How to Tell TIME in ITALIAN: “What time is it? It’s…”

“What time is it?”… It’s a good question, isn’t it? Would you be able to answer? If the answer is NO, no problem! Have a look at our video-lesson and find out how to ask and tell time in Italian! And don’t forget to do the exercises you find at the end of the page!

Tell the time in Italian

Time is very important for any kind of communication because it allows us to take appointments and to be guided in time. But how does it work in Italian?

If you need to know the time, you can ask “Che ora è?” or “Che ore sono?” (What time is it?), both forms are correct.

Instead, if you need to answer to these questions, you should use the expression “Sono le …” (It’s…)

For example:

h. 02:00 → Sono le 2 (It’s 2 o’clock)

h. 07:00  → Sono le 7 (It’s 7 o’clock)

The only exceptions where we need to use “È… are:

h. 01:00 → È l’una (It’s 1 o’clock)

h. 12:00 se usiamo l’espressione → È mezzogiorno (It’s midday)

h. 24:00 se usiamo l’espressione → È mezzanotte (It’s midnight)

Now, you have to know that in Italy there are two ways to tell the time:

1) 24 hours system

In this system, we use the numbers from 1 to 24 for hours, followed by the numbers from 1 to 60 for minutes.

For example:

h. 08:50 → Sono le 8 e 50 (It’s 8:50 a.m.)

h. 17:35 → Sono le 17 e 35 (It’s 5:35 p.m.)

h. 09: 15 → Sono le 9 e 15 (It’s 9:15 a.m.)

2) 12 hours system

In this system, we use the numbers from 1 to 12 for hours, followed by the numbers from 1 to 60 for minutes and then, if it is necessary to clarify, we add “di mattina”, “di pomeriggio”, “di sera” or “di notte” (in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, in the night)

For example:

h. 16:20 → Sono le 4 e 20 di pomeriggio (It’s 4:20 in the afternoon)

h. 20:00 → Sono le 8 di sera (It’s 8 o’clock in the evening)

h. 03:00 → Sono le 3 di notte (It’s 3 o’clock in the night)

Review the numbers in Italian!

Let’s see some special cases:

h. 20:15

What time is it? It’s 8:15 p.m., that’s right! But you can also say that “Sono le 8 e un quarto (di sera)” (It’s a quarter past 8 in the evening)

h. 09:30

What time is it? It’s 9:30 a.m., but you can also say that “Sono le 9 e mezza (di mattina)” (It’s half past 9 in the morning)

Starting from 40 minutes, it is possible to tell the time in this way:

number of the following hour + MENO (minus) + number of the minutes left to the following hour

For example:

h. 05:40 → Sono le 6 meno 20 (It’s 20 to 6 a.m.)

h. 10:45 → Sono le 11 meno un quarto (It’s a quarter to 11 a.m.)

h. 06:55 → Sono le 7 meno 5 (It’s 5 to 7 a.m.)


These expressions (“e un quarto”, “e mezza”, “meno”) are generally used only with the 12 hours system!

We know that this system is quite difficult, so we leave here a summarizing picture for you:

Discover all other lessons!

Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!

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