This week we’re going to continue looking at how to express the time in various languages with the basic expressions used to tell time in Brazilian Portuguese.
Two notes before we begin. First, the expressions used in Portuguese are similar, but not identical, to those used in Spanish. Do not assume that a time-telling convention automatically carries over from one language to the other. Second, the expressions used for telling time in European Portuguese differ slightly from the Brazilian Portuguese expressions covered in this lesson.
Expressing the Hour
When referring to the hour, begin with the verb ser (to be). Use the singular é for “one o’clock” and the plural são for any other hour
É uma (hora)
It’s one o’clock.
São duas (horas).
It’s two o’clock.
Note that hora, the Portuguese word for “hour,” is feminine. While hora itself can be omitted, the words for “one” and “two” must always take their feminine forms of uma and duas when referring to the hour.
It is customary to express minutes in the first half hour by adding to the hour with the word e (and). While this custom exists in English, (15 minutes after 5, 20 after 3, etc.) it is used less often than its Portuguese counterpart:
É uma hora e quatro minutos.
It’s one o’clock and four minutes. (1:04)
São duas e doze
It’s two and twelve. (2:12)
Minutes past the half hour mark are customarily expressed by subtracting from the upcoming hour with para as. Again, this custom exists in English, but is less frequently used:
São cinco para as oito.
It’s five minutes to eight.
São dez para a uma.
It’s ten minutes until one. (12:50)
São doze para as duas.
It’s twelve minutes until two. (1:48)
A quarter past and half past the hour are expressed with quinze and meia, respectively:
É uma e quinze.
It’s a quarter past one. (1:15)
São duas e meia.
It’s half past two. (2:30)
São quinze para as duas
It’s a quarter until three. (2:45)
A.M. and P.M.
Add the following expressions to indicate the time of day:
São cinco da manhã.
It’s five in the morning.
É uma da tarde.
It’s one in the afternoon.
São dez da noite.
It’s ten in the evening.
To say that it is morning, afternoon, or evening without mentioning a specific time, use de manhã, de tarde, and de noite, respectively.
Para as is almost always contracted as pras in spoken Brazilian Portuguese.
As described above, quarter hours should be expressed with quinze (fifteen). Brazilian Portuguese does not use words that literally mean “quarter” (trimestre) in time expressions.
The twenty-four hour clock is commonly-used in Brazil as an alternative to time of day expressions, especially in business settings. For example:
São três da tarde (2 p.m.) = São quinze horas (14:00 hours).
To ask the time, use one of the following expressions. These can be preceded by por favor for politeness:
Que horas são?
The Portuguese words for hour, minute, second, and clock are hora, minuto, segundo, and relógio, respectively.