How to use "menos" when stating the time.

How to use "menos" when stating the time.


In English, as in Spanish, we have a variety of ways of saying what time it is.

Most of my clocks / watches are analog so I tend to say "quarter to ten" rather than "nine forty-five".

Similarly, I say "five to ten", "ten to ten", "twenty to ten".

One exception is that I wouldn't normally say "twenty-five to ten", because that seems clumsy, and I opt for "nine thirty-five".

And if I am wanting to be exact, and it is not a multiple of 5 then I insert the word minutes. For example, "twelve minutes to ten" (NOT "twelve to ten").

As you can see the rules in English (for me anyway) are a little complex, and I wonder if there are similar idiosyncracies in Spanish.

So, imagine the following times on an analog clock (I have to resort to digital here). I've given my best guess as to how they would be said. If you would say them differently, please let me know...

9:00 - son las nueve

9:05 - son las nueve y cinco

9:12 - son las nueve y doce

9:15 - son las nueve y cuarto

9:20 - son las nueve y veinte

9:23 - son las nueve y veintitrés

9:25 - son las nueve y veinticinco

9:30 - son las nueve y media

9:35 - son las nueve menos veinticinco

9:37 - son las nueve menos veintitrés

9:40 - son las nueve menos veinte

9:45 - son las nueve menos cuarto

9:48 - son las nueve menos doce

9:50 - son las nueve menos diez

9:55 - son las nueve menos cinco

I think these are probably "correct" as in would be understood, BUT is it the way a native Spanish speaker would say them?

¡Muchas gracias!

updated NOV 19, 2016
edited by jbriden
posted by jbriden

4 Answers


Interesting, I had that conversation with my friend (who is in his 30's) from Peru a couple days ago. He said he doesn't use either, cuarto or media or menos or whatever else but simply follows his digital watch as many younger folks grew with those, thus saying the time as he sees it. In fact I am pretty sure many kids would be unable to use the older forms as they were not taught how to use it.

updated MAY 17, 2010
posted by sfrenchie
Digital watches were the rage 20 or 30 years ago, but now you hardly see them. I went throught the same thing, but now that most of my clocks and watches are analogue I use that format when saying the time. The question was about that specifically. - jbriden, MAY 17, 2010

The actual telling of the time seems correct but im not so sure about the preceeding phrase. I'm not sure what the exact rule is but i'm sure at some point it changes from "son las" to " a las" . Maybe someone might be able to expand on this.

updated MAY 17, 2010
posted by muy_suave
No, "Son las ..." or "Es la una" is how you tell time. "A las..." or "a la una" is how you say something happens "AT ... o'clock.) For example: Son las nueve. (It's 9 o'clock.) // Fui al cine a las nueves (I went to the store at nine.) - Luciente, MAY 17, 2010
....nueve. - tennismom, MAY 17, 2010

Right. Thanks for clearing that up for me. I should have paid more attention at school.

updated MAY 17, 2010
posted by muy_suave

Looks good, but one spelling mistake:


updated MAY 17, 2010
posted by Luciente
aargh - I always do that - a side effect of having learned French first - jbriden, MAY 17, 2010
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