Arabic Language Blog

Let’s Tell Time in MSA and Levantine Arabic Posted by on Oct 28, 2020 in Arabic Language

In this post, I thought we’d learn how to ask and tell the time in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and Levantine Arabic. Of course, you will hear time being said in MSA with speaking clocks, the official radio and television announcements. Otherwise, you will hear time being told in colloquial Arabic. It’s good to be familiar with both forms. 😊

Image via Pixabay

Let’s begin with asking the time. 🕒

كَم السَّاعة؟  (in MSA and Levantine)

أديش السَّاعة؟  (in Levantine)

Important note: The word for “hour”, “time”, “clock” and “watch” is ساعة.

That may look confusing, but context always helps. 😊

Here are different example sentences to see ساعة used in different contexts.

.هذه السَّاعة هديَّة من أختي   This watch is a gift from my sister.

.هذا الصَّف يَحتاج إلى ساعة   This classroom needs a clock.

.عندي مُحاضرة بَعد ساعة   I have a lecture in an hour.

.عندي مَوعِد السَّاعة التاسِعة صَباحاً  I have an appointment at 9:00 am/nine in the morning.

Another important note: In Arabic, most people do not use the terms “am” and “pm”. If it’s in the morning, we would say for example, eight in the morning الثامنة صباحاً. If in the evening, we would say eight in the evening الثامنة مساء .

In Arabic, we like to use half past, a quarter past, a third of an hour past, and a quarter till.

So, 2:00 would be .السَّاعة الثانية

2:30 would be .السَّاعة الثانية ونِصْف

2:15 would be .السَّاعة الثانية ورُبْع

2:20 would be .السَّاعة الثانية وثُلْث

2:45 would be .السَّاعة الثالثة إلا رُبْع

In Levantine, we first replace the ordinal numbers (الثانية، الثالثة، الرابعة…) with (تنتين، تلاتة، أربعة…).

So, 2:00 would be .السَّاعة تنتين

2:30 would be .السَّاعة تنتين ونُص

2:15 would be .السَّاعة تنتين ورُبُع

2:20 would be .السَّاعة تنتين وتُلت

2:45 would be .السَّاعة تلاتة إلا رُبُع

Remember that the letter ث is replaced with ت in Levantine. Hence, ثلاثة is تلاتة, and ثلث is تلت.

Now, what if we want to use “minutes”. One minute in Arabic is دَقيقة the plural is دَقائِق.

In Levantine, just replace the sound of the ق with a glottal stop (ء) or a “g” sound.

For example, the time is 5:09.

You would say .السَّاعة الخامِسة وتسع دقائق

Another example, the time is 6:01

.السَّاعة السادِسة ودقيقة

Or, the time is 7:02  (use the dual here)

.السَّاعة السابِعة ودقيقتين

If you looked at your computer حاسوب /watch ساعة /phone هاتِف /clock ساعة right now, كَم السَّاعة؟

Try in both MSA and Levantine.

I hope you found this post useful as new information or a review of what you already knew about telling time in Arabic.

Till next week, happy Arabic learning! 😊

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About the Author: yasmine

MarHaba! I am half Jordanian of Circassian descent and half American. I have a Master's in Second Language Teaching and I teach Arabic as a foreign language here in the US, both MSA and Levantine Arabic. I hope to help you become more familiar and interested in the Arabic language and culture.


  1. kristel van de voorde:

    Hi nice overview , but i am missing some oral examples, especially about the pronounciation of the minutes…

  2. Jim B:


    Is Levantine 2:45 written correctly? I learned to say it as 3pm minus 15 min. I think it’s a typo because you have it in the above Arabic section correctly🤗


    • yasmine:

      @Jim B MarHaba Jim,
      Yes, you are correct! It was a typo. I fixed it. Shukran for pointing that out! 🙂