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Learning the clock

at ten means the exact point in time when the hour has passed:

  • um zehn = at ten

about ten is an approximate expression and is not fixed to certain point in time, just some moment shortly before until shortly after ten:

  • ungefähr zehn Uhr = about ten o'clock / around ten o'clock

There are even regional differences how to tell the time in spoken German:

In some parts of Germany we say (with 12 hour format, numbers only up to 12):

  • viertel zehn = 09:15 (a quarter of the hour before ten has passed)
  • halb zehn = 09:30 (one half of the hour before ten has passed)
  • drei viertel zehn = 09:45 (three quarters of the hour before ten have passed)
  • um zehn = 10:00 (it is now exactly ten o'clock)

In other parts of Germany we say (with 12 hour format, numbers only up to 12):

  • Viertel nach neun = 09:15 (a quarter after nine has passed)
  • neun Uhr dreißig = 09:30 (thirty minutes after nine have passed)
  • Viertel vor zehn = 09:45 (one quarter of an hour still has to pass until ten o'clock)
  • zehn Uhr = 10:00 (it is now exactly ten o'clock)

Officially, German uses the 24 hour format:

  • 00:00 = null Uhr = "Um Mitternacht."
  • 01:00 = ein Uhr = "Um eins (morgens)."
  • 02:00 = zwei Uhr = "Um zwei (morgens)."
  • 03:00 = drei Uhr = "Um drei (morgens)."
  • 04:00 = vier Uhr = "Um vier (morgens)."
  • 05:00 = fünf Uhr = "Um fünf (morgens)."
  • 06:00 = sechs Uhr = "Um sechs (morgens)".
  • 07:00 = sieben Uhr = "Um sieben (morgens)."
  • 08:00 = acht Uhr = "Um acht (morgens)."
  • 09:00 = neun Uhr = "Um neun (morgens)."
  • 10:00 = zehn Uhr = "Um zehn (morgens)."
  • 11:00 = elf Uhr = "Um elf (morgens)."
  • 12:00 = zwölf Uhr = "Um zwölf (mittags)."
  • 13:00 = dreizehn Uhr = "Um eins (nachmittags)."
  • 14:00 = vierzehn Uhr = "Um zwei (nachmittags)."
  • 15:00 = fünfzehn Uhr = "Um drei (nachmittags)."
  • 16:00 = sechzehn Uhr = "Um vier (nachmittags)."
  • 17:00 = siebzehn Uhr = "Um fünf (abends)."
  • 18:00 = achtzehn Uhr = "Um sechs (abends)."
  • 19:00 = neunzehn Uhr = "Um sieben (abends)."
  • 20:00 = zwanzig Uhr = "Um acht (abends)."
  • 21:00 = einundzwanzig Uhr = "Um neun (abends)."
  • 22:00 = zweiundzwanzig Uhr = "Um zehn (abends)."
  • 23:00 = dreiundzwanzig Uhr = "Um elf (abends)."

In 24 hour format, minutes are simply appended after the hour:

  • 00:06 = null Uhr sechs
  • 07:59 = sieben Uhr neunundfünfzig
  • 14:30 = vierzehn Uhr dreißig (24h format) = 02:30pm = halb drei (12h format)
  • 14:43 = vierzehn Uhr dreiundvierzig
  • 23:20 = dreiundzwanzig Uhr zwanzig
January 8, 2015



I don't even "properly" say the time in my own language. I just say the number of hours followed by the number of minutes. And I do the same in English, I never use the words "to" or "past" or "quarter".

I have always been a rebel.


Thank you. Can I check please, pada.online, you have spelled "viertel" "dreiviertel" so, without upper case even though they are nouns. Is that correct?


Duden differentiates between numeral and noun:

In the first section viertel is a numeral (Zahlwort) and not capitalized - the property of constituting a quarter part of an hour - den vierten Teil einer Stunde ausmachend:

In the second section Viertel is a noun and capitalized - the quarter of an hour as a noun:


Thank you! I've started listening to Deutschlandradio and was surprised to hear the time given as "vierzehn Uhr dreißig" but I imagine that's standard on the radio. As for the two 12-hour systems, do people who use one understand people who use the other?

Catalans count forward to the coming hour, as in some parts of Germany.

<pre>viertel zehn = un quart de deu halb zehn = dos quarts de deu (like "two quarters to ten") drei viertel zehn = tres quarts de deu um zehn = les deu </pre>

I only really mastered Catalan time through many hours of listening to the radio. You'll even hear "són dos quarts i mig de deu" ("it's two and a half quarters to ten"), meaning it's about 9:38!


Public radio station Deutschlandradio uses the official 24h format:

  • Es ist $hour Uhr ($minutes).

Most people from the "current hour" region (Northern/Western Germany) have difficulties understanding the "coming hour" format (Southern/Eastern Germany), so it is best to stick to the official 24-hour time which is understood by everyone.

Catalan time sounds interesting, I was not aware of these same concepts existing in other countries too.


Thank you! This is really helpful =)


Thank you very much for this information!


Sehr hilfreich. Danke. Da ich Deutsch mich selbst gelehrt habe, finde ich etwas Sachen, wie dieses, schwer... oder noch nicht irgendwas natürlich. Es gibt immer Sachen, die ich mir noch nicht beigebracht habe.

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