About an hour ago I was struggling to explain to someone how to say what time it is. In Swedish naturally.
You see, again, it’s one of those things that is deceptively easy on the surface and so similar to English that we tend to forget that there are a couple of bits that are different. Very different in fact.
First of all, what started this whole discussion was when my husband asked me what “Hur dags?” meant. He thought it had something to do with how the day was going. (Yes, shame on me, the guy speaks only two words of Swedish and relies on me for the rest).
But no, “hur dags?” simply means – “at what time?” And then the guy got all stressed out that the word “time” –“tid” wasn’t even in this phrase. To placate him, I said there is another expression, which starts with “vilken tid” and means something like “when”.
And then, very surprisingly, the guy announced that he decided to master telling the time. In Swedish naturally. So we sat down and I very patiently started to explain:
To ask what time it is, you say this:
- Hur mycket är klockan?
- Vad är klockan?
And here are some possible answers:
- klockan 9 (kl. 9:00) – 9 o’clock.
- halv nio – half past eight – 8:30 (yeah, it gets goofy here)
- tio över nio – ten past nine – 9:10
- tio i nio – ten till/to nine – 8:50
and here it gets really fun:
- fem över halv nio – twenty five till/to nine – 8:35, but in Swedish it’s more like “five past half to nine”
- fem i halv nio – twenty five past eight – 8:25, but again, Swedish it’s literally “five till half to nine”
Fun, isn’t it?
Personally, I hate this way of saying what time it is and normally stick with the military style of 9:10, 8:50, 8:30 and so on. It works just as well and people understand you just fine.
Here are some other handy time-related phrases:
- Klockan går fem minuter före. – the clock/watch is five minutes fast.
- Klockan går fem minuter efter. – the clock/watch is five minutes slow.
- Min klocka går fel. – my watch is wrong (shows wrong time)
- Klockan slår tolv. – the clock strikes twelve (noon/midnight)
And now that you know how to tell the time in Swedish, you have no more excuses to be late. And that I suspect is the secret reason why my guy will give up on learning these useful phrases in about 3 minutes.