Telling the Time in German Posted by on Jul 27, 2015 in Language

If is often said that German people are very pünktlich (on time), I’ve written a list of basic vocabulary to help you tell the time, and to ask what the time is in German so that you’ll never be spät (late)!

First of all here are a few numbers in German:

Eins                        One

Zwei                      Two

Drei                        Three

Vier                       Four

Fünf                       Five

Sechs                    Six

Sieben                  Seven

Acht                       Eight

Neun                     Nine

Zehn                      Ten

Zwanzig               Twenty

Dreißig                  Thirty

Vierzig                  Forty

Fünfzig                 Fifty


Here are the basics words and sentences that you will need:

die Zeit                  the time

die Uhr                  a watch/clock

Nach                      past

Vor                         before

Viertel nach        quarter past

Viertel vor          quarter to

Halb                       half

Wie viel Uhr ist es?                         What time is it?

Wie spät ist es?                                How late is it?

Es ist zwölf Uhr zwanzig               It is twelve twenty

Es ist viertel vor drei                      It is quarter to three

Es ist zehn nach neun                    It is ten past nine


And now for the tricky part:

If someone tells you to meet them at halb 12 you would meet them at half 12/12:30 right? Wrong. You would actually be meeting them at 11:30! In German if you say halb … it just means “half” and not “half past”. For example:

Halb eins = 12:30

Halb drei = 2:30

Halb elf = 10:30


A Bavarian clock, the time is 22:13. Own photo

So there are the basics of telling the time, hopefully you will always be pünktlich when meeting someone! I got the idea for this post from a friend who has a very interesting clock in their flat – eine bayerische Uhr. What makes this Bavarian clock so special is that it ticks rückwärts (backwards) and you have to read it spiegelverkehrt (mirror image).


The reason for this is because Willy Brandt (Politician and Leader of the Social democratic Party) said “in Bayern ticken die Uhren anders” (in Bavaria the clocks tick differently). Someone interpreted this and created the Bavarian clock.  If you are ever in Munich take a look at Isartor’s clock – and you will notice that the clock is indeed a Bavarian clock that ticks backwards!

Here is a photo of einer Bayerischen Uhr, leave a comment if you can figure out what the time is!



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About the Author: Larissa

Hello I'm Larissa. I live in Germany and I am half German and half English. I love sharing my passion for Germany with you through my posts! Apart from writing posts I teach fitness classes in Munich.


  1. Anjana Waring:

    Hi Larissa

    A very helpful blog, however there are two mistakes in the English wording:

    Sentences not sentances

    Forty (40) not fourty.

    The numbers are written : four, fourteen, forty…. It is one of those peculiarities of the English language.

    Alles Gute!

    • Larissa:

      @Anjana Waring Hi Anji,

      Thanks for the corrections! English is actually my first language but now that I live in Germany I seem to be forgetting my basic English 😉
      I’ve updated the post so that it’s now correct, thanks again and I’m glad you enjoy the blog.


  2. Joseph T. Madawela:

    This was very helpful, Thanks

  3. Jay Schultz:

    There is an excellent scene in the movie Casablanca related to German time vocabulary and grammar.

  4. Gina:

    That was interesting about the bayerische Uhr, they have them in a few bars in my town. We think it’s just to confuse drunk people tbh, which is quite clever really as if you’re hammered and it’s the early hours of the morning you might forget and think, “Oh it’s still early, let’s get another round in!” Also it looks cool 🙂

  5. Anjana Waring:

    Hi Larissa

    Only too pleased to help.


  6. Attila:

    Es ist 9 Uhr an die Bayrische Uhr.

    • Larissa:

      @Attila You’re correct! Well done 🙂


  7. alcazar:

    Interesting. In our neighbour city there was a restaurant that had a “reversed” clock too, like your bavarian, but with normal numbers.

  8. Dot Read:

    Vielen dank Larissa! Sehr interessant und nützlich.