Japanese Lesson – What time is it?

Hello Everyone,

In this lesson we will see how to say time in Japanese. Let’s go!

Learning Japanese numbers is a must to be able to learn time; have a look at our lesson if you don’t know them or want to make a quick revision: Japanese Numbers.

What time is it?

To ask time in Japanese one can say (click/touch the word to get the pronounciation):

すみませんすみません[sumimasen]/ excuse-me /
...[...]/ ... /
いま[ima]/ now /
[,]/ , /
なん[nan]/ what /
[ji]/ hour /
ですです[desu]/ to be /
[ka]/ {question} /
[.]/ . /

“すみません” can be used to get someone’s attention and also to apologize for disturbing this person. “いま” indicates that the time you are asking for is the actual one. Finally “なん じ です か。” is the formal manner to ask time. In casual situations the “です か” can be dropped, letting “いま なん じ?”.

Now, let’s see how to answer the question.


Basically, to indicate the time in Japanese, you simply have to give hours followed by 時 (じ) [ji], and minutes followed by 分 (ふん/ぷん) [fun/pun]. If you are the kind to be precise to the second, then you can also specify the seconds followed by 秒 (びょう) [byou]. And of course add です [desu] at the end of the sentence to sound polite. If there is no minute, then you don’t indicate them (and the same goes for the seconds).

Now, if you carefully followed our previous lesson on numbers, you are aware that the use of certain numbers can be constrained or lead to some irregular pronouciations, and time isn’t spared.

For hours, there are the following constraints:

4h 四時 よ じ [yo ji] and not [yon ji]
7h 七時 しち じ [shichi ji] and not [nana ji]
9h 九時 く じ [ku ji] and not [kyu~ ji]

Although よんじ [yon ji], ななじ [nana ji] and きゅうじ [kyu~ ji] are not totally wrong and can be understood, they are not used for telling time.

And here are the irregularities for minutes:

1 minute 一分 いっぷん [ippun] and not [ichi fun]
3 minutes 三分 さんぷん [sanpun] and not [san fun]
6 minutes 六分 ろっぷん [roppun] and not [roku fun]
8 minutes 八分 はっぷん [happun] and not [hachi fun]
10 minutes 十分 じゅっぷん [juppun] and not [ju~ fun]

And this applies of course for all of their compounds:

21 minutes 二十一分 に じゅう いっぷん [ni ju~ ippun]
13 minutes 十三分 じゅう さん ぷん [ju~ san pun]
46 minutes 四十六分 よん じゅう ろっぷん [yon ju~ roppun]
58 minutes 五十八分 ご じゅう はっぷん [go ju~ happun]
30 minutes 三十分 さん じゅっぷん [san juppun]

There is no irregularity for the seconds.

One last point: like in English we can pronounce 9:30 either / nine thirty / or / nine and a half /, in Japanese 30 minutes can be indicated in two different ways:

…:30 …三十分 …さん じゅっぷん [… san juppun]
…:30 …半 …はん [… han]

For instance 7:30 can either be indicated as:

7:30 七時三十分 しち じ さん じゅっぷん [shichi ji san juppun]
7:30 七時半 しち じ はん [shichi ji han]


If you need or want to precise if the time is AM or PM, then you will have to know two more words:

AM 午前 ごぜん [gozen]
PM 午後 ごご [gogo]

These words shall be positionned before the hours.

For instance:

6 AM 午前六侍 ごぜん ろく じ [gozen roku ji]
9 PM 午後九時 ごご く じ [gogo ku ji]

With this, you have everything there is to know about telling time.

And now its time for some practice!


In this exercise, you will alternatively have to translate the indicated time in Japanese, or to translate the indicated time into English. Click “NEW” to go to the next question, and click on the text to display the answer.


Note: On smartphones, use horizontal screen orientation to avoid some elements to be truncated.


This is all for this lesson, I hope you enjoyed it. Do not hesitate to come here again for a little practice.



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