How to Tell the Time in Dutch

One of the most important things you can learn to do in a new language is to tell the time. After all, you’ll need it if you want to make plans with your new friends! In this post, learn everything you need to tell the time in Dutch—including why half-hours are so important and some extra time-related words that might come in handy.

Start with the hours

Do you know the numbers one–12 in Dutch? Although the Netherlands uses the 24-hour clock, most Dutch speakers only use the first 12 numbers when they’re speaking about the time; this makes the job of learning how to speak the language a little easier (fewer numbers to learn!) and is also why you’ll probably never hear anyone saying ‘it’s 23 o’clock’!


So far, so good? Great—let’s carry on and, don’t forget, you can learn how to pronounce all these numbers in the uTalk app!

To say ‘xx o’clock’ (e.g., four o’clock), you just say the number and then the word uur, which means ‘hour’. For example:

  • Vijf uur – five o’clock
  • Acht uur – eight o’clock
  • Één uur – one o’clock

Make sure to be careful if you see een uur. Without the accents, een means ‘a/an’, so een uur means ‘an hour’ and één uur means one o’clock. When writing, if it’s clear from context, you don’t need to add the accents to een when you mean ‘one’. When speaking, they sound the same—here, it’s all about the context!

What about half hours?

Half hours are very important in Dutch.

The Dutch half drie literally translates as ‘half three’, but what does this mean when you’re speaking Dutch?

In (British) English, it would mean half past three (3:30), but in Dutch, and some other Germanic languages, it means half past two (2:30)—or halfway to three. The half indicates that you’re halfway to the next hour, not halfway past it.

Easy, right? (And also a little bit tricksy for us English speakers!)

half drie02:30 / 14:30
half negen08:30 / 20:30
half elf10:30 / 22:30

The words over and voor

To say ‘past’, you use the Dutch word over, and to say ‘to’, you use the word voor. ‘Quarter’ is kwart in Dutch. It’s easier to see how it works when you see it written (below).

kwart over vier04:15 / 16:15
kwart over negen09:15 / 21:15
kwart voor vijf04:45 / 16:45
kwart voor zeven06:45 / 18:45

Of course, you also use over/voor when speaking about other times, too. What’s interesting in Dutch is just how important those half-hours are.

If a half hour is coming up, or if it has just happened, then the way you say the time refers to the half hour, rather than just the hour itself.

For example, in English, we would say 04:20 as twenty past four. In Dutch, you would say tien voor half vijf—ten before half (way to) five.

tien over vijf05:10 / 17:10
tien voor half negen08:20 / 20:20
tien over half zes05:40 / 17:40
tien voor twee01:50 / 13:50
vijf voor half één00:25 / 12:25
vijf voor negen08:55 / 20:55

Using the phrase ‘It is…’

Want to say ‘It is xx o’clock’? Simple! Just add het is before your time phrase.

For example:

  • Het is half drie – It is two thirty.
  • Het is kwart over vier. – It is quarter past four.
  • Het is tien voor half negen. – It is twenty past eight.

You might want to differentiate between the morning and the afternoon, too; as we said before, generally people use the 12-hour clock when speaking, so some times, things can get a bit ambiguous.

’s morgensin the morning
’s middagsin the afternoon
’s avondsin the evening
’s nachtsat night

Just add these to your sentences to clear up any confusion!

  • Het is zeven uur ’s avonds. – It is seven o’clock in the evening.
  • Het is half negen ’s nachts. – It is half past eight (half before nine) at night.

Other time phrases

And finally, here are some more time phrases that might come in handy when you’re making plans in Dutch. They’ll be especially useful when asking ‘how long do we wait’ (hoeland moeten we wachten?)!

een secondesecond
een minuutminute
tien minuteten minutes
een half uurhalf an hour
een uuran hour
de octendmorning
de middagafternoon
de avondevening

We hope you’ve learnt a lot about telling the time in Dutch from this post! Here’s some good news: every Dutch word and phrase in this article is available in the uTalk app.

Get started with uTalk for less—click this link to get 40% off your next subscription.

Happy language learning!

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