In this section you’ll learn the pronunciations of hours and minutes, and how to ask and answer the question “What time is it?”. We’ll also look at learn how to specify intervals and durations of time.
Kanji Used in This Lesson
The counters you will learn in this lesson as well as their question word forms are normally written in Kanji, and will be introduced in those forms so that you’ll be able to recognize them.
You’re not expected to learn how to write these Kanji yet, so feel free to use the Hiragana spellings instead. This particular group of Kanji will not be covered until the fourth Kanji lesson.
Time in Hours
Hours of the day are signified with the suffix ～時 (ji), meaning “hour”. This is equivalent to “_ o’clock” in English. Time in hours is frequently written using both the Kanji and the Arabic numerals. You’ll also see them in digital clock form as well – 1:00, 2:00, etc.
|四時||４時||よじ/yoji (not “yonji”)|
|七時||７時||しちじ/shichiji (not “nanaji”)|
|九時||９時||くじ/kuji (not “kyuuji”)|
The suffix -ji can be considered a counter, and as with any counter, it is always used with a particular pronunciation of the numbers that have several.
The Japanese equivalents of AM and PM are:
Simply add these in front of the time in order to specify.
|ごぜん ６時||gozen roku-ji||6:00 AM|
|ごご ６時||gogo roku-ji||6:00 PM|
As in English, you can safely omit the gozen/gogo if there’s no chance of ambiguity.
There’s also an easy way to denote half hours in Japanese: with the suffix 半 (han), meaning “half”.
|ごご 12時||gogo juuni-ji||12:00 PM|
|ごご 12時半||gogo juuni-ji han||12:30 PM|
When used with other counters, such as 年 (nen) for years, han becomes equivalent to half a unit of that counter.
Finally, note that in Japan as well as many other countries, the 24 hour clock (“military time”) is used much more frequently than in North America. Although the 12 hour system is what you’d use when speaking, Japanese clocks, TV schedules, and train station timetables will generally show time from 00:00-24:00.
Time in Minutes
The corresponding suffix for minutes in Japanese is ～分, pronounced fun or pun. This is a common occurrence – not only does the form of the number vary, but also the form of the counter.
So while go + fun is unchanged, combining juu + fun causes:
juu -> jup
fun -> pun
juu + fun -> juppun
The same rule applies for larger numbers.
Although this is fine for now, in case you’d like to know the other numbers, here they are:
For larger numbers, only the component directly before the counter affects the pronunciation – the one’s place or juu.
As in English, the minutes simply follow the hours when telling time.
|７時１０分||しちじ じゅっぷん / shichiji juppun|
|４時３５分||よじ さんじゅうごふん / yoji sanjuugofun|
|９時５０分||くじ 五十分 / kuji gojuppun|
That’s all there is to it. The main things you’ll want to watch out when telling time are the irregular pronunciations yoji, shichiji, kuji, and juppun.
The same is true for any counter. Focus your attention on whether you should yon/shi, nana/shichi, and kyuu/ku, and if there are any irregular pronunciations of the number + counter combo. Otherwise, assume that the normal number and unchanged counter are used.
What Time Is It?
Now that you know how to use the numbers, you’re ready to tell time.
|いま、何時ですか。||Ima, nan-ji desu ka?||What time is it now?|
Or more simply,
|何時ですか。||Nan-ji desu ka?||What time is it?|
|～時です。||__-ji desu.||It’s __ o’clock.|
|～時半です。||__-ji han desu.||It’s __ thirty.|
|～時～分です。||__-ji __fun/pun desu.||It’s __:__.|
So the same Kanji means both “time” and “hours”. Note, however, that there also another word for time, toki, which is written with the same Kanji. It’s this word that is generally used to express the concept of time.
In order to say something is happens at a particle time, you would use the particle に “ni” after the time. Because we haven’t gotten to verbs yet, this use will have to wait for another lesson.
In order to specify from what time to what time, you’ll need a couple new particles:
These particles are used both in the sense of time and of space/distance. As with all particles, kara and made follow the times they are attached to.
|９時から １０時半まで||kuji kara juuji han made||from 9:00 to 10:30|
|３時１５分から ４時４５分まで||sanji juugofun kara
yoji yonjuugofun made
|from 3:15 to 4:45|
Notice how the particles stand out from the Kanji they follow? This is why I’m using the Kanji even on your first exposure. All Hiragana would be even worse to read than Romaji.
You can say that something is from time X to time Y in Japanese using what you already know.
|かいぎは ２時から ４時までです。||Kaigi wa niji kara yoji made desu.||The meeting is from 2:00 to 4:00.|
|おみせは ごぜん７時から ごご九時までです。||O-mise wa gozen shichiji kara gogo kuji made desu.||The store is (open) from 7 AM to 9 PM.|
You can also use just から or まで, leaving out the unknown or irrelevant portion.
To specify a certain length of time, you must use the suffix ～時間 (jikan) for “hours”, rather than the suffix ～時 (ji), which is only used for the time of day. (The kan in jikan means space or interval.) You can also add han or fun/pun just as before.
|１時間||ichi jikan||1 hour|
|１時間半||ichi jikan han||1 and a half hours|
|１時間４０分||ichi jikan yonjuppun||1 hour and 40 minutes|
The pronunciations of the numbers preceding –jikan follow the same rules as with -ji.
Durations of time in minutes is sometimes expressed as 分間 (funkan/punkan), but here the kan is optional, and it’s never needed when 分 is accompanying 時間. For durations of time in hours, however, you can never drop the kan.
Although you probably won’t need this use as often, you can also ask for durations of time using 何時間 (nan jikan) and 何分 (nanpun) for hours and minutes respectively.
Time in Seconds
In case you were wondering, the Japanese word for “seconds” is 秒 (byou). This counter is completely regular, using the normal yon, nana, and kyuu. As with 分, it’s completely optional to add kan after byou for durations of time.
|～時（じ）||-ji||__ o’clock (time of day)|
|～時半（じはん）||-ji han||__ thirty (time of day)|
|～時間半（じはん）||-jikan han||__ and a half hours|
|～半||-han||+ half an hour|
Pronunciations to Remember