Beginner Lesson 14.1 – Tell Time

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Am Or Pm? Tell Time In Chinese | Time Words In Chinese

Learn how to tell time in Chinese, whether it is AM or PM. Be able to say o'clock and minute in Chinese and learn some useful Time Words in Chinese.

  • Tell Time in Chinese: 年  月  日
  • Hour / O'clock and minute in Chinese: 点  分
  • Time Words in Chinese (II): 早上 上午 中午 下午 晚上. See also Time Words in Chinese (I).
  • AM or PM in Chinese
  • The Number Two in Chinese: 二 vs. 两 (I). See also (II) and (III).




Grammar 1: Tell Time in Chinese · HSK 1

……diǎn……fēn ……点……分 ...o'clock...minute

(1) To tell time in Chinese, we use this structure:

the number + 点 +.

  • wǔ diǎn shí fēn
  • bā diǎn sānshíqī fēn

(2) If the minute is more than one character, the character 分 can often be dropped.

  • liù diǎn 'èrshí fēn
  • liù diǎn 'èrshí

(3) If the minute is only one digit, meaning less than 10. The "zero" cannot be dropped.

  • wǔ diǎn shí fēn
  • liù diǎn líng sān fēn
  • liù diǎn sān fēn


Grammar 2: Time Words in Chinese - AM or PM · HSK 1

shíjiāncí 时间词 Time Words in Chinese are special and can be considered as in their own category. Even though they are basically nouns that refer to a certain time or a certain amount of time, such as yesterday, morning, Monday, one hour, one month...

We learned two Time Words in Chinese in Lesson 11.1: 早上 and 晚上. In today's lesson, we will learn more of them because Time Words can tell whether it is AM or PM in Chinese. Here are some of the most common Time Words in Chinese. The hours they suggest is vague and not accurate; they only show what hour range each Time Word generally refers to:


6 AM
9 AM

9 AM
11 AM

11 AM
1 PM

1 PM
6,7 PM

7 PM
12 AM

And if we want to tell whether it is AM or PM in Chinese, we use this structure:

Time Word + the Hour number + the Minute number

Here are some examples:

  • zǎoshang jiǔdiǎn
  • shàngwǔ shídiǎn shífēn
  • zhōngwǔ shí'èr diǎn
  • xiàwǔ sāndiǎn 'érshí
  • wǎnshàng bādiǎn


Grammar 3: The Number Two in Chinese (I): 二 vs. 两 · HSK 2

èr 二 vs. liǎng

There are two ways to say the number two in Chinese: 二 and 两. Sometimes we can use both, sometimes only 二 is appropriate and sometimes only 两 is appropriate. For mathematical usage, to say the number two in Chinese, 二 is generally used. To tell time in Chinese, for o'clock we have to say 两点 instead of 二点. However, for minute, if it's two minutes pass x o'clock, both 零两分 and 零二分 is okay to say.

  • liǎngdiǎn língliǎng fēn
  • liǎngdiǎn lín'èr fēn
Collapse Comments
Pili HdzPremium Student June 28, 2022 at 2:46 pm

Hi there, how can we say 10:30 or 10:15, you know, in English we can say either “ten thirty” or “a half past ten” “ten fifteen” or “a quarter past ten”. Even in Spanish we have 2 ways to say 30 and 15 (y media y cuarto, respectively).

In Chinese is only 十点三十分 and 十点十五分?

I’d appreciate your answer.

ChineseFor.UsAcademic Team July 10, 2022 at 5:40 am

Thanks for the question. It’s nice to know all variations, but at beginner level we are focusing on the basic expressions only. Other way of expressions will be taught later in more advanced levels.

Heidy MolinaPremium Student April 20, 2022 at 7:25 pm

Hi, what is the difference between using 分 to say minute as opposed to 分钟?

Steven BaelePremium Student April 5, 2021 at 8:18 am

Is saying 几点了? also a good way of asking what time is it?

Pascal JolyPremium Student March 27, 2021 at 4:00 am

Can’t you say 几点了 to ask the time?

Steven BaelePremium Student April 5, 2021 at 8:29 am

Hi, yes I was also wondering this. In other courses I found that this is the expression they teach… I guess in this lesson it has more to do with understanding how “hour” and “minute” fit into the concept of learning about how to tell time.

The use of Modal Particle le 了 will be explained in the next level.

Agustina NgPremium Student September 5, 2020 at 9:35 am

What would be the time word for time between 12am to 9am?

edmangPremium Student November 5, 2020 at 6:47 pm

I had the same question and was looking in the comments for the answer. Could someone answer this please?

its 凌晨língchén which literally means “pure morning” but its actually used to refer to the time frame of 12 to 9 am.

Benjamin GoppPremium Student March 2, 2020 at 12:08 pm

I find it quite hard to hear the difference between liǎng and líng.

T.I.PPremium Student October 8, 2019 at 1:13 pm

It is getting difficult as there are more things to memorise… At least the five day periods are similar to the ones we use in my language 🙂

Raghadsubhi12Premium Student August 1, 2019 at 7:49 am

What’s the tone sandhi in ‘xian zai ji dian ji fen ‘

mindv0rtexPremium Student June 10, 2018 at 10:04 am

In the phrase 现在七点五十一分, does the tone sandhi rule apply to the 点五 pair?

Yes the tone changes. Just remember that when speaking, unless there is a pause, two full third tones are never spoken together.

Avdesh KumarPremium Student March 27, 2018 at 11:25 am

Thanks for the lectures. It’s really enjoyable.
I feel some fast speed while listening.

Can You attach some link on the site consisting of all Chinese radicals and how many are these radicals??

Raghadsubhi12Premium Student August 1, 2019 at 5:04 am

There are 214 as far as I know

sandeeplearnchinesePremium Student March 11, 2018 at 9:00 am

Training programs are so well organised and after registering here I felt confident enough that I can now learn this beautiful language comfortably.

tomas_leblancStudent November 25, 2017 at 5:55 am

Thanks for all these amazing lessons! I’ve practicing a lot for the HSK1

Thanks for giving such a nice feedback for these Chinese lessons, appreciated!

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