Telling the time: What time is it?

To ask What time is it? you can say both Che ora è? and Che ore sono?

Look at this infographic taken from impariamoitaliano.com and at this infographic taken from aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it (you do not have to read the explanation in Italian) and learn how to answer the questions Che ora è? and Che ore sono?

Notice that:

  • We say sono + the time, as in sono le due, sono le tre e mezza, sono le quattro meno venti, etc.   BUT we say è mezzogiorno (it’s noon), è mezzanotte (it’s midnight) and è l’una (it’s one o’ clock).
  • Meno un quarto = e tre quarti, as in le quattro meno un quarto = le tre e tre quarti.
  • Both mezzo and mezza (half) are acceptable, as in le dieci e mezzo / le dieci e mezza.
  • Di mattina [am] di pomeriggio and di sera [pm] are colloquial ways to indicate am and pm, as in le otto di sera, le otto di mattina.
  • For more formal situations such as train timetables, film timetables, etc. Italians use the 24-hour clock.  L’una di pomeriggio (1pm) becomes le 13, le due di pomeriggio (2pm) becomes le 14, etc.

Telling the time: At what time?

To ask At what time? you can say A che ora?

  • To tell at what time something is done or something happens, Italians combine the preposition a [at] with the articles le or l’.
a + le = alle      as in alle otto, alle nove e un quarto, etc.
a + l’ = all’        as in all’una, all’una e mezzo, etc.
BUT: a mezzogiorno, a mezzanotte   (no articles)
  • To tell from what time to what time something is done or something happens, Italians combine the preposition da [from] and a [at] with the articles le or l’.
da + le = dalle      a + le = alle          as in dalle sei alle sette
da + l’ = dall’        a + l’  = all’            as in dall’una all’una e mezza
BUT: da mezzogiorno a mezzanotte (no articles)
  • To say around a certain time, Italians use verso + the time, as in verso le cinque, verso mezzogiorno, verso le dieci e un quarto, etc.

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Spunti: Italiano elementare 1 by Daniel Leisawitz and Daniela Viale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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