Absolute beginner #9 - What time is it?

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Hur mycket är klockan?
What time is it?
Den är fem i tolv.
It's five minutes to twelve.
När börjar filmen?
When does the movie start?
Om en timme ungefär. Prick klockan åtta.
In about an hour. Eight o'clock sharp.
begin, start
clock, watch
much, very
about, approximately

To ask someone for the time, we Swedes literally ask how much is the clock?. This doesn’t, however, mean that we want to buy a new watch – it’s just the expression we use. In Swedish, this is hur mycket är klockan?. Mycket is a new word in this lesson, and is usually used with an uncountable amount of something. It is thus the equivalent of the English much. We could also use the question word vad instead and ask what the clock is.

Hur mycket är klockan?
What's the time?
Vad är klockan?
What time is it?

When refering back to the word klockan, we have to use den, which means it. In Swedish, both den and det are used in this situation, depending on the gender of the noun they refer back to. This is something we will talk about later on in the beginner course. Right now, you just need to know that we say den when refering to klockan

For historical reasons we can also say hon when refering back to our clock. This means she. Fun fact.

When we want to specify minutes to or past the whole hour, we use the prepositions i and över. We can also skip (and this is more the norm than an exception) the word minuter as we see fit. As you can see in the examples, we could also say klockan instead of den or hon.

Klockan är fem minuter i tolv.
It's five minutes to twelve o'clock.
Klockan är fem i tolv.
It's five minutes to twelve.
Klockan är fem minuter över tolv.
It's five minutes past twelve o'clock.
Klockan är fem över tolv.
It's five minutes past twelve.

Sometimes we want to ask when something is going to happen in the future. Here we use the word när which means when. This is then followed by a verb.

När börjar filmen?
When does the movie start?
När kommer du?
When are you coming?

Remember that we don’t use do as an auxiliary verb here. So no “when does the movie begin”, only “when begins the movie”.

When answering this type of question we need to know how to talk about the during until a point of time. This is done with the preposition om and NOT i which is the equivalent of in in English. This is used to talk about the duration of something. This is confusing, I know. Hang in there. Abstract prepositions cannot be translated directly.

Vi äter om fem minuter.
We're eating in five minutes.
Vi äter i fem minuter.
We're eating for five minutes.

When talking about quarter and half, we say kvart and halv. Important to note here is that we only say halv without any preposition and it refers to the next whole hour and not the previous, like in English.

Den är halv fyra.
It's half past three.

In Swedish, we can also talk about five minutes to the half hour.

Den är fem i halv tre.
It's twenty five minutes past two.
Den är fem över halv tre.
It's thirty five minutes past two.

In Sweden we use the 24 hour clock, however the 12 hour clock is more common in everyday speech. In this case we usually specify with words like på morgonen (in the morning) or på kvällen (in the evening) when needed.