How to Tell Time in Chinese

Posted by Mollan Mo on 29/03/2016 7:16 PM 826

time in Chinese

Actually, if you are familiar with Chinese numbers, the expression of time in Chinese is very simple and easy to remember.

1. Some basic words for telling time in Chinese

diǎn o'clock
bàn half
quarter(of an hour)
fēn minute
miǎo second

Here are some examples:

8: 05 bādiǎn línɡ wǔ fēn 八点零五分 (Five to Eight)
10:30 shí diǎn bàn 十点半 (half past ten / ten thirty)
12: 15 shí èr diǎn shí wǔ fēn 十二点十五分
12: 15 shí èr diǎn yí kè 十二点一刻 A quarter past twelve
2: 45 liǎnɡ diǎn sì shí wǔ 两点四十五 two forty-five
2: 45 liǎnɡ diǎn sān kè 两点三刻 a quarter to three
7:57 qī diǎn wǔ shí qī fēn 七点五十七分 Seven fifty-seven
7:57 bā diǎn chà sān fēn 八点差三分 Three to eight
7:57 chà sān fēn bā diǎn 差三分八点 Three to eight

Taking notice of the last sentence,"差(chā)" here means "minus", it is usually put before numbers to form a new expression. In our daily life, 秒(miǎo) is seldom used, so if you are a Chinese beginner, you don't need to memorize it.

2. Other time words can be used to describe the general time of the day

zǎoshànɡ  早上(early)morning
shànɡwǔ 上午  morning
zhōnɡwǔ 中午 midday, noon
xiàwǔ 下午 afternoon
wǎnshànɡ 晚上  evening
qiántiān 前天 the day before yesterday
zuótiān 昨天 yesterday
jīntiān 今天 today
mínɡtiān 明天 tomorrow
hòutiān 后天 the day after tomorrow
xīnɡqī 星期 week
nián year
yuè month
/hào date

In Chinese,"shànɡxià上下" and "qián hòu前后" are two pairs of opposite words.上(shànɡ)means "up, on", 下(xià)"means "below, down", 前(qián)means "fore,"后(hòu)" means "after". 午(wǔ)means "noon", so before noon is certainly "morning" which is "上(shànɡ)午(wǔ)", after noon is definitely "afternoon" which is "下(xià)午(wǔ)". Then you must doubt why Chinese people always saying "上个星期/上个月" and "下个星期/下个月"?Assuming we are standing before a calendar, we can find that one former week/month is always on the top of this week/month. At the same time, one next week/month is always below this week/month. Isn't this both interesting and meaningful?

After learning all the basic time words, it's time for us to form endless sentences now. For example:

jīntiān shì 2016 nián sānyuè sān shí hào, xīnɡqī sān
今天是2016年3月30号,星期三
Today is 30th March, year of 2016, Wednesday.

shànɡ wǔ qī diǎn èr shí èr fēn
上午七点二十二分
7:22 AM

(Same as the pattern of address, time in Chinese also starts from big to small.)

wǒ zhè ɡe yuè ɡōnɡzuò, xiàɡèyuè qù fǎɡuó,xià ɡè yuè huílái.
我这个月工作,下个月去法国,下个月回来
I will work this month, then visit France and come back next month

You can use the following phrases as a guide when talking about time in Chinese.

  • jīntiān shì xīngqījĭ? 今天是星期几(What day is today?)
  • jīntiān shì xīngqīyī. 今天星期一 (Today is Monday.)
  • nĭ shénme shíhou zŏu? 你什么时候走?(What day are you leaving?)
  • wŏ xīngqīliù zŏu. 我星期六走 (I am leaving on Saturday.)
  • jīntiān shì jĭ hào? 今天是几号?(What’s the date today?)
  • jīntiān shì shíèr hào. 今天是12号。(Today is the 12th.)
  • nĭde shēngrì shì jĭyuè jĭhào? 你的生日时几月几号? (What month and day is your birthday?)
  • wŏde shēngrì shì qīyuè shísān hào. 我的生日是七月十三号(My birthday is July 13.)

Do you want to learn more about it? Attend our daily Chinese course and let our teachers help you! Here to register and book a free trial class now!

About The Author

Mollan Mo

Mollan holds a bachelor’s degree in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. Experienced and skilled, she utilizes a variety of activities and methods to keep her classes lively. She loves her job and her passion to share her language and culture with others drives her to help her students succeed. Learn Chinese online with Mollan Mo >>

backTop-en