Hva er klokka? Posted by on Jul 16, 2009 in Culture

What time is it?

Klokka er….

It is…

I can’t believe I haven’t written a post on TIME (tid) yet!

The way Norwegians express time is much different than the way Americans do.  We simply say for example “It is five thirty” meaning it is thirty minutes past 5 o’clock.  Or “it is quarter to seven” meaning it is six forty-five.  And unless you are in the military, you would write 5:30 and 6:45 respectively.  In Norway to say 5:30 requires a little more thought.� It involves the number 6, surprisingly.  5:30 is actually thought of as half the way to 6 from 5, so på norsk it is “halv seks” (half six) and it is written 05.30 (if it’s am that is…).  If it is 5:30 pm, you would write 17.30.  Basically, Norwegian always use the military method of telling time when the time is written.

Let’s practice another half hour time.  Let’s say 11:30.  På norsk 11:30 would be said “halv tolv” (half twelve) and written 11.30 if am and 23.30 if pm.  12:30 is said, and pay attention here, “halv ett” (not halv en as you might expect.  When it concerns time, one is always ett) and written 00.30 if am and 12.30 if pm.  As you can see, instead of using a colon to separate hours (timer) and minutes (minutter), you just use a period.  Also, as a general rule if there is only a single digit or zero digits for the hour (starting with 12:30 am and continuting to 9:30 pm), you still use 4 spaces.  00.00 is the format and fill in the numbers as needed.

Now let’s move on to quarter to and quarter past.  Quarter two på norsk is kvart på (kvart meaning “quarter”) and kvart over for quarter past.  2:45 would then be said kvart på tre (written 02.45 if am and 14.45 if pm) and 3:15 would be said kvart over tre (written either 03.15 if am and 15.15 if pm).

If the time falls directly on an hour, that is, with no minutes, one simply says klokka er fem (it is 5 o’clock) or klokka er ti (it is 10 o’clock).

So what about the in between times-those that don’t fall on either quarter, half, or directly on the hour?  Think of the clock in quarters and halves.  If it is 5:10, the time falls in the first quarter of the clock (going clockwise, of course) and thus you refer to the hour.  You say ti over fem (ten after five).  If it is 5:16, the time falls in the second quarter, refer to the half-point and then remember what we do with 30 minutes after the hour.  You would say fjorten på halv seks (fourteen to half six).  I know, it seems weird, but once you get used to it, it’s not so bad.  Just think of the clock in quarters and halves.   Now let’s try the second half of the clock.  How about 7:32?  This time falls in the 3rd quarter of the clock and thus, like the second quarter, you will use the half-way point as your reference.  7:32 would be to over halv åtte (two after half eight).  And, last but not least, 9:54 is in the fourth quarter and thus would reference the full hour.  9:54 would be seks på ti six to ten).

Clear as mud?



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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. Randi:

    Are “etter” and “over” interchangeable?

  2. kari:

    No not really. “etter” means “after” and “over” means “over.” The only exception I can think of off the top of my head has to do with telling time. When you say “It’s 10 after 2 o’clock,” for example, in Norwegian you say “klokka er ti over 2,” where “over” means “after.” Kind of confusing, but that is one case where they are not interchangeable, but the typical word for “after” is not used.

  3. Even Scharning:

    Near the middle you write “kvart etter tre”. It should be “kvart over tre”. 🙂

  4. Ramona:

    Can you please tell me how should I say: 7.04, 7.47?

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Ramona Hello Ramona,
      try: ”fire minutter over sju”, ”tretten minutter på åtte”. If you like it short: ”sju (null) fire”, ”sju førtisju”.
      Good luck!

  5. HAIDAR:

    Can you please tell me how should I say: 4.14, 10.16?

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @HAIDAR @Haidar
      Fjorten minutter over fire / fire fjorten
      Seksten minutter over ti / ti seksten

      • Daniel:

        @Bjørn A. Bojesen So 10.16 can be one of three versions:

        “ti seksten”
        “seksten over ti”
        “fjorten på halv elleve”

        and the only real difference is how long the sentence is.
        Is that correct or did I misunderstand something?

        On the other hand “ett over kvart over ti” would not be used, right? Just like “ett over kvart på halv elleve”? 😉

        • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

          @Daniel @Daniel – Yes, you understood it perfectly. 🙂 ”fjorten på halv elleve” is not so common, though. Your two last examples would absolutely NOT be used. 😉