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Talking about time in Spanish

Aspects of Time

You usually use hacer and the preterite
Se lo di hace dos días / Hace dos días que se lo di = I gave it to him two days ago
Hace unos cuantos días = quite a few days ago - note you can modify this construction e.g. había unos cuantos concursantes = there were a considerable amount of participants

Have or had been doing something for n weeks/days/years/hours etc.

You usually use llevar + gerund in the present or imperfect - note the difference in meaning:
Llevo años aquí = I have been here for years (and you still are)
Llevo dos años esquiando = I have been skiing for two years (and you still are)
Llevaba dos años esquiando = I had been skiing for two years

Or more formally with the verb hacer:
Leo desde hace una hora = I have been reading for one hour (and you still are)
Hace una hora que leo = I have been reading for one hour (and you still are)

Imperfect with both tenses:
Yo esquiaba desde hacía dos años = I had been skiing for two years
Hacía dos años que yo esquiaba

Llevo cinco días en Londres = I've been in London for five days (and you still are - the present implies the action is still continuing)
He estado cinco días en Londres = I was in London for five days (implying that you left because you have used the perfect for a completed action)
Estuve cinco días en Londres = I was in London for five days (clearly showing that you left because you have used the preterite for a completed action in the past)

Durante is used for showing a completed action in the past
It seems optional. Does anyone have any information about this? Contact me if you do
Escuché la radio (durante) doce minutos = I listened to the radio for twelve minutes
Estuve escuchando la radio durante doce horas = I was listening to the radio for twelve hours (the preterite continuous emphasizes the length of time)

Note the difference in meaning with hacer and the tenses:
Preterite - ago: Se lo di hace dos días / Hace dos días que se lo di = I gave it to him two days ago
Present - have / has been: Leo desde hace una hora / Hace una hora que leo = I have been reading for one hour (and you still are). This is a formal use of hacer.
Imperfect - had been: Yo esquiaba desde hacía dos años / Hacía dos años que yo esquiaba= I had been skiing for two years

It is / was the first time...

Note the present / imperfect use on both verbs:
Es la primera vez que esquío = It's the first time that I skied
Era la primera vez que esquiaba = It was the first time that I had skied


Use desde with verbs in the present (have /has been) and imperfect (had been) tenses (although in Spain, you can use the perfect - he / hemos etc. or the pluperfect había / habías etc.):
Estoy aquí desde enero = I've been here since January (the present shows that you still are here)
Vivía en España desde enero = I had been living in Spain since January (but not any more)

In a negative sentence, use the perfect tense (in Spain) because it's showing some relevance to the present:
No lo he estudiado desde el lunes = I haven't studied since Monday

Talking about the time

Questions involving time:
¿Qué hora es? / ¿Qué hora tiene? = What time is it?
¿A qué hora vamos a llegar? = What time are we going to arrive?
¿Cuánto (tiempo) durará? = How much time will it take?

The Spanish use feminine words because you are talking about la hora, a feminine word and is implied (instead of saying the word "hora" after everything).
When talking about past events, you use the imperfect with the verb ser, and the preterite for the following verb (the imperfect is used because time is seen as a background to an event)
Era la una cuando llegué = it was 1 o'clock when I arrived
Eran las dos cuando llegué = it was 2 o'clock when I arrived

Note the words that you can use with son can also be used with es
00.00 medianoche
01.00 / 13.00 la una
01.10 / 13.10 la una y diez
12.00 mediodía

00.00 las doce de la noche
05.00 / 17.00 las cinco
06.15 / 18.15 las seis y cuarto / quince
07.30 / 19.30 las siete y media / treinta
09.45 / 21.45 las diez menos cuarto / quince
19.00 las siete de la tarde
02.00 las dos de la madrugada
08.00 / 20.00 las ocho en punto
21:50 las veintiuna cincuenta - 24 hour clock (note the ending of veintiuna)
más de las cinco = it's after 5
pasadas las ocho = past 8 o'clock

Note the letters T and R:
Cuatro = four
Cuarto = quarter (and spelt a little like it)

Words you can add to the time:
en punto = o'clock / sharp
y pico = just after e.g. "a las dos y pico" and it can be used with distances too e.g. "dos metros y pico = a little over two metres"
de la madrugada / mañana - this shows that the time is a.m. but la madrugada extends from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m.
de la tarde - roughly the times between 1 p.m to 8 p.m.
de la noche - roughly 8 p.m. to midnight
son las dos de la madrugada = two a.m.
don las ocho de la tarde = eight p.m.

Other time related words:

por la mañana / tarde / noche = in the morning / evening / night (por is used in Spain, Latin America uses a different word)
por can mean 'for' or 'during'. Notice the uses in tomorrow and yesterday below:

mañana = tomorrow (also: la mañana = the morning)
pasado mañana = the day after tomorrow (pasado = passed)
mañana por la mañana = tomorrow morning (mañana means both tomorrow and morning so if you just said it twice, it sounds like you are saying "tomorrow, tomorrow")
mañana por la tarde = tomorrow afternoon / evening (literally: tomorrow during the afternoon)

ayer = yesterday
anteayer / antes de ayer = the day before yesterday
ayer por la mañana = yesterday morning (literally: yesterday during the morning)
ayer por la tarde = yesterday evening (literally: yesterday during the evening)
la víspera = the day before the previous day (víspera can mean eve or the day before so 'la' or 'en' vísperas de means 'on the eve of')

todos los días = everyday
el día siguiente = the following day
anoche = last night
la tarde = the evening
en la noche del lunes al martes = during Monday night (literally: in the night of Monday to Tuesday)
llegaremos el lunes = we will arrive on Monday
odio los lunes = I hate Mondays
todos los lunes = every Monday
el lunes próximo = next Monday
el lunes que viene = next Monday (this is an easier way to say this as you don't have to think about gender, just add que viene = that comes e.g. el año que viene = the year that comes / next year, la semana que viene = the week that comes / next week)
Note - que viene is rarely used with days or months
ocho días a partir del lunes = A week on Monday (notice that you say eight days for a week)
quince días a partir del lunes = a fortnight on Monday (notice that you say fifteen days for fortnight)

hace una semana
hace quince días
} a fortnight ago

Other uses:
Tengo que estar allí lo más tarde a las dos = I must be there by 2 at the latest
Tengo para media hora = I'll be half an hour at it

Other words that are used with the time are:

English Spanish and examples
about / around / approximately a eso de / sobre
La veo sobre las dos = I'll see you about 2 o'clock
por enero = around January
por febrero empieza a nevar = around Febuary it starts to snow
after / at the end of a
Me canso a los treinta minutos = I get tired after 30 minutes
a las cinco semanas de estudiar = after 5 days of studying

al cabo de
al cabo de un mes = after a month / at the end of the month
a finales de junio = at the end of june
after some time pasado algún tiempo
ago hace
Lo hizo unos minutos = He did it a few minutes ago
at a
Lo hago a las dos = I'll do it at 2 o'clock
at the latest a más tardar
before antes
dos días antes = two days before
between entre
entre las dos y las cinco = between 2 and 5
by / for / no later than para
Lo terminaré para las ocho = I'll finish it by 8 o'clock
for para / por / durante / en
Lo necesito para tres horas / días = I need it for 3 hours / days
Se quedan allí por dos semana = they are staying there for two weeks (por = for / during)
Me duché (durante) veinte minutos = I showered for (during) twenty minutes
No ha nevado durante / en dos semanas = It hasn't snowed for two weeks (or it hasn't snowed in two weeks)
(starting) from a partir de
a partir de la una = starting from one o'clock
a partir de hoy = from today
from... to... de... a...
de dos a cinco = from 2 to 5
in en
Nací en 1980 = I was born in 1980
en (el mes de) marzo = in (the month of) March
in / within dentro de (more usual than en)
llegaré dentro de veinte minutos = I'll arrive within 20 minutes
later más tarde
Di con ellos cuatro horas más tarde = I came accross them 4 hours later
on El cinco de octubre de mil novecientos ochenta = (on) the 5th of October, 1980
Note that you don't use any word with a day of the week
Lo vi el viernes = I saw him on Friday
times (occasions) Vez (plural veces because the Spanish prefer a c instead of a z in front of the e)
Los veo una vez al mes = I see them once a month
Los vi cinco veces = I saw them five times
until hasta

Other expressions:
en los años ochenta = during the eighties
martes (doce) = Tuesday (the 12th)
el / los martes = On Tuesday / Tuesdays


¿Qué día es hoy?
¿A qué día estamos?
¿Cuál es la fecha de hoy?
} What's the date?
Es (el) ...
Estamos a ...
} It's the ...
... uno / primero de enero
... cinco de marzo
... viernes siete de diciembre
first of January
5th of March
Friday the 7th of December


¿Cuántos años tiene?
¿Qué edad tiene?
} How old are you?
Tengo 30 (años) I'm 30 (years old)
Tiene unos 30 años He's about 30
A los 30 años At the age of 30
Hoy cumplo veinte (años) I'm 20 today (using the verb cumplir)

Days of the week (all masculine words)

Spanish English
lunes Monday
martes Tuesday
miércoles Wednesday
jueves Thursday
viernes Friday
sábado Saturday
domingo Sunday

Months of the year

Spanish English
enero January
febrero Febuary
marzo March
abril April
mayo May
junio June
julio July
agosto August
se(p)tiembre September (optional 'p' in the word)
octubre October
noviembre November
diciembre December


English Spanish
(la) primavera spring
(el) verano summer
(el) otoño autumn
(el) invierno winter

[ENGLISH] Are there any errors or do you want to add more information to these pages?
You can contact me at the bottom of the home page.

[ESPAÑOL] ¿Hay errores o tiene información adicional?
Puede mandarme un mensaje al final de la página principal

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