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Ticking Through Time: A Guide to Telling Time in German

Updated: Feb 1

Time, a universal language that keeps us in sync with the rhythm of our lives. If you find yourself in a German-speaking region, understanding how to tell time is a crucial skill. In this guide, we'll unravel the mysteries of both the 12-hour and 24-hour clock systems in German, so you can effortlessly navigate your schedule.



Before learning how to tell the time in German, you should study the numbers in German. Once you're confident that you have mastered them, keep on reading.


The 12-Hour Clock System:


1. Understanding the Basics:

  • In German, the 12-hour clock system is commonly used in everyday conversations and informal settings.

2. Saying the Hour:

  • When stating the hour, simply say the number followed by "Uhr"(o' clock).

  • Example: Es ist drei Uhr. (It is three o'clock.)

3. Quarter Past and Quarter To

  • For "quarter past," use "viertel nach," and for "quarter to", use "viertel vor" and state the upcoming hour.

  • Example: Es ist viertel nach fünf. (It is quarter past five.)

  • Example: Es ist viertel vor neun. (It is quarter to nine.)

4. Half

  • For for "half past," use "halb." But be careful because in German it is half to the hour rather than half past!

  • Example: Es ist halb acht. (It is half past seven.)

5. Expressing Minutes:

  • When stating minutes past the hour, use "nach," and when stating minutes before the next hour, use "vor."

  • Example: Es ist zehn nach zwei. (It is ten past two.)

  • Example: Es ist zwanzig vor vier. (It is twenty to four.)


The 24-Hour Clock System:


1. Military Precision:

  • The 24-hour clock system is more formal and is often used in written and formal contexts, including train schedules and official appointments.

2. Stating the Hour:

  • Simply state the hour followed by "Uhr" to separate hours from minutes.

  • Example: Es ist siebzehn Uhr zehn (5:10 PM.)

3. Expressing Minutes:

  • Similar to the 12-hour system, use "nach" for past and "vor" for before.

  • Example: Es ist fünfzehn nach zwölf. (It is fifteen past twelve.)

  • Example: Es ist zehn vor acht. (It is ten to eight.)

4. Midnight and Noon:

  • Midnight is "Mitternacht," and noon is "Mittag."

  • Example: Es ist Mitternacht. (It is midnight.)

  • Example: Es ist zwölf Uhr mittags. (It is twelve noon.)

5. Embracing Clarity:

  • The 24-hour clock system is appreciated for its clarity and avoidance of ambiguity.


Telling time in German is truly a matter of ticking through the hours and minutes with confidence. Whether you opt for the casual 12-hour system or the precise 24-hour system, mastering these basics will ensure you're never late for a German rendezvous. Viel Erfolg (Good luck) on your time-telling adventure!


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