Telling Time

    This week’s German lesson for beginners takes us back to the basics for German learners. I show you a bunch of ways to express time in German while also showing you some things that I do on a daily basis. After the video below, you will see an explanation of how to form each of the phrases used in the video.

    If you want to read the transcript instead, you can find that below the video and additional information. If you want to download the script as a side-by-side file with German and English next to each other or get an MP3 download of this, you can get that by supporting my work on Patreon. By supporting my work, you also get access to the worksheets I create for each video.

    Numbers 0-12

    If you don’t already know your numbers from zero to sixty, now would be a good time to learn that, because without them you can’t really tell time. The most important part is the first twelve numbers, as after that they sort of repeat and follow a pattern.

    Beginner German with Herr Antrim

    null – 0

    eins – 1

    zwei – 2

    drei – 3

    vier – 4

    fünf – 5

    sechs – 6

    sieben – 7

    acht – 8

    neun – 9

    zehn – 10

    elf – 11

    zwölf – 12

    Numbers 12-19

    Once you get past twelve, you simply need to add “zehn” to the end of the first numbers, be careful, however, as some numbers lose certain letters in order to aid in pronunciation.

    dreizehn – 13

    vierzehn – 14

    fünfzehn – 15

    sechzehn – 16

    siebzehn – 17

    achtzehn – 18

    neunzehn – 19

    Numbers 20-29

    Once you get past nineteen, there is another pattern to be followed. You put the number that occurs in the ones place first followed by “und” and then the number for the tens place. Here are the numbers from twenty to twenty-nine as examples.

    einundzwanzig – 21

    zweiundzwanzig – 22

    dreiundzwanzig – 23

    vierundzwanzig – 24

    fünfundzwanzig – 25

    sechsundzwanzig – 26

    siebenundzwanzig – 27

    achtundzwanzig – 28

    neunundzwanzig – 29

    Numbers 30-99

    After that you simply use the same pattern for all of the numbers up to ninety-nine. You just have to know the words for the tens place. Normally, they follow a pattern of number + -zig, but there are again a few anomalies, so I have written them out for you below.

    dreißig – 30

    vierzig – 40

    fünfzig – 50

    sechzig – 60

    siebzig – 70

    achtzig – 80

    neunzig – 90

    On the Hour

    If you want to say that it is exactly a particular time of the day, start your sentence with “Es ist” and then you can simply say the number of the hour and the word “Uhr”, which is equivalent of the English word “o’clock”. You can also just say the number of the hour without “Uhr” like you can in English. If you do this with “one”, however, you have to use “eins” instead of “ein”. “Es ist eins.” or “Es ist ein Uhr.” It is also important to note that “Uhr” is also the word for “clock”, which means that you have to avoid the error of saying “Es ist eine Uhr.” which would mean it is a clock instead of “Es ist ein Uhr.” which would mean “It is one o’clock.” Don’t forget that most of the time Germans use the 24 hour clock, which means that they keep counting after 12 until they get to 23 and then they start again with 0.

    Before and After

    In order to say “after” in German, you need the word “nach”. It is used almost identically to the way it is used in English. You say the number of minutes followed by the word “nach” and the number for the hour. If you want to say “until” or “before”, you need to use the word “vor” and it works just like “nach”. You can add the word “Minuten” to highlight the fact that it is that many minutes until that time. Again, you can optionally add the word “Uhr” to the end of the time, too.

    Examples:

    Es ist fünf nach acht. – It is five after eight. – 8:05

    Es ist zehn Minuten nach zwölf. – It is ten minutes after twelve. – 12:10

    Es ist fünfzehn Minuten nach drei Uhr. – It is fifteen minutes after three o’clock. – 3:15

    Es ist zwanzig vor neun. – It is twenty until nine. – 8:40

    Es ist fünfundzwanzig Minuten vor sechs. – It is twenty-five minutes before six. 5:35

    Es ist dreißig Minuten vor sieben Uhr. – It is thirty minutes before seven o’clock. – 6:30

    Quarters and Halves

    The German word for “quarter” is “Viertel”. The word “ein” can also be added in front of the word “Viertel” to make things clearer or to emphasize the time. You can use this as an expression of a quarter until an hour or a quarter after an hour by using the words “vor” and “nach”, as before.

    Examples:

    Es ist Viertel vor zehn. – It is quarter until ten. – 9:45

    Es ist ein Viertel vor elf Uhr. – It is a quarter until eleven o’clock. – 10:45

    Es ist Viertel nach eins. – It is quarter past one. – 1:15

    Es ist ein Viertel nach zwei Uhr. – It is a quarter past two o’clock.

    One of the most confusing things for English speakers to understand about telling time in German is that the word “halb” is used to indicate that it is half to an hour instead of half past an hour like it does in English. This often causes the English speaker to be confused or to have to do some mental math in order to figure it out. With a bit of practice, however, this becomes quite easy.

    Examples:

    Es ist halb vier. – It is half past three. (Literally: It is half four.) – 3:30

    Es ist halb fünf Uhr. – It is half past four o’clock. (Literally: It is half five o’clock.) – 4:30

    Confusing Quarters

    There is also a tendency in southern Germany to use the word “Viertel” to mean a quarter of the way to the next hour. In order to construct a sentence like this, you have to skip the word “vor” and “nach”. You simple indicate how many quarters it is until the next hour. This gets very confusing to English speakers as we don’t have an equivalent of this at all.

    Examples:

    Es ist ein Viertel zwölf. – It is a quarter after eleven. (Literally: It is a quarter of twelve.) – 11:15

    Es ist drei Viertel elf. – It is a quarter until eleven. (Literally: It is three quarters of eleven.) – 10:45

    5 minutes until half of the next hour? What?

    The last confusing way that southern Germans occasionally tell time is when they say a number of minutes until or after half of the next hour. This uses a combination of the “halb” + hour construction mentioned above and the construction with “vor” and “nach”. This really throws foreigners for a loop, which is why most people are polite enough not to use this construction on foreigners visiting German, but it is good to know that it exists, nonetheless.

    Examples:

    Es ist fünf Minuten vor halb fünf. – It is four twenty-five. (Literally: It is five minutes until half of five.) – 4:25

    Es ist zehn Minuten nach halb acht. – It is seven forty. (Literally: It is ten minutes after half of eight.) – 7:40

    Video Transcript

    (Sleeping in bed)

    A: Hä? Was? Wie viel Uhr ist es?

    (show clock)

    A: Es ist 6 Uhr am Montagmorgen! Es ist so früh am Morgen. Warum bin ich wach? Ich will mehr schlafen. Geh weg! *rolls back over in bed*

    (sitting at table with bowl of cereal)

    A: Guten Morgen. Jetzt bin ich wach. Es ist 5 Minuten nach 7. Ich esse mein Frühstück und trinke schwarzen Kaffee.

    (sitting on couch)

    A: Es ist jetzt halb acht. Vielleicht soll ich etwas mit meinem Tag machen. Nee! Ich sehe stattdessen fern.

    (sitting at the desk)

    Es ist Viertel vor 11 und ich benote die Hausaufgaben meiner Schüler.

    (sitting on couch with laptop)

    Es ist 10 Minuten nach 13 Uhr. Das nennen wir “Nachmittag”, denn es ist nach Mittag. Ich bearbeite ein Video für euch. 😉

    (still sitting on couch with laptop)

    A: Jetzt ist es Abend. Genauer gesagt (looks at watch) ist es 19 Uhr. Ich bearbeite immer noch ein Video für euch. Ich sollte etwas Abendessen haben.

    (cooking in Sophia’s kitchen)

    A: Es ist jetzt Viertel vor 7 und ich koche das Abendessen.

    (sitting at table)

    A: Es ist 11 Minuten nach 19 Uhr. Endlich esse ich zu Abend.

    (laying on couch)

    A: Es ist jetzt spät in der Nacht. Vielleicht sollte ich ins Bett gehen. Es ist schon 23 Uhr in der Nacht. Ich muss schlafen. Gute Nacht.

    (cut to voiceover with clocks)

    “Es ist 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 Uhr.” (exactly at the hour shown with clips of me on the side for the various times)

    “Es ist 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 Minuten nach 1.” (Shown with me sitting at the computer for a really long time. Alternating every other number with and without “Minuten”.)

    “Es ist 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 Minuten vor 1.” (Shown with me sitting at the computer for a really long time, but in reverse. Alternating every other number with and without “Minuten”.)

    “Es ist Viertel vor/nach 1.” (Shown with fast motion me cooking dinner.)

    “Es ist halb 9, 10, 11, 12, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, Uhr.” (Shown with clips from earlier for each hour of the day. Alternating every other one with and without “Uhr”.)

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    Herr Antrim

    Herr Antrim is a German teacher with over 10 years of teaching experience. In 2011 he started his successful YouTube Channel "Learn German with Herr Antrim". In 2015 he created this website to enhance the German language lessons he was providing on YouTube. He is now the author of his own e-book, "Beginner German with Herr Antrim". He has also been featured on numerous blogs and other sites.