Table of Contents Chapter 29 30.1 Time (die Uhrzeit)
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Chapter 30: Time and Date

  30.1 Time (die Uhrzeit)

The English system has many possibilities to tell the time. Depending on the region it can be quite similar to the German system or even quite confusing. One of the main difference between the English and the German system is that the German system can have 24 hours. The English usually has only 12 hours and the differentiation between a.m. and p.m. Ok, American militaries also use 24 hours, but in Germany not only soldiers use this kind of system.

First of all, one has to learn the wording of giving the time, because it is different from what is written. After the full hour the word Uhr is put, which usually means clock. This again is similar to o'clock.

  Some examples
  2.20 Uhr zwei Uhr und zwanzig Minuten
    1.40 Uhr ein Uhr und vierzig Minuten
  14.17 Uhr vierzehn Uhr und siebzehn Minuten

In spoken language usually the words Minuten or und are not spoken. But as explained above one can use them.

Time One reads
    full hour Uhr minutes  
    2.20 Uhr zwei
Uhr zwanzig
    1.40 Uhr ein
Uhr vierzig
  14.17 Uhr siebzehn Uhr siebzehn

Then there is an alternative way of telling the time. This is most similar to the English way, one says nach for the English past. The preposition to is in German vor (before).

Time One reads
preposition hour  
    2.20 Uhr zwanzig
    1.40 Uhr zwanzig
  14.17 Uhr siebzehn

If the time contains a fraction of a full hour (ein Viertel = a quarter, halb = half) there is another possibility to give the time. But, be careful! When given halfs it is in contrary to the logic used in Britain! While half three in Britain means half past three; in German it is half past two!!!

  Third possibility to give the time
  2.15 Uhr (ein)viertel drei (or zwei Uhr und 15 Minuten or Viertel nach zwei)
  15.30 Uhr halb vier (or drei Uhr und 30 Minuten)
  15.45 Uhr dreiviertel vier (or 15 Minuten vor vier or Viertel vor vier)
    6.30 Uhr halb sieben (or sechs Uhr dreißig)
    7.15 Uhr (ein)viertel acht (or sieben Uhr fünfzehn or Viertel nach sieben)
    7.45 Uhr dreiviertel acht (or Viertel vor acht or sieben Uhr fünfundvierzig)

The expressions viertel vier, halb vier, dreiviertel vier etc. are quite rare. They are not used in all regions of German speaking countries. Often people then try to relate viertel vier to viertel nach vier, which is not correct. So, you see Germans have managed to develop a system that they do not even understand themselves correctly. But mostly you cannot go wrong using the first or second possibility we introduced.

When trying to understand the logic within this viertel vier just think that it relates to the full hour vier and a quarter of it is gone on the way to this full hour. The same happens with halb vier. Half of the way towards the full hour vier is gone. And the same happens with drei viertel vier. Not so difficult.

time next full hour fraction one says  
    4.30 Uhr 5 halb halb fünf
    9.15 Uhr 10 viertel viertel zehn
    9.45 Uhr 10 dreiviertel dreiviertel zehn
  12.15 Uhr 1 viertel viertel eins
  16.45 Uhr 5 dreiviertel dreiviertel fünf
  21.15 Uhr 10 viertel viertel zehn

When using this way of giving the time there is one more thing to be taken into account: it only works with numbers up to 12.

time full hour fraction one says
  14.30 15 halb halb fünfzehn

   With one it is used eins instead of ein
time full hour fraction one says  
  12.15 1 viertel viertel eins


time full hour fraction one says  

12.15 1 viertel viertel ein