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How to Speak About Time in Italian?

The Italian language has two words that are interchangeable when referring to time—Tempo and Ora.

Moses Famuyiwa
Moses Famuyiwa

Learning a new language can be exciting, but it has its highs and challenges. It is a life-long journey, from learning the basics to putting words together in your head and forming correct speech intonation.

Say Time in Italian Like a Pro

When it comes to a new language, one way to measure your learning pace is to put what you’ve learned to practice. Finding native speakers of the language or a friend/colleague who is fluent in the language is the way to go.

However, as easy as it sounds to put new words into practice, mistakes are bound to happen if you don’t know how it is constructed in the language. And for any language, and in this case Italian, there is no one way to say anything, even something as simple as talking about the time.

The Italian Words for Time

The Italian language has two words that are interchangeable when referring to time—Tempo and Ora.

“Ora” is the definitive time noun. The word meaning hour is conjugated and used in question sentences as “Che ore sono?” which translates to “What time is it?”

While “tempo” is the abstract word for time in Italian but is not directly used in asking or answering questions about time, “tempo” generally refers to time, as seen in examples such as—“Il tempo stringe,” which translates to “Time is short.”

Speaking About The Morning Time in Italian

Expressing the hour of the day in Italian is pretty easy as all you need to know is built on your knowledge of the numbers up to 24 and the conjugation of the word “essere” in the third person plural form “sono.”

Following this format—the conjugated “essere” + the “le” article + the hour of the day.

So, in the end, you have something like this – Sono le quarto. – Which means “It is seven (o’clock).”

Moving on to getting the minutes value when speaking about the time. Here you need the knowledge of the numbers from 1-59. Beginning with the conjugated “sono,” this time around, instead of the hour coming after the “le” article, we have the minutes coming in first and then the hour.

So it goes something like this – Sono le nove e sette. – Which translates to “It is 9:07.”

There are also set words for when the time is a quarter past an hour or half past:

Una mezz’ora for half past and un quarto d’ora for quarter past the hour.

Saying the time with these words will go like this – “sono le tre e un quarto,” which translates to “quarter past seven,” and “sono le sei un quarto d’ora,” which translates to half past six.

Speaking About The Afternoon Time in Italian

The knowledge of the Italian numbers and conjugation of the necessary verbs form the basis for speaking about time in the afternoon. All this plus the expressions accompanying this time of day – Del pomeriggio.

It is important to note that Italians use a 24-hour format, and the expression accompanying this format differs. Del pomeriggio will be used if the speaker tells the time in the 12-hour format. So the format for evenings and nights will differ.

The evenings and nights don’t differ much as well; it follows the same format as when you tell the time in the morning.  However, they have their expressions to go with them – di sera for evenings and di note at night.


Speaking about Italian time can be tricky, but with the right words, their conjugation, and the expressions in your arsenal, you can always follow the sentence format. With the format, you can’t go wrong; even if you do, there is always a chance to correct your errors and learn the proper way. It just takes consistency and practice.

Language Learning

Moses Famuyiwa

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