Telling Time in Italian: A Complete Guide

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By Laura Pennacchietti · February 15, 2024 · 14 minute read

Telling time in Italian is an essential part of building up your Italian language skills. Whether you are living in Italy, traveling there for a holiday, or doing some business with Italians, there are countless situations in which you will need to negotiate times.

Think about booking a table at a restaurant, having to catch a train, scheduling a work meeting, making an appointment with the doctor…these are all ordinary situations which require you to be familiar with the vocabulary and phrases Italians use to tell the time.

In this article you will learn the most common words and phrases used to ask for the time and tell the time in Italian in different contexts. Keep reading – it’s time to learn how to tell the time in Italian!

Good to know: In order to tell the time, first you need to know numbers. There will be some review of numbers in this article, but if you need a refresher, check our guide on Italian numbers from 1 to 100!

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What time is it in Italian?

First of all, how do you ask for the time in Italian? There are a few phrases that we use depending on the context.

The simplest and most neutral ways to ask are “Che ore sono?” and “Che ora è?” Both phrases simply mean, “What time is it?”

A more casual way to ask the time is “Scusa, sai l’ora?,” which translates as “Sorry, do you know the time?”

On the other hand, if you are in a professional context or talking to someone you don’t know, you need to be more formal by asking, “Scusi, saprebbe dirmi che ore sono?,” which means “Excuse me, would you be able to tell me what time it is?”

Besides asking for the time, you might need to ask what time something will happen, for example, “What time is the party?” or “What time does the restaurant open?” The phrase you need in Italian for this is “A che ora… ?” as in “A che ora è la festa?” or “A che ora apre il ristorante?”

The table below summarizes the basic ways to ask for the time in Italian:

Time-related questions in Italian

Italian English
Che ore sono? or Che ora è? What time is it?
Scusa, sai l’ora? Do you know the time? (informal)
Scusi, saprebbe dirmi che ore sono? Would you be able to tell me what time it is? (formal)
A che ora… ? What time… ?

The word ‘time’ in Italian

The English word ‘time’ has different translations in Italian, which can be confusing. Let’s clarify how the main concepts conveyed by the word ‘time’ are expressed in Italian.

When it has a general sense of a continuation from the past to the present and future, ‘time’ is translated as ‘il tempo’:

Il tempo passa troppo in fretta! (Time goes by too quickly!)

When you are referring to an occasion, as in the first, second or third occasion in which something happens, ‘time’ is translated as ‘volta’:

È la prima volta che mangio la pizza. (It’s the first time I've eaten pizza.)

When it means a specific point in time measured with hours and minutes, like what we read on a watch, then ‘time’ is ‘l’ora.’ This is the meaning of ‘time’ we are most interested in for this article, as in the following example:

Che ora è? (What time is it?)

When referring to the planned time when something will happen, like a train departure or an appointment, ‘time’ can also be translated as ‘l’orario’:

L’orario di partenza è cambiato. (The departure time has changed.)

Italian time format

While the British and Americans typically use the 12-hour clock format, Italians use the 24-hour format, at least officially. This means that, rather than using the numbers 1 to 12 accompanied by ‘am’ or ‘pm,’ Italians use the numbers 1 to 24 to indicate the hours of the day and night.

This is always true for official schedules, such as a doctor’s appointment, a flight departure time, a work meeting or the start of a TV program, as in the following examples:

  • Possiamo fissare la riunione alle 15.30? (Can we schedule the meeting at 3:30pm?)
  • L’aereo partirà alle ore 18.00. (The flight will depart at 6pm.)
  • L’ultimo spettacolo comincia alle 20.00. (The last show begins at 8pm.)

However, in daily conversation, Italians often resort to the 12-hour format for convenience. So it’s not uncommon to use the numbers 1 to 12 also to refer to the hours past noon.

If the meaning is clear from context, then nothing else is added. Otherwise, we can add the words di mattina, di pomeriggio, di sera, and di notte (literally ‘of the morning,’ ‘of the afternoon,’ ‘of the evening,’ and ‘of the night’) to clarify which part of the day or night we mean.

Notice how the time is expressed in the following examples:

  • Ho una riunione alle 3.30. (I have a meeting at 3:30.) – No clarification is needed here, as meetings usually don’t take place at 3:30am.
  • Il mio aereo parte alle 6 di sera. (My flight departs at 6pm.)
  • Andiamo allo spettacolo delle otto? (Shall we go to the 8pm show?) – No clarification is needed here, as shows are usually in the evening.

How to tell the time in Italian

With a few exceptions (introduced below), in Italian the time is plural and feminine. Why is this important? Because the time is preceded by a plural verb (‘sono’) and/or a definite article, which is almost always ‘le.’

To the question “Che ore sono?” or “Che ora è?” (“What’s the time?”) we would reply, ‘Sono le…’ (‘It’s…’) and say the time. It is incorrect to use the verb ‘è’ for the English word ‘it’s’ because it is singular.

To the question “A che ora…?” (“What time…?”) we would reply, ‘Alle…’ (‘At…’) and say the time. ‘Alle’ is an articulated preposition formed by ‘a’ (preposition) and ‘le’ (definite article), which become one word. Don’t forget the article!

Here are some examples:

Question: Che ore sono? (What time is it?)
Reply: Sono le 7.30. (It is 7:30.)

Question: A che ora chiude il supermercato? (What time does the supermarket close?)
Reply: Alle 19. (At 7pm.)

The exceptions to this rule are one o’clock, midday and midnight. One o’clock is singular (makes sense since it’s just one, right?) so in this case we use the singular verb ‘è’ and a singular articulated preposition:

  • È l’una. (It’s one o’clock.)
  • All’una (at one o’clock)

Mezzogiorno (midday) and mezzanotte (midnight) are also used with a singular verb and no article:

  • È mezzogiorno. (It’s midday.)
  • A mezzogiorno (at midday)
  • È mezzanotte. (It’s midnight.)
  • A mezzanotte (at midnight)

Are you wondering how to say ‘o’clock’ in Italian? We don’t have an equivalent expression to mark the time on the hour. However, we have the expression ‘in punto’ that corresponds to ‘sharp’ in combination with time:

Mi sveglio tutte le mattine alle 7 in punto. (I wake up every morning at 7 sharp.)

Finally, it might be useful to know how to indicate an approximate time. We mainly use two expressions to do this in Italian: ‘verso le… (+ time)’ and ‘alle… (+ time) circa’:

  • Stamattina sono uscita di casa verso le 8. (This morning I left the house around 8.)
  • Pranzo sempre all’1 circa. (I always have lunch around 1.)

Note that these have to be adjusted for one, midday and midnight, as explained above.

And now, let’s move on to how we read the clock, or how to say hours and minutes in Italian.

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Telling time: Hours in Italian

First of all, it’s good to know that the word for ‘hour’ in Italian is the same as the word for ‘time’ when it indicates the time on the clock. This word is ‘l’ora’ in the singular and ‘le ore’ in the plural.

Unlike in English, when reading the clock, the hour comes before the minutes. For your convenience, here’s a list of all the hours on the 24-hour clock:

Reading the clock in Italian

Time Italian for ‘at (time)’ English
1:00 All’una. At 1am.
2:00 Alle due. At 2am.
3:00 Alle tre. At 3am.
4:00 Alle quattro. At 4am.
5:00 Alle cinque. At 5am.
6:00 Alle sei. At 6am.
7:00 Alle sette. At 7am.
8:00 Alle otto. At 8am.
9:00 Alle nove. At 9am.
10:00 Alle dieci. At 10am.
11:00 Alle undici. At 11am.
12:00 Alle dodici. At 12am.
13:00 Alle tredici. At 1pm.
14:00 Alle quattordici. At 2pm.
15:00 Alle quindici. At 3pm.
16:00 Alle sedici. At 4pm.
17:00 Alle diciassette. At 5pm.
18:00 Alle diciotto. At 6pm.
19:00 Alle diciannove. At 7pm.
20:00 Alle venti. At 8pm.
21:00 Alle ventuno. At 9pm.
22:00 Alle ventidue. At 10pm.
23:00 Alle ventitré. At 11pm.
24:00 Alle ventiquattro. At 12pm.

Remember that, as we said above, Italians don’t always use the 24-hour clock. It’s also common to use the 12-hour clock after midday, especially in informal conversation.

Pro tip: For 12pm and 12am, instead of using the phrases in the table above, you can also use the following phrases:

  • È mezzogiorno. (It’s midday.)
  • A mezzogiorno (at midday)
  • È mezzanotte. (It’s midnight.)
  • A mezzanotte. (at midnight)

Telling time: Minutes in Italian

When telling the time in Italian, the minutes come after the hour, separated by the word ‘e’ (‘and’). There are several ways of indicating the minutes past or to the hour. The simplest way is by just indicating the number of minutes after the word ‘e.’ The word ‘minutes’ can be omitted, as seen in the following table.

Minutes past the hour (24-hour format)

Time Italian English
8:10 Sono le otto e dieci.
Alle otto e dieci
It’s ten past eight.
at 10 past eight
7:30 Sono le sette e trenta. Alle sette e trenta It’s seven thirty. at seven thirty
15:40 Sono le quindici e quaranta. Alle quindici e quaranta It’s three forty pm. at three forty pm

Like in English, it is also possible to express the time in terms of minutes before the hour rather than past the hour. This is an informal way of telling the time and would not be used in combination with the 24-hour format, which is more official.

To say the time in terms of minutes before the hour, we say the hour first (the next hour on the clock) and then the minutes, preceded by the word ‘meno,’ as seen in the table below.

Minutes before the hour (12-hour format)

Time Italian English
6:40am Sono le sette meno venti.
Alle sette meno venti
It’s twenty to seven.
at twenty to seven
12:55pm È l’una meno cinque.
All’una meno cinque
It’s five to one.
at five to one
8:50pm Sono le nove meno dieci.
Alle nove meno dieci
It’s ten to nine.
at ten to nine

Like in English, in Italian we have words to indicate a quarter and half hour. These are often preferred to ‘fifteen minutes’ and ‘thirty minutes,’ especially when telling the time in informal conversation. The Italian words are ‘un quarto’ (‘a quarter’) and ‘e mezzo’ or ‘e mezza’ (‘and a half’).

Saying a quarter and half hour

Time Italian English
9:15 Sono le nove e un quarto.
Alle nove e un quarto
It’s a quarter past nine.
at a quarter past nine
11:30 Sono le undici e mezza. Alle undici e mezza It’s half past eleven. at half past eleven
5:45 Sono le sei meno un quarto.
Alle sei meno un quarto
It’s a quarter to six.
at a quarter to six

It’s important to notice that these more informal ways to tell the time would not be used with the 24-hour clock format, which is more formal. So be careful not to mix the two! If you use the 24-hour format, stick to using the full formula ‘hour + e + number of minutes.’ With the 12-hour format, you can use the more informal expressions that we have introduced.

Let’s take 2:15pm, 2:30pm and 2:45pm to give you a practical example of this. How many ways are there to say these times in Italian?


  • Sono le quattordici e quindici. (formal or official)
  • Sono le due e quindici.
  • Sono le due e un quarto. (informal)
  • Not: Sono le quattordici e un quarto.


  • Sono le quattordici e trenta. (formal or official)
  • Sono le due e trenta.
  • Sono le due e mezza. (informal)
  • Not: Sono le quattordici e mezza.


  • Sono le quattordici e quarantacinque. (formal or official)
  • Sono le due e quarantacinque.
  • Sono le tre meno un quarto. (informal)
  • Not: Sono le quindici meno un quarto.

That’s quite a lot of information to digest! To help you memorize, you can find a summary of the main points to remember in the table below with the translation in English.

How to tell the time in Italian

Time Italian English
1:00 È l’una. It’s 1am.
2:00 Sono le due. It’s 2am.
3:00 Sono le tre. It’s 3am.
4:00 Sono le quattro. It’s 4am.
5:00 Sono le cinque. It’s 5am.
6:00 Sono le sei. It’s 6am.
7:00 Sono le sette. It’s 7am.
8:00 Sono le otto. It’s 8am.
9:00 Sono le nove. It’s 9am.
10:00 Sono le dieci. It’s 10am.
11:00 Sono le undici. It’s 11am.
12:00 Sono le dodici / è mezzogiorno. It’s 12am.
13:00 Sono le tredici. It’s 1pm.
14:00 Sono le quattordici. It’s 2pm.
15:00 Sono le quindici. It’s 3pm.
16:00 Sono le sedici. It’s 4pm.
17:00 Sono le diciassette. It’s 5pm.
18:00 Sono le diciotto. It’s 6pm.
19:00 Sono le diciannove. It’s 7pm.
20:00 Sono le venti. It’s 8pm.
21:00 Sono le ventuno. It’s 9pm.
22:00 Sono le ventidue. It’s 10pm.
23:00 Sono le ventitré. It’s 11pm.
24:00 Sono le ventiquattro / è mezzanotte. It’s 12pm.

And here are some additional phrases in Italian on telling time with translations in English:

Italian phrases for telling the time

Italian English
Che ore sono? What time is it?
Sono le otto e dieci.
It’s ten past eight.
Sono le dodici e trenta / sono le dodici e mezzo / è mezzogiorno e mezzo.
It’s twelve thirty / it’s half past twelve.
Sono le diciassette e quarantacinque / sono le sei meno un quarto.
It’s five forty-five / it’s a quarter to six.
Sono le ventitré e cinquantacinque / è mezzanotte meno cinque.
It’s eleven fifty-five / it’s five to twelve.

Now you’re ready to answer the question, “Che ore sono?” That’s exciting!

Wrapping up

In this article you’ve learnt the most common questions and phrases to ask for and tell the time in Italian. Next time you need to make an appointment or schedule a meeting in Italian, you’ll be able to do it like a pro! We’ve also provided some clarification around the word ‘time’, which in Italian has many possible translations. You’ve taken another important step in your Italian learning journey – way to go!

It’s time to move on to the next Italian challenge!

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