Ticking Away: A Comprehensive Guide to German Time Vocabulary

Grover Laughton7 min
Created: Nov 15, 2023Last updated: Mar 19, 2024
Time in German

Although we all live in different time zones, the concept of time remains the same worldwide. We all count the days till our birthdays and the hours till the end of the workday. Today, we’ll discuss time in German and explore numerous terms, phrases, and common expressions related to this topic. So buckle up, and let’s dive right into it!

Time in German: Basic Vocabulary

The first thing to remember when talking about zeit ([tsaɪt] – time) in German is that people in this country use the military time – 24-hour system. Therefore, initially, you need to memorize the numbers from one to twenty-four. And when it’s done, it is time to expand your vocabulary a bit more and learn your first time-related terms in German.

Seconds, Minutes, and Hours

When talking about a specific time, we usually mention hours and minutes (rarely – seconds). So, let’s start by learning how to say these words in German. You can see them in the table below.


As you can see, some of these words are quite similar to their English versions. Hence, it will be much easier to memorize them. And for more practice, check the examples of using these terms in daily conversations.

Warte eine Sekunde, ich bin gleich da. – [ˈvaʁtə ˈaɪ̯nə zəˈkʊndə, ɪç bɪn ɡlaɪ̯ç da] – Wait a second, I’ll be right there.

Ich bin in zehn Minuten zurück. – [ɪç bɪn ɪn tsen ˈmiːnutən ˈtsʊrʊk] – I’ll be back in ten minutes.

Wir haben eine Stunde Mittagspause. – [vɪr ˈhaːbən ˈaɪ̯nə ˈʃtʊndə ˈmɪtaːkspaʊzə] – We have an hour for lunch.

Days, Weeks, and Months

Sometimes, when we mention time, we refer to longer periods – days, weeks, months, and even years. Here’s how these terms sound in German.


Take a look at these example sentences to memorize these terms.

Jeder Tag ist eine neue Chance. – [ˈjeːdɐ taːk ɪst ˈaɪ̯nə nɔʏ̯ə ˈʧansə] – Every day is a new opportunity.

Wir planen eine Reise nächste Woche. – [vɪr ˈplaːnən ˈaɪ̯nə ˈʁaɪ̯zə ˈnɛçstə vɔçə] – We are planning a trip next week.

Januar ist der erste Monat des Jahres. – [jaˈnuaʁ ɪst deːɐ̯ ˈʔɛʁstə ˈmoːnat deːs ˈjaːʁəs] – January is the first month of the year.

Das letzte Jahr war herausfordernd. – [das ˈlets.tə jaːɐ̯ vaːʁ ˈhɛʁaʊ̯sˌfɔdəʁnt] – The last year was challenging.

Telling Time in Germany: Essential Expressions

And now that you know the most important time-related terms in German, it is time to move on to our next stop. Here, we’ll explore different phrases and expressions to state the time in different circumstances.

Stating the Time on the Hour

Let’s see how to say the phrase “It’s … o’clock.” In that case, you can use an informal or formal time in German expression. Take a look at the examples in the table below.

FormalEs ist … Uhr.[ɛs ɪst … ʊʁ]It is … o’clock.
InformalEs ist ….[ɛs ɪst …]It is ….

Now, you can insert any number from 1 to 24 to express the desired time formally or informally. Here are some options:

Es ist drei Uhr. – [ˈɛs ˈɪst ˈdraɪ̯ ˈuːɐ̯] – It’s three o’clock.

Es ist zwei. – [ˈɛs ˈɪst ˈtsvaɪ̯] – It’s two.

Stating the Half and Quarters Past and To

To express halves and quarters past and to a particular hour in German, you can follow the same pattern as in English. Take a look at this table to see the examples.

Halb ….[halp …]Half past ….
Viertel nach ….[ˈfɪrtl̩ ˈnaːx…]Quarter past ….
Viertel vor ….[ˈfɪrtl̩ ˈfoːɐ̯…]Quarter to ….

Check out the examples below to consolidate this knowledge.

Wir treffen uns um halb sieben. – [ˈviːɐ̯ ˈtrɛfn̩ ˈʊns ˈʊm ˈhalp ˈziːbn̩] – We’re meeting at half past six.

Der Zug kommt um viertel nach acht an. – [deːɐ ˈtsuːk ˈkɔmt ˈʊm ˈfɪrtl̩ ˈnaːx ˈaxt ˈan] – The train arrives at quarter past eight.

Es ist viertel vor sechs. – [ˈɛs ˈɪst ˈfɪrtl̩ ˈfoːɐ̯ ˈzɛks] – It’s quarter to six.

To express a specific time up to minutes, you just need to follow a simple structure: Hour + Uhr + Exact number of minutes. For example:

Es ist zwölf Uhr neununddreißig. – [ˈɛs ˈɪst ˈtsvœlf ˈuːɐ̯ naɪ̯ʊntdʁaɪ̯sɪçt] – It’s 12:39.

Es ist fünfzehn Uhr vierundfünfzig. – [ˈɛs ˈɪst ˈfʏnftseːn ˈuːɐ̯ ˈfiːɐʊntˌfʏnfzɪçt] – It’s 15:54.


Specific Time Words in German

And now that you know how to tell time in German, it is time to boost your vocabulary even more. Here are some specific periods of time and examples of using them in casual conversations.

  • Gestern – [ˈɡɛstɐn] – Yesterday.

Ich habe gestern einen Film gesehen. (I watched a movie yesterday.)

Gestern war ein stressiger Tag. (Yesterday was a stressful day.)

Wir haben gestern bis spät gearbeitet. (We worked until late yesterday.)

  • Heute – [ˈhɔʏtə] – Today.

Heute ist ein besonderer Tag. (Today is a special day.)

Was machst du heute Abend? (What are you doing tonight?)

Heute haben wir viel zu erledigen. (We have a lot to do today.)

  • Morgen – [ˈmɔʁɡn̩] – Tomorrow.

Morgen fahren wir in den Urlaub. (Tomorrow, we are going on vacation.)

Morgen ist ein neuer Tag. (Tomorrow is a new day.)

Was hast du für morgen geplant? (What do you have planned for tomorrow?)

  • Vorher – [ˈfoːɐ̯hɛʁ] – Before.

Gehst du vorher einkaufen? (Are you going shopping beforehand?)

Vorher hatte ich keine Zeit. (I didn’t have time before.)

Bitte melde dich kurz vorher. (Please let me know shortly before.)

  • Nachher – [ˈnaχhɐ] – After.

Wir treffen uns nachher im Café. (We’ll meet at the cafe after.)

Nachher gehe ich zum Sport. (Afterward, I’m going to the gym.)

Das Konzert beginnt gleich nachher. (The concert starts right after.)

  • Übermorgen – [ˈyːbɐˌmɔʁɡn̩] – The day after tomorrow.

Wir treffen uns übermorgen am See. (We’ll meet at the lake the day after tomorrow.)

Übermorgen ist ein Feiertag. (The day after tomorrow is a holiday.)

Übermorgen haben wir keine Schule. (We don’t have school the day after tomorrow.)

  • Vorgestern – [ˈfɔɐ̯ɡəˌʃtɛʁn̩] – The day before yesterday.

Ich habe vorgestern meine Freunde besucht. (I visited my friends the day before yesterday.)

Vorgestern habe ich einen langen Spaziergang gemacht. (The day before yesterday, I took a long walk.)

What Time In German: Exploring Parts of the Day

Finally, let’s explore another time concept in German – specific parts of the day. All these terms are widespread, as they are commonly used in greetings and other general expressions. Here are some examples:

  • Morgen – [ˈmɔʁɡn̩] – Morning.

Guten Morgen! Wie hast du geschlafen? (Good morning! How did you sleep?)

Der Morgenkaffee ist besonders lecker. (The morning coffee is especially delicious.)

  • Mittag – [mɪtaːk) – Noon, midday.

Wir essen meistens um Mittag. (We usually eat around noon.)

Die Sonne steht direkt über uns mittags. (The sun is directly above us at noon.)

  • Nachmittag – [naχmɪtaːk] – Afternoon.

Der Nachmittag ist meine produktive Zeit. (Afternoon is my productive time.)

Nachmittags trinke ich gerne Tee. (In the afternoon, I like to drink tea.)

  • Abend – [aːbənt] – Evening.

Guten Abend! Wie war dein Tag? (Good evening! How was your day?)

Der Abendhimmel ist wunderschön. (The evening sky is beautiful.)

  • Nacht – [naχt] – Night.

Nachts ist es besonders ruhig. (It’s especially quiet at night.)

Die Sterne leuchten in der klaren Nacht. (The stars shine in the clear night.)

Understanding German Time Expressions and Words with Promova

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Firstly, Promova boasts an extensive repertoire of languages, including German, French, Korean, Spanish, and many more. Moreover, the app’s intuitive design makes it accessible to learners of all ages and levels, fostering an environment where acquiring a new language feels more like a delightful exploration rather than a daunting task.

At the heart of Promova’s effectiveness lies its interactive lessons crafted by language professionals. Our certified tutors understand the nuances of language acquisition and create engaging, effective content that immerses learners in the intricacies of grammar, vocabulary, and cultural context. With Promova, your journey into the world of languages becomes not just educational but also enjoyable and rewarding. Start your language-learning adventure today, and you will be pleasantly surprised with the results!


In conclusion, we can say that memorizing all these German time expressions might be a bit challenging, especially for unprepared learners. But don’t worry! With a bit of practice and patience, you will easily master all these tricky terms and implement them in your daily conversations. And we hope that this article will help you with that. Thank you for your attention, and we will see you soon!


How do you say clock in German?

In German, the word for clock is Uhr. This word is versatile and can be applied to various timepieces, from wall clocks to wristwatches. Moreover, this term is also combined with numbers to express time.

How can I ask what time it is in German?

There are two options: “Wie spät ist es?” and “Wie viel Uhr ist es?” The difference between these questions is quite simple – the first one is the casual option, and the second requires the answer of formal time in German.

How is time management viewed in German professional settings?

In German professional settings, time management is highly valued and considered a key element of efficiency and professionalism. Punctuality is especially crucial in the workplace. Germans appreciate a well-organized and structured approach to time, and being late for meetings or appointments is generally frowned upon. This emphasis on punctuality reflects the overall commitment to productivity and respect for others’ time.

Are there specific situations where being punctual is particularly crucial in German culture?

Yes, there are situations that demand punctuality more than others. Business meetings, official appointments, and public transportation schedules are areas where being on time is particularly emphasized. In social settings, whether a dinner invitation or a casual meet-up, punctuality is also appreciated. Germans value the efficient use of time in both professional and personal contexts.


PromovaNov 28th, 2023
In the German language, the concept of time often involves a focus on precision and punctuality. Time is structured and valued, and Germans tend to appreciate punctuality in both social and professional settings. Unlike some other languages, German has specific terms and expressions that reflect this value for time, emphasizing exactness and adherence to schedules.
JazlynNov 28th, 2023
How does the concept of time in the German language differ from that in other languages?