Is my favorite pizzeria open yet for dinner? Is it time for my reservation at the Vatican Museum? Can I order a cappuccino at this time of day and not feel like a hopeless foreigner? Knowing how to tell time in Italian can be crucial!
You may also need, or just want, to ask a gorgeous Italian what time it is. Here’s your guide so you won’t make a brutta figura (a bad impression) while telling time in Italian! Luckily, you just need to have a few words and phrases up your sleeve, like Che ore sono?, Sono le…, and the numbers in Italian.
We’ll clear up how Italians say am and pm with phrases like di mattina (in the morning) and di sera (in the evening), how the 24-hour time system works, and how to ask and talk about when a specific event will happen. We’ll discover the difference between the words ora, volta and tempo, which all translate to mean time. You’ll learn how to talk about being on time, early and late in Italian, and which time zone Italy is in.
Table of Contents
HOW TO ASK THE TIME IN ITALIAN
Che ore sono? and Che ora è? mean What time is it? in Italian.
The pronunciation of Che ore sono? and Che ora è? is: kay OHR-eh SOH-noh? and kay OHR-ah eh?
Listen to how to pronounce Che ore sono? and Che ora è? here:
HOW TO TELL TIME IN ITALIAN
For almost all hours of the day, to express time use Sono le . . . plus the number of the hour. Sono le . . . corresponds to It’s . . . o’clock in English.
The pronunciation of sono le is: SOH-noh lay
Listen to how to pronounce sono le here:
Sono le . . . (due/tre/quattro/cinque/sei/sette/otto/nove/dieci/undici/dodici).
It’s . . . (one/two/three/four/five/six/seven/eight/nine/ten/eleven/twelve) o’clock.
A: Che ore sono? What time is it?
B: Sono le dieci. It’s 10 o’clock.
There are three cases when we use è (instead of sono le) to say it’s when telling the time. The three exceptions are:
È l’una It’s one o’clock
È mezzogiorno It’s noon (12 pm)
È mezzanotte It’s midnight (12 am)
TELLING TIME IN ITALIAN: MINUTES
To add the minutes, just use the word e, which means and, and say the number of minutes! Time to brush up on your numbers in Italian up to 59!
Here are some examples:
5:33 – Sono le cinque e trentatre. It’s five thirty three.
10:52 – Sono le dieci e cinquantadue. It’s ten fifty two.
1:20 – È l’una e venti. It’s one twenty.
TELLING TIME IN ITALIAN: AM or PM?
Italians don’t use the words am and pm, they usually use the 24-hour system (more on that in a sec). So to clarify which part of the day you mean, use the following phrases after you say the time:
di mattina in the morning
del pomeriggio in the afternoon
di sera in the evening
di notte at night
2:00 am – Sono le due di notte. It’s two o’clock at night.
3:00 pm – Sono le tre del pomeriggio. It’s three o’clock in the afternoon.
TELLING TIME IN ITALIAN: THE 24-HOUR SYSTEM
What about that 24-hour clock? It works just like military time. Noon is 12 o’clock, and after that the hours count up to 24 o’clock (midnight). For example:
6:40 pm – Sono le diciotto e quaranta. It’s 18:40.
1:05 pm – Sono le tredici e cinque. It’s 13:05.
TELLING TIME IN ITALIAN: QUARTER HOURS AFTER THE HOUR
Just like in English, there are words to mark every 15 minutes after the hour. Use these phrases after you say the hour:
E un quarto a quarter past
E mezzo half past
E tre quarti three quarters past
15:15 or 3:15 pm – Sono le quindici e un quarto. It’s a quarter past three pm.
12:30 pm – È mezzogiorno e mezzo. It’s half past noon.
11:45 – Sono le undici e tre quarti. It’s eleven forty-five.
TELLING TIME IN ITALIAN: FROM THE HALF HOUR UP TO THE HOUR
You can also use meno (which means minus) to say how many minutes there are until the next hour. Meno comes after you say the hour.
meno un quarto a quarter to
meno cinque/dieci/quindici/venti etc five/ten/fifteen/twenty minutes to
1:45 – Sono le due meno un quarto. It’s a quarter to two.
12:57 – È l’una meno tre. It’s three minutes to one.
HOW TO ASK WHAT TIME SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN IN ITALIAN
To ask What time is . . . an event, ask A che ora è . . .
The pronunciation of A che ora è is: ah kay OH-rah eh?
Listen to how to pronounce A che ora è here:
A che ora è la festa di compleanno? What time is the birthday party?
A che ora è la lezione di cucina? What time is the cooking lesson?
You can also use A che ora . . .? to ask What time . . .something will happen.
A che ora andiamo al ristorante? What time do we go to the restaurant?
Mamma, a che ora arriva il treno? Mom, what time does the train arrive?
HOW TO SAY WHAT TIME SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN IN ITALIAN
To answer the question A che ora . . . ?, use alle (at) plus the time!
Alle quartordici e mezzo. At two thirty pm (14:30 or 2:30 pm)
A: A che ora è la degustazione di vino? What time is the wine tasting?
B: Alle 19 e un quarto! At 7:15 pm!
As usual, the exceptions are at one o’clock, noon and midnight:
All’una At one o’clock
A mezzogiorno At noon
A mezzanotte At midnight
A: Salve, a che ora ci sono i fuochi d’artificio? Hello, what time are the fireworks?
B: A mezzanotte. At midnight.
IT’S TIME . . .
If you want to say it’s time for something to happen, use È l’ora di . . . with an event, or with a verb.
Here are some examples:
È l’ora di pranzo. It’s lunch time. (In Italy this is usually at about 1 pm)
È l’ora di cena. It’s dinner time. (7 pm is about the earliest any self-respecting Italian will eat dinner. 8 pm is much more common for dinner time, but of course it varies depending on the region!).
È l’ora di andare a casa. Buona serata! It’s time to go home. Have a good evening!
È l’ora di ordinare il dolce! It’s time to order dessert!
TIME IN ITALIAN: ORA, VOLTA AND TEMPO
As we’ve seen, ora means time in Italian when we’re talking about the time of day or a specific hour (ora has multiple meanings in Italian, including hour, and now).
The word time in English has many different uses. In Italian, there is a specific word for each aspect. So you’ll use the right one, here are just a few examples of how volta and tempo also mean time in Italian.
Volta means time in the sense of an instance, or occasion.
The pronunciation of volta is: VOHL-tah
Listen to how to pronounce volta here:
Andiamo in pasticceria una volta alla settimana. We go to the pastry shop one time/once a week.
È stata in Sicilia tre volte. She’s been to Sicily three times.
Good To Know: C’era una volta means Once upon a time. Fairy tales in Italian start with this classic opening line:
C’era una volta un castello incantato. Once upon a time there was an enchanted castle.
Tempo means time in the sense of duration of time, as well as time to spare.
The pronunciation of tempo is: TEHM-POH
Listen to how to pronounce tempo here:
Quanto tempo dura il volo da Venezia a Roma? How much time does the flight take from Venice to Bari?
Imparare una nuova lingua impiega molto tempo. It takes a long time to learn a new language.
Abbiamo tempo per prendere un caffè? Do we have time to get a coffee?
Non ho tempo per fare il pane oggi! I don’t have time to make bread today.
TIME WORDS AND PHRASES
Are you always late, like me? Or are you like my Italian husband, who’s always on time? Italians have a reputation for being late, but our household is proof that this stereotype doesn’t always hold up!
Here are a few important time-related phrases to know, no matter what type of time person you are:
in orario on time (things that run on a schedule, such as buses, trains etc.)
puntuale on time (people)
in anticipo early
in ritardo late
appena in tempo just in time
Mi dispiace, il bus non è mai in orario. Sorry, the bus is never on time.
Non ci posso credere, sono in anticipo! I can’t believe it, I’m early!
WHAT TIME IS IT IN ITALY?
All of Italy is on Central European Time (CET), so it’s in the same time zone as Paris, Madrid, Algiers and Casablanca.
Need to call someone in Italy but don’t want to wake them up in the middle of the night? For more about the time in Italy in relation to other countries, read Time In Italy – Current Time, Time Zone & More.
Is learning Italian on your bucket list? Try my individual online lessons tailored to your level and goals, whether you’re just starting out or need to brush up your Italian. I have 15 years of teaching experience with students on two continents. Click here to set up a complimentary consultation and here to read more about GTKI.