How To Tell The Time In Indonesian

First, learn to embrace a more relaxed relationship with time.
closeup of indonesian wedding groom putting ring on bride's finger with henna tattoos and a watch on his wrist time in indonesian

If you’re a cultural outsider, one of the first lessons you might have to internalize about telling time in Indonesian is that Indonesians have a much more fluid concept of time than you may be used to.

Especially if you’ve grown up with the expectation of precise punctuality that’s common in many Western countries (Germany, we’re looking at you), this more relaxed approach might throw you for a loop initially. In Indonesian, this concept is referred to as jam karet, where time is relative and “flexible like rubber.” Under the influence of jam karet, appointments don’t always start right on time, but it all comes out in the wash eventually.

Before we get into the specifics of telling time in Indonesian — which is still an important and meaningful thing to learn! — you might also want to commit another vocabulary term to your memory: kira-kira, which means “around, approximately.” You can get as specific as expressing time down to the minute in Indonesian, but don’t be surprised if you hear time expressed as more of a ballpark figure.

It’ll also be helpful to learn basic numbers in Indonesian first, particularly 1 through 12.

Telling Time In Indonesian

In Indonesian, the word jam means both “hour” and “o’clock.” To ask someone for the time, you would say:

What time is it? (lit. “Hour how many?”) — Jam berapa?

Note: In formal contexts, such as on TV, pukul (lit. “strike”) is used instead of jam when giving the time. However, in almost all other situations, you’ll hear it expressed as above.

The phrase Jam berapa? also works in a context where you might be asking “at what time” something is happening. You can generally tell from the context whether Jam berapa? is being used to ask “What time is it?” or “At what time?”

What time (lit. “Hour how many”) do we want to meet? — Jam berapa kita mau bertemu?

As a final note before we move on, you’ll often hear ketemu instead of bertemu in everyday speech as well.

Now, let’s learn how to provide a simple, straightforward answer to this question.

To give time on the hour, you just say jam + the number of the hour.

  • It’s five o’clock. (lit. “Hour five.”) — Jam lima.
  • nine o’clock — jam sembilan

You can also mention the time of day. In Indonesia, the twelve-hour clock is generally used, with the part of the day (morning, evening, etc.) added at the end for context.

Here are the words for parts of the day:

  • morning — pagi (used until about 11 a.m.)
  • midday — siang (used between about 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.)
  • afternoon — sore (used between about 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.)
  • evening — malam (used after 6 p.m.)

And here’s how that looks all together:

  • It’s five o’clock in the afternoon. (lit. “Hour five afternoon.”) — Jam lima sore.
  • It’s nine o’clock in the morning. — Jam sembilan pagi.
  • six o’clock in the evening — jam enam malam

To express time down to the half hour, you say jam + setengah (“half”) + the number. Note that the “half” is subtracted from the next hour, so you’d be saying “half seven” for “six thirty.”

  • 6:30 (lit. “hour half seven”) — jam setengah tujuh
  • 3:30 — jam setengah empat
  • 5:30 — jam setengah enam
  • 10:30 — jam setengah sebelas

For quarter hours, you use the word seperempat (one-fourth), and depending on which side of the half hour you fall on, you either use the preposition lewat or lebih (“after/more”) for any minutes up to 29, and kurang (“less”) for minutes from 30 on, which are expressed in relation to the next hour.

  • quarter to three (lit. “hour three less one-fourth”) — jam tiga kurang seperempat
  • quarter after twelve (lit. “hour twelve more one-fourth”) — jam dua belas lebih seperempat
  • quarter after six — jam enam lebih seperempat
  • quarter after eleven — jam sebelas lewat seperempat
  • quarter to one — jam satu kurang seperempat
  • quarter to eight — jam delapan kurang seperempat

To express the time in Indonesian down to the minute, you would follow a similar logic as expressing time by the quarter. Minutes up to 29 are expressed with the preposition lewat, in relation to the previous hour. Minutes from 30 on are expressed in relation to the next hour with the preposition kurang. You can add menit (“minute”) after the number of minutes.

  • twenty to two (lit. “hour two less twenty minutes”) — jam dua kurang dua puluh menit
  • ten to five — jam lima kurang sepuluh menit
  • five after six — jam enam lewat lima menit
  • five after twelve — jam dua belas lebih lima
  • twenty to seven — jam tujuh kurang dua puluh

Note: In everyday language, you’ll often hear lebih (“more”) instead of lewat (“after”).

  • twenty after one (lit. “hour one after twenty”) — jam satu lewat dua puluh
  • twenty after one (lit. “hour one more twenty”) — jam satu lebih dua puluh

More Phrases And Expressions You’ll Want To Know

Here are more contextual examples of how you can tell the time in Indonesian.

  • Let’s go to the movie theater at eight o’clock in the evening! — Mari kita pergi ke bioskop jam delapan malam!
  • Do we want to meet at twelve noon? — Kita mau ketemu jam dua belas siang?
  • I eat dinner at eight o’clock in the evening. — Saya makan malam jam delapan malam.
  • We’re meeting at ten o’clock. — Kita bertemu jam sepuluh.
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