What time is it? A question which seems so simple to answer in your native language can cause a few problems in a new language! But not to worry, with a bit of practice, you’ll pick it up easily. Find out how to tell the time in Italian, in episode 31 of 5 minute Italian.
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Today’s Italian words
Che ore sono? = What time is it?
Sono le otto = it’s eight o’clock (literally: they are the eight)
Sono le nove = it’s nine o’clock (literally: they are the nine)
Sono le dieci = it’s ten o’clock (literally: they are the ten)
Sono le otto e dieci = it’s ten past eight (literally: they are the eight and ten)
Sono le otto e venti = it’s twenty past eight (literally: they are the eight and twenty)
Sono le otto e venticinque = it’s twenty past eight (literally: they are the eight and twenty-five)
Sono le otto e un quarto = it’s quarter past eight/eight fifteen
Sono le otto e mezza = it’s half past eight/eight thirty
Sono le nove meno dieci = it’s ten to nine (literally: they are the nine minus ten)
Sono le nove meno venti = it’s twenty to nine (literally: they are the nine minus twenty)
Sono le nove meno un quarto = it’s quarter to nine
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Please note, this is not a word for word transcript.
Katie: What time is it? A question which seems so simple to answer in your native language can cause a few problems in a new language! But not to worry, with a bit of practice, you’ll pick it up no problem. Find out how to tell the time in Italian, in episode 31 of 5 minute Italian.
Ciao a tutti e benvenuti a 5 minute Italian. Ciao a tutti e benvenuti a 5 minute Italian, hi everyone and welcome to 5 minute Italian. I’m Katie…
M: And I’m Matteo. Ciao.
K: And this week, you’ll learn how to tell the time in Italian. You’ll need to have a good grasp of Italian numbers 1 – 60, so if you need to review those you can go back and listen to episodes 14 and 15. But if you’re feeling confident about numbers, let’s get straight to it.
M: To ask the time, we say: che ore sono?.
K: Che means “what”, ore means “hours” and sono means they are. So to ask “what time is it” Italians literally say “what hours are they”.
M: Che ore sono.
K: Let’s imagine it’s 8 o’clock. How do you say that in Italian?
M: Sono le otto.
K: Sono le otto. And how do you say it’s 9 o’clock?
M: Sono le nove.
K: How do you say “it’s 10 o’clock”?
M: Sono le dieci.
K: So to say the hour, we say sono le plus the number. Let’s break this down. We know that sono means “they are”. And we know that dieci means 10. But what about the le in the middle?
M: Le is the word for “the” when we have words in the feminine plural form.
K: For example, to say “the woman” we say la donna, but to say “the women” we say LE donne. But why do we use this to talk about time?
M: Because in Italian, the word ora, which means “hour” is feminine. When we talk about hours, for example, 8, 9, or 10 o’clock, we have several hours, so Italian uses the plural form le. So we say sono LE otto, sono LE nove etc.
K: Literally, “they are the eight” or “they are the nine”. But what about one o’clock? That’s only one hour, so it should be singular right?
M: Right, so when it’s one o’clock, Italians say: è l’una.
K: È l’una literally means “it is the one”. We know that “è” means “it is”. “La una” means the one, but “la” shortens to “l” before a vowel, so we get “l’una”.
M: È l’una
K: And don’t forget you can see these written down in the show notes. Now, what about minutes? How do you say “it’s ten past 8”?
M: Sono le otto e dieci
K: Literally, “they are eight and ten”. So to say “minutes past” in Italian, as in “ten past”, you just add the word e, which means “and” + the number of minutes. So how would you say “it’s twenty past eight”?
M: Sono le otto e venti.
K: And twenty-five past eight?
M: Sono le otto e venticinque.
K: Now the Italian system is quite similar to the British English system, in that they use the word “quarter” to talk about 15 minutes past the hour, and half to talk about thirty minutes past the hour. So if un quarto is “a quarter” in Italian, how would you say “it’s quarter past eight”? In Italian, you’d literally say: “they are the eight and a quarter”
M: Sono le otto e un quarto
K: To say 30 minutes past or half past, Italians say e mezza which literally means “and half”. So how would you say “it’s half past 8?”. Literally, they are the 8 and half.
M: Sono le otto e mezza
K: What about minutes to? How would you say “it’s ten to nine?”
M: Sono le nove meno dieci.
K: Meno means “minus”, so Italians literally say: “they are the nine minus ten”. So to say “minutes to” you give the hour first, + the word meno + the number of minutes to the hour. How would you say “it’s twenty to 9”
M: Sono le nove meno venti.
K: And how would you say eight forty-five, or as we Brits say “quarter to nine”? Can you guess? In Italian, they literally say “They are the nine minus a quarter”.
M: Sono le nove meno un quarto
K: Great so now you’ve picked up the basics, let’s do a quick quiz. How would you say “it’s ten past 6?” literally “they are the 6 and 10”
M: Sono le sei e dieci
K: And how would you say “it’s quarter past five”
M: Sono le cinque e un quarto.
K: And how would you say “it’s half past four”? Literally, “they are the four and half”
M: Sono le quattro e mezza
K: What about “it’s twenty to three” Literally, “they are the three minus twenty”
M: Sono le tre meno venti
K: And “it’s quarter to seven?”
M: Sono le sette meno un quarto.
K: That’s it for today, thank you for joining us. If your head is spinning a little don’t worry, it’s completely normal when it comes to things like telling the time. The key is to practice little and often. Throughout your day, look at the clock and ask yourself che ore sono? what time is it? And practice saying it in Italian. Little by little it will come naturally.
K: That’s all we have time for today, thanks for listening. And if you’d like to get more mini Italian lessons delivered to your inbox, don’t forget to subscribe by following the link below. Grazie, and ciao for now, see you next time, or as we say in Italian, alla prossima!
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