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Something you eventually have to learn in any language is how to tell time. Whether you’re talking about your schedule, making plans, or simply in a hurry and without a watch, being able to ask for and tell the time is crucial in your everyday life. To help you out in your quest to master Chinese, I’m going to introduce some common vocabulary and grammatical structures related to telling the time in Mandarin Chinese:
In English, there are plenty of ways to ask for the time – What time is it?, What’s the time?, Do you have the time?, etc. In Chinese, the most common way to ask for the time is to say:
When you tell the time in English, you use words like o’clock, a quarter, half past, and so on. Telling time in Chinese is no different. Here are the words you’ll need to be able to tell time:
Note that when telling the time, the character for minute (分) is totally optional. People usually just drop that one when speaking. Also, note that the number two isn’t pronounced the same way it is when counting, Èr, but rather with the word liǎng.
When you talk about the time, there are also different parts of the day. When talking about your daily activities and making plans, it’s important to distinguish which time of the day you’re talking about. As such, here are some more words you’ll need to do this in Chinese:
Ok, now that you have a bunch of words related to time at your disposal, you’re ready to ask and answer questions about daily activities. When asking questions, you’ll always use the phrase, “When do you…?” (你什么时候 – nǐ shén me shí hou). Here are some common questions about daily activities, along with my answers:
Now, take what you’ve learned in this post and try to complete this short assessment (in Chinese, of course!):
If you can do those ten things confidently, then you’re well on your way to being an expert at telling time in Chinese. Tomorrow, I’ll post the correct answers, and I’ll also teach you how to use two very important characters to improve your fluency on this topic.
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