How do you express time in Chinese?

When expressing time in Chinese, use: “diǎn 点” and “fēn 分”:

hour number + 点 (diǎn – time)

number + 分 (fēn – minutes).

One follows the principle of going from “the largest unit of time, and then to the smallest unit”.
“Diǎn 点” means “clock”, which indicates a full hour. For example :

5:00 → wǔ diǎn 五 点
9:00 → jiǔ diǎn 九点
3:00 → sān diǎn 三点

Note: When you say 2 o’clock in Chinese, you say “liǎng diǎn 两点” (liǎng diǎn) “instead of” èr diǎn 二点”.

If the time you want to say is not a “full hour”, use “fēn 分” minutes
The pattern is then:

hour number + diǎn 点 (full clock hours) number of minutes + fēn 分 (minutes).

For example:

4:30 → sì diǎn sān shí fēn 四点三十分
12:10 → shí èr diǎn shí fēn 十二点十分
2:05 → liǎng diǎn líng wǔ fēn 两点零五分


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When saying numbers from 11 to 19 in Chinese, use the formula “10 + x”. X is the number added to 10. For example:

shí èr 十二 12
shí bā 十八 18

The numbers from 21 to 29 follow a similar pattern, “20 + x”:

èr shí 二十 20 or 2×10
èr shí sān 二十 三 23 or 2×10 + 3

Numbers from to 99 follow the same pattern:

sān shí 三十 30
sān shí èr 三 十二 32
sì shí 四十 40
sì shí èr 四 十二 42



When the minutes are more than 10 or exactly 10, read out the number that represents the minute as you normally do. For example,

9:40 jiǔ diǎn sì shí 九点四十

When the minutes are below 10, you can read “zero” – 零 (líng) before the number corresponding to the minute.

For example, 9:08. You can read this as 九点零八 (jiǔ diǎn líng bā) – which means “nine o’clock zero eight”.

Alternatively, you can also put the word 分 (fēn) – which means “minute” after any “hour + minutes” structure.

If it’s 9:20, you can either say: jiǔ diǎn èr shí 九点二十 or jiǔ diǎn èr shí fēn 九点二十分.

If it’s 9:02, you can say jiǔ diǎn líng wǔ 九点零二 or jiǔ diǎn líng èr fēn 九点零二分

When the minutes are in one digit, you can also say minutes plus fēn 分. If it’s 9:02, you can say:

jiǔ diǎn èr fēn 九点二分


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To say “half” we use 半 (bàn). For example:

liù diǎn bàn 六点 半 6:30.

To indicate quarters we say 一刻 (yí kè). For example:

liù diǎn yí kè 六点一刻 6:15.

Remember that You can not say “ten to” in Chinese, nor “quarter to”.



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