Engaging with the Polish language, as does engaging with any language, will invariably bring you face to face with the necessary constraints of time. The expat will need to learn to make plans with locals eventually. Even the casual tourist will be confronted with questions of when they can expect that restaurant to open, that tour to commence or that hotel to begin check-in for the day. No matter why you’re learning the language, you’re going to need to be able to talk about time in Polish eventually.
Fortunately, it’s not too complicated. To start, you basically need a solid command of the numbers in Polish, particularly in the ordinal form (so, “first” instead of “one,” “second” instead of “one” and so on). Once you feel like you have a pretty solid handle on that, following a few simple rules will get you speaking punctually and precisely.
Telling Time In Polish
Talking about time in Polish inevitably starts with one million dollar question:
Która godzina? — What time is it? (lit. “Which hour?”)
You might also hear it expressed this way:
Która jest godzina? — What time is it? (lit. “Which is hour?”)
Both ways are correct, but the jest is usually omitted in vernacular speech.
To answer this question, or to tell the time in Polish, you would use jest with the noun godzina (“hour”) plus the feminine form of the ordinal number in question, depending on what hour it is. Usually, though, the noun godzina doesn’t have to be included in the expression — the feminine form of the ordinal number can stand on its own.
- Jest godzina dziewiąta. — It’s nine o’clock. (lit. “hour ninth”)
- Jest siódma. — It’s seven o’clock.
- Teraz jest ósma. — Now it’s eight o’clock.
- Jest godzina trzecia. — It’s three o’clock.
- Jest jedenasta. — It’s eleven o’clock.
You can also use the feminine form of the ordinal number to simply refer to “[hour] o’clock” in whatever context it might arise in:
- siódma — seven o’clock
- ósma — eight o’clock
- dziewiąta — nine o’clock
- dziesiąta — ten o’clock
- dwunasta — twelve o’clock
In some instances, you might need to be able to specify whether you’re referring to a time that’s taking place in the morning or at night.
- rano — in the morning
- w południe — at noon
- po południu — in the afternoon
- wieczorem — in the evening
- Jest dwunasta w nocy! — It’s twelve o’clock at night!
Now that you’ve got the hang of talking about time using rounded hours, we can get a little more granular with things.
To express time using half hours, you use the phrase wpół do (lit. “half until”). This is different than what you may be used to in English, but this is expressed in anticipation of the next full hour. In this sense, 3:30 would be expressed as wpół do czwartej, or “a half hour before four.” In this construction, the preposition do is followed by the ordinal number in the genitive case. Therefore, when telling the time in half hours, the feminine ordinal numbers take the genitive ending -ej or -iej.
- Jest wpół do czwartej. — It’s half past three (lit. “half until four”).
- Jest wpół do dwunastej. — It’s half past eleven (lit. “half until twelve”).
- Jest wpół do drugiej. — It’s half past one (lit. “half until two”).
For expressing time in quarters of the hour or even down to the minute, you might hear both types of constructions, where time is expressed in minutes elapsed past the hour or ’til the hour.
- Jest kwadrans po dziesiątej. — It is quarter past ten.
- Jest dwadzieścia po dziesiątej. — It is twenty past ten.
- Jest za pięć ósma. — It’s five till eight o’clock.
And there’s always the “hour + minutes” version too, where you can say “Jest + [ordinal version of the hour] + [the minutes on the clock].”
Note that when you want to communicate the time at which something takes place, you use the preposition o. This is followed by the feminine ordinal number in the locative.
- Mam czas o pierwszej. — I have time at one.
- Co będziemy robić o drugiej? — What will we do at two?
More Phrases And Expressions You’ll Want To Know
Here are more contextual examples of how you can tell the time in Polish.
- Jest już dwunasta? — Is it already twelve o’clock?
- Jest dokładnie dziewiąta. — It’s exactly nine o’clock.
- Jest prawie jedenasta. — It’s almost eleven o’clock.
- Jest dopiero czwarta. — It’s only four.