Mandarin Monday, 第三课

by Sue

Mandarin Monday was started to help me remember the Chinese I was regretfully slowly forgetting. By informing others and writing about vocabulary, phrases, and grammar along with tidbits about Chinese culture, I hope to not only relearn the language but also help others learn as well. I welcome questions and criticisms if you find that my grammar is incorrect; contact me in comments or my e-mail: sue[@]madeinkowloon[.]com. Thank you!

dà jiā hǎo!

Today’s lesson is a continuation of last week. To schedule appointments and be punctual for them requires you to know how to tell time, right?

The following terms are used to tell time in Chinese: 点钟 (diǎn zhōng, “o’clock”), (bàn, “half”), (kè, “quarter”), and (fēn, “minute”). Here are examples of each:

八点钟                 五点 (钟)                 九, 十点钟
bā diǎn zhōng             wǔ diǎn (zhōng)               jiǔ, shí diǎn zhōng
eight o’clock               five o’clock                       nine or ten o’clock

” (zhōng) in the middle has parenthesis around it because it can be omitted. On the last example, there is a comma between 9 and 10 because an estimated time can be said without the conjunction “or.” Basically, imagine telling a friend what time to meet you at the bar for a drink. “Meet me at nine or ten.” or “Meet me at nine, ten-ish.”

三点十四分 sān diǎn shí sì fēn                   3:14

两点零五分 liǎng diǎn líng wǔ fēn             2:05

四点二十 (分) sì diǎn èr shí (fēn)                   4:20

七点五十分/             差十分八点 7:50 (ten till eight)
qī diǎn wǔ shí fēn/             chà shí fēn bā diǎn
to be short/ minus 10 minutes 8 o’clock

Like “” (zhōng) you can omit “” (fēn) from the rest of the time if and only if the minutes appear in two syllables. For example, you can definitely say “三点十四” (sān diǎn shí sì) to represent 3:14 but you cannot say “三点十” (sān diǎn shí) to represent 3:10. If you were to use “三点十” (sān diǎn shí) it would mean 3:50. Think about the clock for a second, “10” on the dial not only means it is 10 o’clock but also means “50 minutes” doesn’t it? The term “” (líng) is usually added before a single-digit number. Think about how we say, “It’s now two oh-five.” The last line I’ve given you two options of saying 7:50; the one after the slash transliterates to “minus 10 minutes 8 o’clock.”

As an aside, you may have noticed why I used “” (liǎng) to represent the number 2 instead of “” (èr). “” (liǎng) is used in front of common measure words, or words to express a quantity; time is considered a measure word. If I were counting numbers, I would use “” (èr), but if I were trying to tell you there were two people in the room, I’d say “两个人” (liǎng gè rén). However, “” (liǎng) is just for conversational usage, not formal written language; you would not see it used in newspaper articles, for instance.

三点一刻 3:15                 a quarter past three
sān diǎn yī kè
3 o’clock one quarter

差一刻两点 2:45           a quarter till two
chà yī kè liǎng diǎn
minus one quarter 2 o‘clock

十一点三刻 11:45            a quarter till twelve
shí yī diǎn sān kè
11 o’clock 3 quarters

But just like you wouldn’t say “2 quarters” (unless you were counting money…), you would not use “两刻” (liǎng kè, two quarters). Instead, you will use 半 (bàn, half).

一点半 1:30                          五点半 5:30                     十一点半 11:30
yī diǎn bàn                                wǔ diǎn bàn                           shí yī diǎn bàn
1 o’clock half                            5 o’clock half                        11 o’clock half

To differentiate evening times, you insert “晚上” (wǎn shàng, “night, evening”) in front of the time. For example,

晚上七点 wǎn shàng qī diǎn       7:00pm

晚上两点零五分 wǎn shàng liǎng diǎn líng wǔ fēn     2:05pm

晚上七点一刻 wǎn shàng qī diǎn yī kè         7:15pm

晚上五点半 wǎn shàng wǔ diǎn bàn        5:30pm

晚上差五分十一点 wǎn shàng chà wǔ fēn shí yī diǎn   10:55pm
(evening minus five minutes 11 o’clock)

So before you ask someone out to do something with you, you have to know what to do and how to do it. Next few lessons will incorporate a few more greetings, some survival expressions, and questions that allow you to get penciled in on someone’s date book.  In the mean time, you can review Lesson 1 and Lesson 2!

zài jiàn!