Learn how to tell time in Danish

Something you eventually have to learn in Danish is how to tell time. Whether you're talking about your schedule, making plans or setting up a date. We’ve got you covered round the clock.

Being able to tell time in Danish is a sure way to impress everyone - both Danes and other expats.

From asking what the time is, to key Danish vocabulary needed for speaking about hours and minutes, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know:

If you want a more in depth time vocabulary in Danish, visit our post on how to talk about time in Danish.


Danish vocabulary for telling time

Before we begin, there are certain key vocabulary words related to time that you should know.

This basic vocabulary will help you learn how to tell time in Danish.

klokken / kl. - o’clock

tid - time

time - hour

minutter over - minutes past

minutter i - minutes to

et kvarter over / kvart over - a quarter past

kvarter i / kvart i -quarter to

halv - half (to)

om morgenen - in the morning

om formiddagen - in the late morning (before noon)

om eftermiddagen - in the afternoon

om aftenen - in the evening

om natten - in the night

298px x 405 blog Tell time in Danish 3

How to ask about time in Danish

To ask the time in Danish, you say: ‘Hvad er klokken?’. Directly translated it means ‘What is the clock/bell?’ You can also say   ‘Hvad siger tiden?’, which means ‘What says the time?’

To answer, simply reply  ‘Klokken er (fem)’ [the clock is (five)] or  ‘Den er (fem)’ [It's (five)].

If you want to be extra polite, you can say  'undskyld, ved du, hvad klokken er?' [sorry, do you know what the clock is?], which is the closest to 'Do you have the time, please?', you can get in Danish.

If you want to ask what time something will happen or what time someone will be somewhere, the word to use is  'tid' and the questions are:

Rules for telling time in Danish

To tell time in Danish is just a matter of learning the Danish numbers and a few important rules. Here are the basics:

1. No a.m. or p.m. in Danish

Danish doesn't have words for ‘a.m.’ or ‘p.m.’ Instead, you should use:

'om morgenen' from ? to 9 a.m.

'om formiddagen' from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

'om eftermiddagen' from noon until about 6 p.m.

‘om aftenen’ from 6 p.m. until midnight

‘om natten’ from midnight until ? (whatever feels like nighttime for you).

2. In writing use the 24 hour system

In writing, Danes usually use the 24-hour clock. That means that 3 p.m. becomes kl. 15:00 (klokken 15:00). When writing to friends or family, you can also use  ‘Jeg kommer hjem klokken otte i aften’ [I’ll be home eight o’clock this evening].

3. Forget all about 'half past' and embrace 'half to' instead

The last and most important rule is the fact that the time is NEVER ever ‘half past’ something in Danish. Instead, when a Dane says that the time is half eight in the morning, s/he means the time is half to eight (7:30 a.m.).

Let’s recap:

If you remember only one thing from this post, let it be the half-to rule. It will save you a lot of grief. Bungling up 'half past/to' is a common mistake among Danish language learners. To make matters worse, Danes might also make the same mistake when speaking in English, so check your Danish appointment twice if it’s set to half past/to.

405 x 298 Telling time in Danish 4

How to tell time in Danish

It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with all the different ways to express different times within the hour. Saying the time in Danish whenever you look at the clock will help you remember.

When you ask what time it is, you’ll probably receive an answer similar to the ones below.   

405 x 298 Telling time in Danish 1

How to say 'minutes past' in Danish

A.  Klokken er fem minutter over fem - the time is five minutes past five

B.  Klokken er ti minutter over fem - the time is ten minutes past five

C.  Klokken er femten minutter over fem - the time is 15 minutes past five

D.  Klokken er tyve minutter over fem - the time is twenty minutes past five

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How to say 'minutes to' in Danish

A.  Den er tyve minutter i et - it's twenty minutes to one

B.  Den er femten minutter i et - it's fifteen minutes to one

C.  Den er ti minutter i et - it's ten minutes to one

D.  Den er fem minutter i et - it's five minutes to one

405 x 298 Telling time in Danish

The dreaded half-hour in Danish

Telling time in Danish when it's approaching 30 minutes past can be a real challenge. Remember the half-to rule and give it a go.

A.  Klokken er fem minutter i halv to - the time is five minutes to half two (1:25pm)

B.  Klokken er halv to - the time is half two (1:30pm)

C.  Klokken er fem minutter over halv to -  the time is five minutes past half two (1:35pm)

When the time is a quarter past/to in Danish

You can say that the time is a quarter past or to in Danish several different ways:

All of the above mean that the time is 'a quarter past' or ' a quarter to four'.

Danish expressions with time (clock)

If you have made it this far, you know most there is to know about how to tell time in Danish. Let's celebrate with a few expressions with clock/bell:

Klokken er mange [the time is many] - it's late

Få alarmklokkerne til at ringe - set warning bells ringing

Får det en klokke til at ringe? - Does that ring a bell?

At klokke i det [to bell in it] - to make a mess of something

At vide, hvad klokken er slået [to know what the bell has rung] - to know that something serious has happened

Klokken er fem minutter i bar arm [the time i five minutes in bare/naked arm] - children use this phrase to tease someone who asks the time.

Klokken lort [shit o'clock] - unreasonably early or late

Back to you

Now you can tell time in Danish like a pro. Do you have other ideas on how to learn the time in Danish? Leave a comment below with your suggestions.

Danish expressions with time


Join the discussion

  • Susan

    Two of the examples that you provided in the “Danish expressions with time (clock)” section are missing the Danish phrases.

    Get the alarm bells to ring – set warning bells ringing, Få alarmklokkerne til at ringe or Få alarm klokkerne til at ringe? I found both used and I can’t tell which is being said.
    Does it make a bell to call? – Does that ring a bell? Would that be, Få klokken til ringe?

  • Gitte

    Et måske mindre kendt svar til spørgsmålet om hvad klokken er:
    Q: hvad er klokken?
    A: den er rund og (skide)fuld af hjul

  • Maria

    We grownups use “Klokken er fem minutter i bar arm” when asked what time it is as a fun, teasing way to say that “i dont know, Im not wearing a watch” – it’s not just kids 🙂

    1. Camilla Svane

      Tusind tak for din kommentar. Dejligt at høre, at det ikke kun er børn, som bruger udtrykket. Vi retter selvfølgelig vores blog 🙂

  • Enna Scott

    Hello Camilla,
    I am learning Danish these days, it’s very interesting language. And your this post is really helpful to learning Danish idioms.
    Keep it up.

    Thank you

    1. Camilla Svane

      Hej Enna,

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment and good luck learning Danish.

      De bedste hilsner
      Camilla og Felicia, Kbh Sprogcenter

  • Thomas

    When you use “kvartER i/over…” in stead of the shorter form “kvart i/over…” you should use the article or a form of numerical determination, i.e. “every”, “X-number”. “Bussen går HVERT kvarter”, “mødet starter om TRE kvarter”

    So please: “klokken er ET kvarter i/over…”

    Without the article you should say “klokken er kvart i/over”

    Not as presented here without the article or a qualifier. That is at best extremely lazy speech, swallowing the article. It has unfortunately found its way into grammar as an optional way of using kvarter, because of people not being able to use it properly… Don’t copy, please 🙂

    1. Camilla Svane

      According to the Danish dictionary, you can actually use both 🙂 http://ordnet.dk/ddo/ordbog?query=kvarter

      However, we do agree that ‘kvarter i/over’ is most commonly used in spoken Danish. We teach Danish as a second language and that can also include ‘extremely lazy speech’ 😉

      Kind regards
      Camilla, Kbh Sprogcenter

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