Wherever you are, it’s important to be able to tell the time in the language of the local community if you want to fit right in. If you plan on visiting the Netherlands, telling the time in Dutch is an important skill and relevant to almost everything you’ll do. You don’t want to be late to your canal cruise through Amsterdam or your tour of the Centraal Museum in Utrecht. And you certainly don’t want to tell your Dutch friends the wrong time when you’re trying to impress them with a Dutch dinner party.
With this guide to the ins and outs of telling time in Dutch, you can avoid outing yourself as a non-native speaker if a local asks you Hoe laat is het?. They’ll be impressed with your perfectly polished Nederlands, and you’ll feel good for helping someone out along the way.
A Guide To Telling Time In Dutch
To tell the time in Dutch, you’ll need to rely on your Dutch counting skills (the numbers 1 through 59 will come especially in handy). Check out our numbers guide if you need a refresher.
You’ll also need the word uur, which translates to “hour” but in this context means “o’clock.” When used after the expression het is (“it is”), you can say the hour of the day.
- Het is een uur. — It is one o’clock.
- Het is twee uur. — It is two o’clock.
- Het is vijf uur. — It is five o’clock.
Dutch speakers use the word half to refer to a half-hour, but be careful: when you say half before the number of an hour, it means half an hour before that upcoming hour.
- Het is half vier. — It is half (before) four. (3:30)
- Het is half zeven. — It is half (before) seven. (6:30)
The math involved in Dutch time is a little different from English time. You use the word voor, which you can think of as meaning “before,” paired with a minute value to talk about a time relative to the upcoming hour or half-hour. Or, if the nearest hour or half-hour just happened in the past, you can use over with a minute value to mean “after” or “past.” The word kwart means a “quarter (of an hour),” and it’s used just like any other number.
- Het is drie voor acht uur. — It is three (minutes) before eight o’clock. (7:57)
- Het is vijf over half zes. — It is five (minutes) past half (before) six. (5:35)
- Het is kwart voor twee. — It is a quarter before two. (1:45)
- Het is kwart over negen. — It is a quarter past nine. (9:15)
Note that many Europeans, including the Dutch, regularly use the 24-hour clock in writing, so you might see a time listed in this notation on a train ticket or on the showtimes at a movie theatre. If you use the 12-hour format, which is more common in spoken Dutch, you can use the following time-specific words to add context and clarify what time of day you actually mean (Dutch doesn’t have specific words for “a.m.” and “p.m.”).
- ‘s morgens — in the morning
- ‘s middags — in the afternoon
- ‘s avonds — in the evening
- ‘s nachts — at night
So now you have two ways of expressing the same time (remember, though, that it’s rare to use 24-hour notation in spoken Dutch).
- Het is negentien uur. — It is nineteen o’clock. (19:00, or 7 p.m.)
- Het is zeven uur ‘s avonds. — It is seven o’clock in the evening. (7 p.m.)
- Het is half eenentwintig. — It is half (before) twenty-one. (20:30, or 8:30 p.m.)
- Het is half negen ‘s nachts. — It is half (before) nine at night. (8:30 p.m.)
See? Telling the time in Dutch wasn’t too hard! Consider yourself an expert on how to decipher and to tell de tijd.
Other Expressions For Telling Time
These other phrases for telling time in Dutch are a good addition to your new time-telling lexicon.
- Hoe laat is het? — What time is it? (lit. How late is it?)
- het uur — hour
- de minuut — minute
- de seconde — second
- twaalf uur ‘s middags / middag — noon
- twaalf uur ‘s nachts / middernacht — midnight
- om [X] uur — at [X] o’clock