How To Tell The Time In Russian

You can worry about Russia’s eleven time zones later.
Moscow Red Square clock tower time in Russian

Depending on where you’re sitting, Russian can certainly be an intimidating language to broach. It comes with a different alphabet, many grammatical cases, and lots of complicated sounds you may not be used to pronouncing. Luckily, telling time in Russian — well, who are we kidding, it’s also kind of complicated. But learning to do so will open you up to a world full of possibilities. Punctual possibilities.

Below, you’ll find the vocabulary, grammar tips and sentence constructs necessary to tell time in Russian. To hear how the words and phrases are voiced by a native speaker, just hit the play button.

Telling Time In Russian

First thing’s first: how does one ask for the time? In Russian, “What time is it?” literally translates to “Which hour is it?”

What time is it? — Который час?

A more casual version of this phrase is “Сколько времени?”

To answer with a time that’s rounded to the hour, you would say the number + час/часа/часов — час for 1 o’clock, часа for 2 through 4 o’clock, and часов for 5 through 12 o’clock. Of course, this will require you to know your Russian numbers, too.

  • It is nine o’clock. — Девять часов.
  • It’s two o’clock. —  Два часа.

Note that in spoken language, it’s common to use the 12-hour system, whereas you might encounter the 24-hour system in written documents. To specify whether it’s two at night or in the afternoon, you could just add дня (in the afternoon/lit. “day”), ночи (at night) or утра (in the morning).

You can then break it down into half hours and quarter hours using the words половина (half) and четверть (quarter).

Note that when you’re expressing time that’s elapsed “past” the hour, “six o’clock” would be expressed as “the seventh hour,” and “twelve o’clock” would just become “the first hour” — you’re basically referring to the hours as ordinal numbers based on the fact that “12:00” always comes first. So, for example, “quarter past six” becomes “quarter of the seventh (hour).”

  • It is half past four. — Половина пятого.
  • It is quarter past ten. — Четверть одиннадцатого.
  • quarter past six — четверть седьмого

To say it’s half or a quarter “to” the hour, you would use the formula без (“without”) + половина/четверть + the number of the hour that’s approaching.

It’s a quarter to six. — Без четверти шесть.

To express the time down to the exact minute, you could simply use the “two twenty-two” construction that we use in English, which is a more casual way of telling time in Russian:

2:22 — два двадцать два

Often though, you’ll encounter a similar “past”/”to” construction as the one used with “quarter” and “half,” except you’re specifying the exact amount of minutes.

If it’s less than 30 minutes past the hour, you would name the number of minutes passed + минута/минуты/минут (“minutes”) + the ordinal number of the hour. You would use минута for 1 or 21, минуты for 2-4 and 22-24, and минут for everything else (5 and up, with the exception of 21-24).

It is twenty past ten. — Двадцать минут одиннадцатого.

If you’re talking about a time that’s less than half an hour until the beginning of a new hour, you would use без + remaining minutes + the approaching hour.

To say that something is taking place “at” a given time, the time is given using the preposition в and the corresponding form of the noun час.

  • at 3 o’clock — в три часа
  • at 7 o’clock — в семь часов
  • at 1 o’clock — в час

More Phrases And Expressions You’ll Want To Know

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

  • midday — полдень
  • midnight — полночь
  • The concert begins at ten o’clock. — Концерт начинается в десять часов.
  • Do you have the time in Moscow?* — У вас московское время?
  • It is already half past two. — Уже половина третьего.

*Moscow time is one of the eleven time zones in Russia, and it covers most of European Russia.

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