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時候 / 时候 TimeComments

時候 / 时候 Time

Date format

When telling time in Chinese, always begin with the largest unit and end with the smallest unit. This means year → month → day → time of day (morning, evening, etc) → hour → minute.

Calendar

China uses the Gregorian calendar. However, the historic Chinese lunar calendar still has cultural significance. Both calendars have twelve months per year and follow the same simple naming system.
二〇一十四年 十月 十二/日 星期天 èrlíngyīshísìnián shíyuè shíèrháo/rì xīngqītiān (2014 October Sunday 12)

yearmonthdayweekday
年 nián 月 yuè háo 日 rì 星期 xīngqī zhōu 礼拜 lĭbài
nián year

In Chinese, each number of the year is uttered. English reads 2014 as two-thousand thirteen. However, Chinese reads 二〇一四 (2014) as èr-líng-yī-sì (two-zero-one-four).

yuè month

月 yuè is both a noun and a measure word for month. Thus, there is no need for an additional measure word in 幾 月 jī yuè which month? Also, months are named using 月 yuè.

The first month of the year (January in the Gregorian calendar) is 一月 yīyuè (one-month); next is 二月 èryuè (two-month, or February) and so on, with the twelfth month being 十二月 shí'èryuè (twelve-month, or December).

Gregorian普通话pīnyīn
January一月yīyuè
February二月èryuè
March三月sānyuè
April四月sìyuè
Gregorian普通话pīnyīn
May五月wǔyuè
June六月liùyuè
July七月qīyuè
August八月bāyuè
Gregorian普通话pīnyīn
September九月jiǔyuè
October十月shíyuè
November十一月shíyīyuè
December十二月shí'èryuè
háo date (day)
rì date (day)

Use háo when speaking Chinese, but use 日 rì when writing Chinese. Like months and weekdays, naming the date is simple and numerical. The first date of the month 一 yīháo; the second is 二 èrháo; and so on. Thus, March 28th is 三月 二十八 sānyuè èrshíbāháo. 日 rì is used the same way as háo, except only in writing: 一日 yīrì; the second is 二日 èrrì

星期 xīngqī weekday

星期 xīngqī is normally used in speech and writing for weekdays. However, there are other ways of telling the weekday. 周 zhōu is used strictly in text, especially formal writing. 礼拜 lĭbài, on the other hand, is used in relatively informal speech.

The week begins on Monday. Weekdays have a numerical system just like months, except for Sunday. The first day of the week (Monday) is 星期一 xīngqīyī; next is 星期二 xīngqīèr (Tuesday); and so on.

Sunday does not follow the numerical pattern. There are two ways to say Sunday: 星期天 xīngqītiān and 星期日 xīngqīrì. 星期天 Xīngqītiān is used more when speaking, while 星期日 xīngqīrì is used more in writing.

礼拜 lĭbài weekday (informal spoken)

礼拜 lĭbài is an informal, oral way of naming weekdays: 礼拜一 lĭbàiyī (Monday); 礼拜二 lĭbài'èr (Tuesday); and so on. Sunday is 礼拜日 lĭbàirì or 礼拜天 lĭbàitiān.

zhōu weekday (formal written)

Weekday (writing only). zhōu is a formal, written way of naming weekday: 一 zhōuyī (Monday); 二 zhōu'èr (Tuesday); and so on. Sunday is 日 zhōurì. 天 Zhōutiān is not used.

週末 周末 zhōumò weekend (spoken and written)
Below is a chart showing the different ways of communicating the weekday.
English Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Weekend
Written & spoken 星期一
xīngqīyī
星期二
xīngqīèr
星期三
xīngqīsān
星期四
xīngqīsì
星期五
xīngqīwǔ
星期六
xīngqīliù
星期天 xīngqītiān 星期日 xīngqīrì 週末 / 周末
zhōumò
Spoken 礼拜一
lǐbàiyī
礼拜二
lǐbài’èr
礼拜三
lǐbàisān
礼拜四
lǐbàisì
礼拜五
lǐbàiwǔ
礼拜六
lǐbàiliù
礼拜日 lǐbàirì 礼拜天 lǐbàitiān
Written
zhōuyī

zhōu‘èr

zhōusān

zhōusì

zhōuwǔ

zhōuliù

zhōurì

Time of day

In Chinese, the day is roughly divided into five sections
morning noon afternoon evening midnight
早上 上午 中午 下午 晚上 午夜
早上 zǎoshang (n) morning; a.m.
中午 zhōngwǔ (n) noon
下午 xiàwǔ (n) afternoon
午夜 wǔyè (n) midnight

Clock

點(鐘) 点(钟) diǎn(zhōng) o'clock (n) point, dot (v) to point

點(鐘)点(钟) diǎn(zhōng) means o'clock, point, dot, points on the clock. When telling the hour, the zhōng is usually omitted. Telling the hour is very easy: 一點(鐘)一点(钟) yīdiǎn(zhōng) for one o'clock; 兩點(鐘)两点(钟) liǎngdiǎn(zhōng) for two o'clock, note that 二 èr is not used; 三點(鐘)三点(钟) sāndiǎn(zhōng) for three o'clock.

fèn minute

When you tell time in English, you add an "oh" if the minute is less than ten. For example, you write 1:01 and say one oh one, as opposed to 1:1 and one one. The same rule follows in Chinese. You interject a 〇 líng so that the minute is represented by two digits: for example, 一點 〇一分一点 〇一分 yīdiǎn língyīfèn (1:01, one oh one) is correct, instead of 一點 一分一点 一分 yīdiǎn yīfèn (1:1, one one). The exception is 一點 十分一点 十分 yīdiǎn shífèn, which is fine.

When the time is told using two digits, then 分 fèn is optional. For example, 一點 〇一一点 〇一 yīdiǎn língyī or 一點 〇二一点 〇二 yīdiǎn língèr are both acceptable.

bàn half / half hour

半 bàn refers to a half hour when used to tell time. For example: 一點 半一点 半 yīdiǎn bàn; 二點 半二点 半 èrdiǎn bàn; and so on.

kè quarter hour

Means quarter-hour.

1:151:301:45
一點 一刻一点 一刻 yīdiǎn yīkè 一點 兩刻一点 两刻 yīdiǎn liǎngkè 一點 三刻一点 三刻 yīdiǎn sānkè
chá 'til / less than

查 chá is like the English 'til. Similarly, 查 chá is only used when the time is closer to the coming hour (instead of the past hour). Therefore, 查 chá is only used with 刻 kè (¼ hour) as 查一刻查一刻 cháyīkè (quarter 'til) or 查兩刻查两刻 cháliǎngkè (two quarters 'til). Also, 查 chá is never used with 半 bàn (½ hour).

# minutes 'til # o'clock 查#分 #點查#分 #点 chá#fèn #diǎn #點 查#分#点 查#分 #diǎn chá#fèn
quarter 'til # o'clock 查一刻 #點查一刻 #点 cháyīkè #diǎn #點 查一刻#点 查一刻 #diǎn cháyīkè
half 'til # o'clock 查兩刻 #點查两刻 #点 cháliǎngkè #diǎn #點 查兩刻_点 查两刻 #diǎn cháliǎngkè

Frequency

  • 平常
  • 常常
  • 有的时候
年年 every year
天天 every day

The construction for 年年 and 天天 does not work for other characters. 星期星期 does not mean every week. It is nonsense.

Past, present, future

shàng above; prior
xià below; upcoming
zuó previous
jīn current
míng next

明 míng is a sun and a moon together, symbolizing its meanings: next, as the moon and sun together complete a cycle; bright, as the sunlight and moonlight together; and clear-sighted, from the meaning bright.

Time Previous Current Next
Year 去年 今年 明年
Month 上個月上个月 這個月这个月 下個月下个月
Week 上(個)星期上(个)星期 這個星期这个星期 下(個)星期下(个)星期
Weekend zhegezhoumo
Day 昨天 今天 明天
今點 今点 jīndian right now
現在 现在 xiànzài nowadays, now

Similar but different: 今點今点 and 現在现在 have similar but different meanings. 今點今点 has an immediacy referring to the immediate time at hand (right now). 現在现在 refers to the present time, nowadays (right now vs a more general now).

Asking time

jinnian shi na nian?
When asking about the year, use na; for all other units of date and time, use ji.

幾 / 几 jǐ
which?

今天是幾月幾號/日? / 今天是几月几号/日?
jīntiān shì jǐ yuè jǐ hào/rì?
(today is which month and which day?)
What is the date today?

今天是九月二十六號/日 / 今天是九月二十六号/日
jīntiān shì jiǔ yuè èrshíliù hào/rì?
Today is September 26th

When asking and responding about the current date, the meaning can still be inferred if 今天 jīntiān or even 今天是 jīntiān shì is omitted.

星期幾 / 星期几 xīngqījǐ?
(weekday which?)
What day of the week is it?

現在幾點 / 现在几点 xiànzài jǐ diǎn?
what time is it?
This is the standard, common way to ask the current time.