Japanese/Lessons/Telling time

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Related vocabulary

Expressing time uses "時" (じ, e. hour) and "分" (ふん, e. minute). Note that the reading of "ふん" depends on the sound before it. See the time vocabulary page for a list of the possible readings.

Conversationally, the Japanese use 12-hour time. When it's not clear from context, "午前" (ごぜん) and "午後" (ごご) are used for before and after noon, respectively.


To ask for the time, use:


Then, if HH is the hour and MM are the minutes (you see HH:MM at the clock), a possible answer cloud be:

Before noon After noon
午前(ごぜん)のHH()MM(ふん)です。 午後(ごご)のHH()MM(ふん)です。

For example:

何時ですか? — What time is it?
午後の7時20分です。 — It's 7:20 in the afternoon.

When "何" means "what", it's pronunciation is either "なに" or "なん", depending on what sound follows it.

When used to represent the hour of the day, the numbers, "four", "seven", and "nine" are pronounced differently from normal.

  • 4時 (よじ)
  • 7時 (しちじ)
  • 9時 (くじ)

There are two ways of pronouncing "10分"; "じっぷん" and "じゅっぷん". The former is taught as "correct" in school, but the latter is more common.[citation needed]

  • "7時" (しちじ) , "1時" (いちじ)

The pronunciation of "7時" (しちじ) and "1時" (いちじ) is similar, so it is unofficial but in Japan school education, "7 o'clock" may be pronounced as "Na-Na-Zi" to distinguish pronunciation as necessary.

However, a few exceptional organizations such as the Japanese military, dislike the confusion caused by the similar -pronunciation, so the military formally pronounce 7 of 7 o'clock as “Na-Na” contrary to the Japanese custom pronunciation of time.

The pronunciation of "分" is "ふん" when it stands alone, but changes to "ぷん" in certain cases.