since it correlates quite nicely to ours.

Note also that the Chinese annual calendar changed many times throughout history, and was just as much a mess as any western calendar, much less accurate than the Gregorian and slightly less accurate than the Julian calendar until 1281 AD. So, while the Chinese were 301 years ahead of the Gregorian reforms, they were slightly less accurate than the Julian calendar for 1325 years. It wasn't less accurate than the Julian by enough to really make a difference, but they could have been much more accurate if they used 365 + 385/1587 or 385/1588 instead of 365 + 385/1539 days in a year (and who wants to work with a system that uses fractions like 385/1539 for calculating the leap year? 365 + 97/400, which was developed first by the Chinese then by the Europeans, is much easier to use, as is 365 + 1/4 used in the Julian calendar (which is slightly more accurate than the pre-1281 Chinese calendar)).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_calendar#History


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kaplacius

You talk about the European system but actually in countries as France, Spain or Italy the way to say the time is that. Actually the translation to English would be: "six and half"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/siljedr

Yup, Norwegian and Swedish are the same.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sisu-27

It's the same in Norwegian and Swedish. It's even the same in Finnish (puoli neljä meaning 3.30). My Finnish teacher told us to think of it as being "half to four" rather than half 4, like our English brains would think it.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoelusFeeus

Surely you would be early? :P Thinking something is at 7.30 but going an hour earlier.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tu.8zPhLD72zzoZN

No, late in the Netherlands by thinking something is at 7: 30 and not realizing they meant our 6: 30.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/cpecue

Holy day streak! :P


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Wei-Da

for god sake I love Chinese counting and timing system


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Iker74

Hungarian too


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JohanTheodorus1

Same in Indonesian. We call 6.30 as setengah tujuh (half seven)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/YvonneJanssen

6.00 = 6 uur

6.10 = tien over zes

6.15 = kwart over zes

6.20 = tien voor half zeven

6.30 = half zeven

6.40 = tien over half zeven

6.45 = kwart voor zeven

6.50 = tien voor zeven


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/the.pyat

Ooo. 6.20 is painful.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/doctortrax

It's interesting that in Swedish we use "five before/after half seven" but it's 20 past six or 20 to seven, never "ten to/past half seven". Wonder why that is, considering there are so many similarities.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/derguelp

It is the same in German here. We say "zwanzig nach sechs" and "fünf vor halb sieben", but never "zehn vor halb sieben"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

A lot of people do say "zehn vor halb sieben". It's not standard, but actually quite common.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GrandOma

Danke wel Yvonne


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jutikant

thank you so much! this makes things easier^_^


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/VanHoof666

But in Belgian Dutch (Flemish) is is perfect to say:

6.00 = 6 uur

6.10 = tien na zes

6.15 = kwart na zes

6.20 = twintig na zes

6.30 = half zeven

6.40 = twintig voor zeven

6.45 = kwart voor zeven

6.50 = tien voor zeven


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ezmeralde

Someone needs to put the half way to the hour in the notes below the activities. As a German speaker I guessed, but I can see why this might be confusing for native English speakers.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Bettesworth

Thank you Ezmeralde, this is indeed a new concept to me as a native English speaker. Good suggestion!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lull0000

This concept needs to be explained in the Tips & Notes section. There's no way to guess from the hints that "half seven" means "six thirty" unless you know German or something. That or make the hint say something more relevant on mouse-over, but this exercise is poorly presented as is, IMO.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Naxconukh77

In French we say : "six heures et demie".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/wbeeman

Six thirty is written 6:30 in English. The system declared the colon to be a typo. It isn't


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jamesjiao

Duo encourages one to type out the translation instead of using numerals.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

Yes, good point! I think the configured answers include "six thirty", and the reason "6:30" is accepted is that Duolingo considers "6" equivalent to "six" and "30" equivalent to "thirty". So if someone enters "6:30", the algorithm transforms it to "six : thirty" and therefore complains about the colon.

Since it's still considered as correct enough, it's quite tricky to send the course maintainers the feedback that would make them add "6:30" as a solution.


[deactivated user]

    I typed in half past seven, answer was accepted, but apparently it also means half six? What's going on here?

    Edit: After looking about I'm convinced my answer was wrong so I reported it. (Or I reported a similar question I don't remember.)


    [deactivated user]

      Half x's in Dutch are always half an hour before the x itself, zo 'half zeven' is always 6:30 (either a.m. or p.m.) :).


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mullac1992

      Damn, Dutch. You weird.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

      Not weird at all. The sixth hour is over. The seventh hour has not yet arrived. Only half. It's "half seven" as in "half of seven, starting from six", as in "half an apple".

      What seems really weird to me is how one can drop the past in "half past six" and not feel uneasy about the blatant inconsistency with "half full" - which, after all, doesn't mean 150% full.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/emily823504

      Wow. Thank you. This is helping me understand it. I still think it's weird, but at least this will help me get to places at the right time. I have dyscalculia (like dyslexia but with numbers). I am from the US and moved to the UK, where people say "half seven" to mean 7:30. That itself is confusing enough for me. Why can't people just say seven thirty?!?!?!


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tumie7

      Atleast half seven still means seven thirty, but to count six thirty as seven thirty is way too complex


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rafeind

      Oh yes, it is English that it weird in this case. Especially because I think all other germanic languages have it the same way around as in Dutch. (I am sure about 4 (Dutch included) and almost sure about 3 more.)


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/YvonneJanssen

      well in this case (as in alot of other cases) it's not the dutch that are the odd ones out


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/the.pyat

      You just have to speak as if you are clearing your throat all the time and throw in a lot of extra e's and o's. (Just kidding).


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AdamNowek

      How is this weird? "Quarter to" is commonly used in English to refer to an hour that hasn't yet been reached.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KnightsWhoSayNe

      Can I not say "It is half seven"?


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/turner227

      You have to think of it as half TO seven, rather than half PAST six.

      "It is half seven" (07:30) in English would be "Het is half acht" in Dutch.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jun-Dai

      Yeah, that's why "It is half six" should be accepted :-) I just flagged that.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jamesjiao

      Because half seven (very colloquial, I wouldn't say that at all in English) implies half PAST seven in English. In Dutch, it means half TO seven, as in, 6:30.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/amuzulo

      I get the impression that it's used a lot in England and never in the USA. Not sure about other English-speaking countries.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/turner227

      I'd say it's part of European English, yes.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Tracey843948

      Not in Australian English either.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PatrickOsa

      Couldn't “half till seven" be an acceptable answer?


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lisyaorancrazed

      it could but it's not a term most native speakers would probably go to first.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/marimurta

      Why not 'six and a half'?


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

      It never had a chance to become the standard because it's two syllables longer and time expressions are used way too often for this to be tolerated.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/the.pyat

      The english tend to see the world as half empty, rather than half full.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Arix.ariX

      that makes zero sense to me.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/turner227

      You have to think of it as half TO seven, rather than half PAST six.

      German does the same and it took me a while.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

      The natural interpretation of half without a preposition is half of something. In this case half of seven o'clock. Meaning that the long hand of the clock has rotated half the way to seven o'clock, starting from its position at six o'clock. In German (though this depends on the region) this is even extended to "quarter seven" meaning a quarter past six and "three quarters seven" meaning a quarter to seven. In Dutch this doesn't seem to be in use, though.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ezmeralde

      Although what you're saying is logical, in British English everyone says half, meaning half past. Even though this isn't the case for all languages and interpretations a note should be made in the tips and notes section for those unfamiliar with the usage of half in this context. What Im getting at is just because you feel that the natural interpretation is for half way to something, its not the same for everyone.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/altusvantonder

      Agreed. I think this thread clearly shows two points: #1. The most common global interpretation of "half seven" is 6:30, and #2. English interprets "half seven" as 7:30. This is all well and fine now, but without this crucial background info it is tremendously confusing to complete this lesson. So Duolingo would do well in adding an explanation before the lesson. Thanks


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ferdzso

      solutions: • It is half six. • It is six thirty.

      what? half six is 05:30 and six thirty is 06:30. I am confused :)


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

      In British English usage, "half six" is a relatively recent colloquialism that abbreviates "half past six". Most British English speakers today seem to consider this a totally normal expression and are surprised it's virtually unknown in the rest of the English-speaking world.

      I found colloquial British usages of "half six" and similar constructions in the 19th century where it is clear from context (from explanations even) that 5:30 etc. was meant. The best one is this:

      The hour of meeting varied with the season and the length of the day, ranging from 5.30 in Winter to 7.30 in Summer, or as it is sometimes expressed in the quainter language of an era when railway time-tables were yet in the future, from "half-six" to "half-eight" o'clock. (Robert Burns, June 1892)

      So it appears that expressions such as 5:30 in the omnipresent railway tables caused British English speakers to abandon "half six" in favour of "half past five" in order to minimise confusion. About a century later, practically everybody had forgotten about the original construction and its meaning, and people became free to re-interpret it when they were confronted with it in old books.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/FaerieArbear

      I still have no idea why it's half to the hour... Can someone please explain?


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

      Because that was a logical metaphor when people had only analog clocks. Half seven is when the long hand has made half the journey on its way to striking seven. It's also when the small hand has made half the journey from six to seven.

      Before the establishment of idioms for the times of the clock - which must have occurred in the 16th century, when people started having clocks - there would have been other natural ways to say it that involve the word half and the number six, but they are different:

      • half [an hour] past six
      • six and a half [[hours] o'[f the] clock]

      I guess the main problem with 'six and a half' was that for frequent use it was too long. Shortening it to 'six half' was not a good option at the time because it was firmly established in other contexts that that means three. For similar reasons, 'half past six' could not be shortened further. So 'half [of [the hour leading to]] seven' won.

      Or think of it this way: What could it mean if a child says "It's half Christmas"? There are three reasonable options: Starting from the 1st of January half Christmas is in summer; starting from the first of December it's 12th of December; starting from the fourth Sunday before Christmas (the start of the advent season and of the liturgical year) it's about two to three weeks before Christmas. But they all have in common that it's about the next Christmas, not the previous one.

      And another: Think of "It's already half seven!" Isn't it clear that this should mean that seven is already half reached?

      For when and why English speakers stopped using this universal idiom, see my other very long post.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/siljedr

      To me, as a native Norwegian speaker, this obviously makes perfect sense :) Catalan takes it even further (a bit odd for a romance language, perhaps): un cuart de sis = a quarter of six = 05:15


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/dmfarley

      It's not a metaphor at all. It's half of the seventh hour. Think of midnight (or if you will, zero o'clock) to one in the morning as the first hour of the day. At half of that hour, or 12:30am, or 00:30, it is halfway through the first hour. Half one.

      Similarly, at 6:30 it is halfway through the seventh hour. Or half of the seventh hour. Shortened to "half seven".


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/damnjan

      It is interesting how many people are confused with writing 6:30 like "half seven" and see no logic in it. In Serbia everyone uses that form and it really makes sense (just look at a clock when it's 6:30, you'll see that the minute hand is on the half way to form 7:00, so it's "half seven"). Funny how the same thing that seems very logical and natural in some countries is totally confusing and illogical to others :)


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Klgregonis

      Spanish (and I believe other romance languages) do this the same way English does. Possibly a French influence on English?


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

      I wouldn't rule out a French influence completely, but see my post on the change of meaning in English from "half six = half of six" via "half six" completely unused to "half six = half past six". It seems to have been caused by railway timetables. In fact, this solved a problem for English that I personally still have as a German native speaker: I have serious trouble remembering whether an appointment is, e.g., for 'half six' or for '6:30'. Often I only remember it was a half hour, and it was something with 6 in it.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ania266561

      actually it makes perfect sense if you apply pure logic: "half zeven" is half of the 7th hour which mean it is not there entirely yet, therefore 6:30 :) keep that in mind and all confusion with translating to English is gone ;)


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Thomas_G_Brown

      Best way of saying it = midway between 6 and 7 o'clock :D


      [deactivated user]

        Should be half past seven, not half past six!


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jamesjiao

        Did you actually make any effort reading other comments or are you just trying to tell other people how to speak Dutch the way you think they should do?


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/the.pyat

        I have heard that India has a remarkable calendar that takes into account astronomical phenomena so that farmers can plant their crops during the most fortuitous times. I don't understand it all, how they make such calculations, but i believe it is a very ancient tradition.


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Svennedude

        I write 'It is half seven' and it says it's incorrect, and at the bottom of the screen it says the correct answer is 'it is half 6' I'm confused.


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/El2theK
        • In Dutch half zeven = 6:30 am/pm
        • In English half seven = 7:30 am/pm

        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Svennedude

        Thanks for the info! I never knew.


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Mary_9106

        Why is it used half zeven and not. Half zes?


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

        Because using "half seven" to mean "half past seven" is a relatively recent colloquialism in British English that doesn't seem to occur in any other language. Even in 19th century English, "half seven" meant "half an hour before seven", as it still does in Dutch and German. This expression fell out of use in English as an indirect result of the precision required for railway timetables. If a train departs at "6:31", then that would have been (a minute past) half seven in the 19th century, and still is in Dutch. Since that's confusing, English speakers switched from the Germanic way of time telling to the French style: "half seven" became "half past six" (like "six heures et demie").

        As a native German speaker, I regularly experience this confusion myself. I keep forgetting whether an appointment is at half 7 or at 7:30, since only "7" and "half an hour off" stick in my mind. For some reason that happens even for p.m. appointments, when the options are actually half 7 and 19:30. (German and Dutch use the 24-hour system only for timetable-style timetelling, and the 12-hour system otherwise.)

        Much later, "half seven" was revived with a new meaning - as an abbreviation of "half past seven".


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kit_katze

        As an indonesian, sometimes it's easy to follow dutch time system. I guess we adopted some of it long time ago.


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BethK

        My answer was "It is six-thirty," and I was told I had missed a space? Not marked wrong, so they accept that as an alternative to "half past six." But sorry, Duo, six-thirty is the way it is written. Duo is just wrong here.


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

        I don't think I have ever seen it spelled that way, but even if that's a correct alternative spelling, you are dealing with a long standing general Duolingo bug here: Once a response is accepted, there is no way to report it as better than what is proposed as an improvement, or as an equally correct variant. Therefore this kind of thing cannot be fixed.


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Kitt9

        Yes it's a fairly common of writing it in England


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BarbaraSte498337

        I answered in Nederlands and the program keeps telling me my answer is on english which it was not


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/HaydenBeard

        Why? It is so much easier to say 6:30.


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TonyA.Lowe

        Soooo is it only us Americans that say five thirty? Lol I guess


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BjoernSchw

        Duolingo corrected 'its half past six'. That seems to be wrong either, because 'its' without Apostroph is meant to be a possessive pronoun. The correction should say "it' s" or "it is".


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DzesikaJan1

        it is wrong because zeven is seven not six


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Alex_Kinsey

        It's not wrong. It is understood as half TO seven, half an hour until seven


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/turner227

        Imagine coming to the comment section without reading any of the previous ones. Utterly baffling.


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/thisperson1

        A lot of people are saying that english speakers say half seven meaning 7:30, when I, being a native english speaker, have literally never heard it worded that way. I'm american- is that wording used in other English-speaking countries?


        https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

        Reading other comments before commenting would be really helpful for reducing the clutter. It seems to me that your question is answered in the first paragraph of the top post in this forum.

        (If that is in fact the case, I suggest that you delete your post. I will then delete my response as well as soon as I get back to this page. That way we can help to make this page less confusing.)

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