Telling time is often a complicated and necessary step in any language learner’s journey. There’s usually a complex set of rules to memorize, nuances and variations to keep in mind in case you want to express that it’s “15 past the hour” or “half past noon,” and on top of it all, you also have to walk into it with a solid grasp on numbers. The good news is that telling time in Portuguese isn’t quite as difficult as it looks, but you’ll still have to memorize a few rules and phrases before you can effortlessly plan for the weekend with your friends.
Below, you’ll find the phrases, vocabulary and rules you’ll need to know to correctly articulate the time in Portuguese. It might take a little practice before you can navigate the clock like a pro, but try it out for yourself. Before you know it, you’ll be breathlessly telling your friend you’ll “be there at half past the hour.”
Telling Time In Portuguese
Before we start with the answers, we must start with the questions. To ask what time it is, you simply say:
What time is it? — Que horas são?
What do you say back? First thing’s first: you’ll need a good working knowledge of the numbers in Portuguese.
To express time in Portuguese in the most basic manner, you’ll only need to start with numbers 1 through 12. To say things like “it’s one o’clock,” you just need to use ser before the relevant number. There are two forms of ser: you use the singular é for 1 o’clock. For 2 o’clock and higher, the plural são is used.
Note that the word hora(s) must also agree with the singular or plural form of ser.
- It’s one o’clock. — É uma hora.
- It’s seven o’clock. — São sete horas.
If you want to get a little more specific than that, you can add minutes past the hour with “e” (and). Now, the phrase is a bit more complicated, so remember that the verb ser only refers to the hours, not the minutes.
It’s five minutes past two (lit. two hours and five minutes). — São duas horas e cinco minutos.
To say the same thing more casually, you can omit “horas” and “minutos.” However, you can’t omit hora(s) when giving the time exactly on the hour — only when minutes are involved.
- It’s five past two (lit. two and five). — São duas e cinco.
- It’s ten past one. — É uma e dez.
As with English, you don’t always have to say “it’s thirty past two” to refer to 2:30. You can say things like “half past two” or “a quarter to two.”
You would express “half past” with e meia.
- It’s half past six. — São seis e meia.
- half past twelve (lit. midday and half) — meio-dia e meia
To state how many minutes there are to an hour, you would use para + the definite article. To say “quarter,” you would simply refer to the number of minutes — 15 (quinze) — and not um quarto (a quarter).
- It’s a quarter to four. — São quinze para as quatro.
- It’s twenty to one. — São vinte para a uma.
- It’s five to twelve. — São cinco para o meio-dia.
To indicate “at” what time an event is taking place, the preposition “a” is used. It merges with the definite article referring to the hour.
- a + a uma hora: à uma hora
- a + as duas horas: às duas horas
- a + o meio-dia: ao meio-dia
One final thing to keep in mind: you can use the 24-hour clock in spoken language. So if you wanted to say “fourteen o’clock” to refer to 2 p.m., you’ll be understood!
The class is at two (lit. fourteen) o’clock. — A aula é às quatorze horas.
More Phrases And Expressions You’ll Want To Know
Here are more contextual examples of how you can tell the time in Portuguese.
in the morning — de manhã
in the afternoon — à tarde
in the evening — à noite
Today I’m working until ten. — Hoje eu trabalho até as dez.
I will leave at five on the dot! — Eu vou embora às cinco em ponto!