Career Magazine

130: How to Tell the Time in Mandarin Chinese

By Learnmandarinnow

It’s hard to get by without knowing how to tell the time. You’ll need to check appointment times, times of meetings or just find out if it’s lunchtime or not!

There are many ways to tell the time in Chinese so be sure you know as many of them as you can.

In this Podcast, you will learn:

(i) To explain the various ways to tell the time if being asked

(ii) How to ask someone to tell you the time of a certain event or activity


Two colleagues are discussing the timing of certain events


A. 你平时几点起床?

Nǐ píng shí jǐ diǎn qǐ chuáng?

When do you usually get up?

B. 我平时6点50起床。

Wǒ píng shí lìu diǎn wǔ shí qǐ chuáng.

I usually get up at six fifty


A. 他几点去上班?

Tā jǐ diǎn qù shàng bān?

When does he go to work?


Tā yī bān qī dǐan shí wǔ qù shàng bān.

He usually goes to work at seven fifteen



Tā jīn tiān jǐ diǎn kāi huì?

When is her meeting today?

B. 她今天下午2点开会。

Tā jīn tiān xià wǔ liǎng diǎn kāi huì.

Her meeting is at two o’clock this afternoon


A. 你每天几点睡觉?

Nǐ měi tiān jǐ diǎn shuì jiào?

When do you go to bed every night?


Wǒ měi tiān shí yī diǎn bàn shuì jiào.

I go to bed at half past eleven every night

Chinese words and phrases mentioned in this Podcast:



起床:get up

去上班:go to work


一刻:a quarter


今天下午:this afternoon



睡觉:go to bed/sleep

Cultural/Grammar notes:

When we express time in Chinese, we can skip ‘分’, but when the minute equals or is less than ten, we need to say ‘分’, e.g. ‘六点十分’ (ten past six). However, if we use ‘零’, as in ‘六点零五’, we can skip ‘分’.

We can express time in Chinese in different ways as we do in English. For example, we can say both ‘six fifty’ (六点五十) and ‘ten to seven’ (差十分七点).

‘A quarter’ (一刻) is quite common in Chinese conversation whilst ‘three quarters’ (三刻) is less common.

Time expressions related to ‘two’ are different when it comes to ‘hours’ and ‘minutes’. For example, Chinese will say ‘两(liǎng)点二 (èr)分’ or ‘两点零二’.

In Chinese conversation, ‘11点半’ is more common than ‘11点30’ when expressing half past eleven.

Mandarin Chinese learning resources we recommend:

Keats Chinese School
Keats Chinese School, which was founded in 2004, is one of the top Mandarin Chinese language schools in China, offering both one-on-one immersion Mandarin courses and small group Chinese classes. Located in Kunming, Keats develops personalised exercises and materials for students to meet their learning goals and requirements and can arrange a student visa for its 16 week course.

Skritter allows you to learn to write Chinese characters quickly and effectively. You choose the vocabulary lists you wish to learn, set the pace, and Skritter will quiz you on reading, writing, tones and the pinyin of all the vocabulary you’re looking to master. Say goodbye to forgetting characters, making tone mistakes, and your piles of flashcards—and say 你好 to the right way in mastering Chinese characters—use Skritter, so much more than just a writing App!

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