Chinese Calligraphy

Lesson 16

The time

For telling the time in Chinese, you also start with the hour (點) followed by the minutes (分) and the seconds (秒). Other mainly colloquial units for measuring clock time are half an hour (半) and one and three quarters of an hour (刻).

In spoken Chinese the numbers from 1 to 12 are used. To specify the time of the day, 早上 (early morning), 上午 (morning), 中午 (noon), 下午 (afternoon), 晚上 (evening), 夜裡 (night), 半夜 (midnight) can be added. For full hours, 鐘 (o'clock) can be added after 點.

The time

Expressing the date and time spent

For expressing the date in Chinese, we start with the year (年), followed by the month (月) and the day (日). Note that 日 is used in written Chinese, whereas in spoken Chinese you will hear 號 rather than 日. The months in Chinese are numbered from 1 月 (January) to 12 月 (December)

Note that in Chinese culture two different calendars are used. The Western (Gregorian) calendar (陽曆) is used in almost all official situations. The lunar calendar (陰曆) is used for traditional and religious purposes such as birthdays and traditional Chinese holidays and festivals (Chinese New Year, the Dragon Festival etc.).

The date

Below you will find some examples of time spent, time being spent or time that will be spent in the future. For minutes not followed by hours you can also add 鐘. e.g. 五分鐘 (5 minutes).

For expressing hours, you can either use 鐘頭 or 小時. 鐘頭 requires the measure word 個 whereas 小時 does not necessarily need a measure word.

Time spent

The days of the week

For the days of the week, either 裡拜 or 星期 can be used. From Monday to Saturday you just use 裡拜 or 星期 and add the number of the weekday, e.g. 星期一 (Monday) or 裡拜三 (Wednesday). For Sunday you can say 裡拜天,裡拜日,星期天 or 星期日.


The question word 什麼​時候 (shénme shíhou)

As we already know, we can use 幾點 (jǐ diǎn) to ask for the exact time. Another way of asking for the time of actions or events is using the question word 什麼​時候 (shénme shíhou) which can be translated into English as "when".

什麼​時候 (shénme shíhou)

The question word 怎麼 (zěnme)

As the question word 為什麼 (wèishénme), which we learned in Lesson 8, the question word 怎麼 (zěnme) is also used to enquire about the reason for something but also "how" something is done.

怎麼 (zěnme)

怎麼 also occurs with resultative verbs to indicate that a result cannot be achieved no matter how hard you try.

怎麼 (zěnme)

The question word 怎麼樣 (zěnmeyàng)

The question word 怎麼樣 (zěnmeyàng) is asking for a description from your dialogue partner.

怎麼樣 (zěnmeyàng)

The question word 怎麼了 (zěnmele)

The question word 怎麼了 (zěnmele) is used to ask what the matter is, if the speaker believes that there is something wrong.

怎麼了 (zěnmele)

The question word 什麼樣 (shénmeyàng)

The question word 什麼樣 (shénmeyàng) is used to ask for more details about persons or things.

什麼樣 (shénmeyàng)