Learn Japanese — Telling Time in Japanese Lesson for Beginners!

telling time in japanese

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Here, you’ll learn ALL about telling time in Japanese. This lesson contains of 6 parts. By the time you’re done, you’ll be telling time like a pro. Be sure to take this lesson and…

  • Spend 5 minutes reading this
  • Take out a pen & paper to practice
  • Print it out as physical review material
  • REVIEW: Trust me, you’ll master it easily with enough reviewing.

 And if you REALLY want to learn Japanese with complete learning program – 2,000+ audio/video courses, lessons by Japanese teachers, apps, study tools – Sign up at JapanesePod101 (click here) and start learning! I recommend ’em as a teacher & learner.

telling time in japanese

Part 1. Let’s start off with the question – What Time Is It in Japanese?

  • What time is it?
    • Nanji desu ka?
    • 何時ですか。
  • What time is it now?
    • Ima wa nanji desu ka?
    • 今は何時ですか。

How do you answer this question? Well, if you know numbers (– if you don’t, scroll down to part 5 –), answering it is easy.

Part 2. Here’s an easy way of telling time in Japanese. Use this formula.

  • (number) + ji + desu.
    • (number) 時です
    • Just add the number in Japanese and say “ji desu” after it.
  • Or, if you want to say… XX:30, add han!
    • (number) + ji +han + desu.
    • (number)です

So, for example:

  • It’s 3 o’clock.
    • sanji desu.
    • 3時です。
  • It’s 4 o’clock.
    • yoji + desu. (yes, we use YO, not YON, when using 4 alone – remember this rule)
    • 4時です。
  • It’s 7 o’clock
    • Shichiji desu. (yes, not nana, but using 7 alone – remember this rule)
    • 7時です。
  • It’s 8:30.
    • Hachiji han desu.
    • 8時半です。
  • It’s 9 o’clock.
    • Kuji desu (yes, not kyuu, but using 9 alone – remember this rule)
    • 9時です。

telling time in japanese

Yes! Now, you can say it’s 10 o’clock or it’s 3:30! Now, let’s get a little detailed. Let’s talk about AM and PM.

Part 3. AM & PM in Japanese

Japanese don’t often use AM and PM because they use a 24-hour clock system. So, what would be 9PM for you is 21 for them. What’s 11PM for you is 23 for them. BUT, you can still use the 12-hour clock system with the following words:

  • gozen – 午前 – (morning or used as AM)
  • gogo – 午後 – (afternoon or used as PM)

Now, you can take these words and use them for telling time in Japanese. Add them to the front.

  • It’s 3AM
    • Gozen sanji desu
    • 午前3時です
  • It’s 11PM
    • Gogo juuichiji desu
    • 午後11時です

telling time in japanese

Now, what about the minutes in Japanese? Let’s get precise with telling time in Japanese.

Part 4. Precise Time Telling & How to Use Minutes in Japanese

So, let’s say it’s 12:53 or 9:59. Here’s what you need.

  1. the list of numbers below (scroll down)
    1. Or just plain learning how to count in Japanese – see my lesson here
  2. and the following formula – add minute which is usually fun/pun or ppun
    1. (number) + ji + (number) + fun/pun/ppun

For example, let’s try saying:

  • It’s 12:53.
    • Juuniji gojuusanpun
    • 12時53分です。
  • It’s 9:01
    • Kuji ippun desu.
    • 9時1分です。
  • It’s 20:42
    • Nijuuji yonjuunifun desu.

Whoa, what’s going on here? The minute word varies depending on the number. Pun? Fun? Ppun?

  • This might seem like the toughest part of this telling time in Japanese lesson. Hang in there, it gets easy.

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Here’s the deal with minutes: In some, you can obviously see the numbers like 3 is san+pun and 4 is yon+pun, but there are exceptions. Like, one minute is NOT ichipun and 6 minutes is NOT rokufun. See them in red below. Also, pay attention to which are the puns and which are the funs!

  • 1 – ippun
  • 2 – nifun
  • 3 – sanpun
  • 4 – yonpun
  • 5 – gofun
  • 6 – roppun
  • 7 – nanafun
  • 8 – happun
  • 9 – kyuufun
  • 10 – juuppun

Okay, knowing the Japanese minutes from 1 to 10 is enough. You can apply them to 11 to 59 easily.

  • Apply 10’s phrasing to the other 10s:
  • 20, 30, 40, 50 are all -ppun
    • nijuuppun, sanjuuppun, yonjuuppun, gojuuppun
  • Minutes 1 to 9, as you learned above, will affect THE LAST NUMBER in all the bigger numbers like 13, 45, 59.
    • Let’s try 13:
      • You know that 10 is juu
      • You know that 3 minutes is sanpun
        • Juusanpun! That’s it.
    • Let’s try 45:
      • 40 is yonjuu
      • you know that 5 minutes is gofun
        • Yonjuugofun!
    • And 59?
      • 50 is gojuu
      • You know that 9 minutes is kyuufun
        • gojuukyuufun!

Part 5: Numbers You Need to Know for Telling Time in Japanese – Love This Chart.

If you don’t know your Japanese numbers, here’s a chart. Feel free to print this whole thing. Notice I didn’t include Kanji. You also don’t need to remember Hiragana. Why? In Japanese, numbers are written as numbers – 3, 5, 69, 2999 – so you don’t really need to learn kanji.

7shichi (nana)しち(なな)37sanjuunanaさんじゅうなな

Okay, if you made it here, you’re a persistent hero. Definitely a good sign that you can learn Japanese since you’re keeping at it.

Part 6: Telling Time in Japanese – Time Phrases.. Here are some useful phrases to know for time and asking the time in Japanese.

  • What time does it start?
    • 何時に始まるの?
    • Nanji ni hajimaruno?
  • What time does it close?  (store)
    • 何閉店ですか。
    • Nanji ni heiten desu ka?
  • What time do you wake up?
    • 何時に君は起きるの。
    • Nanji ni kimi wa okiru no?
  • What time is it in Tokyo?
    • 東京は今何時ですか。
    • Toukyou wa ima nanji desu ka?
  • What time can you come?
    • 何時に来れますか。
    • Nanji ni kuremasu ka?
  • What time do you go to bed?
    • 何時に寝るのですか。
    • Nanji ni neru no desu ka?
  • I don’t know what time it is.
    • 私は何時かわかりません。
    • Watashi wa nanji wakarimasen.

That’s it. Now you know all about telling time in Japanese. It’s your turn. Take everything you’ve learned and…

  • Tell me what time is it in Japanese?
  • Leave a comment! Yes!

The Main Junkie

P.S. I highly recommend this for Japanese learners. If you REALLY want to learn Japanese with effective lessons by real teachers – Sign up for free at JapanesePod101 (click here) and start learning!

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