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:
- Danish vocabulary for telling time
- How to ask about time in Danish
- Rules for telling time in Danish
- How to tell time in Danish
- Danish expressions with time
If you want a more in depth time vocabulary in Danish, visit our post on how to talk about time in Danish.
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
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:
- ‘Hvad tid (er festen)?’ [What time is the party?]
- ‘Hvad tid er du der?’ [What time are you there?].
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.).
- 12:30 p.m. – Klokken er halv et [the time is half (to) one]
- 5:30 a.m. – Klokken er halv seks om morgenen [the time is half (to) six in the morning]
- 7:30 p.m. – Klokken er halv otte om aftenen [the time is half (to) eight in the evening]
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.
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.
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
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
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:
- klokken er kvart over / kvart i fire
- klokken er kvarter over / kvarter i fire
- klokken er femten minutter over / femten minutter i fire
All of the above mean that the time is 'a quarter past' or ' a quarter to four'.
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.