Asking and telling the time is one of the most basic and important conversational skills, and it’s one that you’ll often need when travelling to another country. If you’re travelling to Portugal or Brazil or any other Portuguese-speaking country, whether for business or pleasure, knowing some Portuguese phrases for asking and telling the time could be invaluable. You’ll also need some Portuguese speaking and listening skills in order to communicate correctly and understand responses, which you can acquire by practicing with an expert tutor.
The first thing you’ll need is to have a basic knowledge of how to say numbers in Portuguese. Then, it’s a question of learning the necessary Portuguese phrases and vocabulary. Below, we have a list of the Portuguese phrases you’ll need in order to start asking and telling the time.
The literal Portuguese translation of “time” is tempo. However, this is usually only used to refer to time in the abstract sense. When referring to time in the concrete sense of what time it is, the word hora, which literally means “hour,” is used.
In Portuguese, the words for “clock” and “watch” are the same.
In the morning
In the afternoon
In the evening/at night
Portuguese does not have separate words for “evening” and “night.” For any time later than 6 p.m., noite is used.
In the early morning (between midnight and sunrise)
What time is it, please?
Que horas são, por favor?
This literally translates as “what hours are there?” Replies follow the same pattern, i.e., instead of saying what time it is, you are literally saying it’s a certain number of hours.
It's one o’clock.
É uma hora.
The word hora is feminine, so the feminine forms of the numbers one and two, uma and duas are always used instead of um and dois.
It's ten past two.
São duas e dez.
Because the hours are now plural, we switch from é to são.
It's a quarter past three.
São três e quinze.
It's half past four.
São quatro e meia.
It's a quarter to six.
São quinze para as seis.
Literally “there are fifteen (minutes) for the six (hours).” In Brazilian Portuguese, para as is often abbreviated as pras.
It's ten to one.
São dez para a uma.
Even though one is singular, são is used here instead of é, because it is referring to the number of minutes, not the number of hours. Para a is used instead of para as because it is referring to one singular hour. When vocalizing this, the a is usually swallowed, and it is pronounced as são dez para uma.
It's about five o’clock.
São cerca de cinco horas.
It's exactly six o’clock/six o’clock sharp.
São seis horas em ponto.
It's one a.m.
É uma hora de madrugada.
It's ten p.m.
São dez horas de noite.
These Portuguese phrases will get you a long way, but to reach a point where they’ll be “on the tip of your tongue” when you need them, you’ll need practice. Telling the time is one of the many things that you can work on with a tutor in order to develop your fluency. Then, you’ll always know what time it is when you’re on your travels.