Structure of times (advanced)

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点 (diǎn).jpg

If you already know the basics of how to tell time in Chinese, you may want to get a little more specific or sophisticated, using words like 分 (fēn) and 刻 (kè).

Minutes Past the Hour

Minutes are marked with 分 (fēn) (short for 分钟 (fēnzhōng)). The way to include them in the time depends on whether they're minutes past or to the hour.

Minutes past the hour are expressed after 点 (diǎn) in the same way as half and quarter hours.

Minutes Less Than 10


In Chinese, when the minute is under 10, the word 零 (líng) is often used after 点 (diǎn). For example, 2:07 would be said as “两点零七分” (liǎng diǎn líng qī fēn). However, note that when speaking, it is very common for most Chinese people take out the “分 (fēn)” at the end of the time.

x 点 零 y 分


  • liǎng diǎn líng jiǔ fēn2:09
  • sān diǎn língfēn3:08
  • diǎn líng sān fēn5:03
  • diǎn língfēn7:01
  • diǎn língfēn8:05

Minutes Greater Than 10

There's nothing tricky about this, since there's no 零 (líng). Just remember that in casual speech, the 分 (fēn) at the end is sometimes dropped.


x 点 y 分


  • 四 十 diǎn sìshí fēn1:40
  • liǎng diǎn shí fēn2:10
  • 二 十 sān diǎn èrshí fēn3:20
  • 十 五 diǎn shíwǔ fēn7:15
  • 五 十 jiǔ diǎn wǔshí fēn9:50

Quarter Hours

In Chinese, quarter hours are only expressed on the 1st quarter x:15, and the third quarter x:45. Like half hours, they also come after the word 点 (diăn). We use the word 刻 (kè) to express "quarter hour."


x 点 y 刻


  • jiǔ diǎn9:15
  • 十 二 shí'èr diǎn12:15
  • liù diǎn sān 6:45

You can totally just use 十五分 (shíwǔ fēn) for "15 minutes (past)" or 四十五分 (sìshí-wǔ fēn) for "45 minutes (past)" if you're lazy, though. It also works!

Minutes to the Hour

When expressing how many minutes it will be till the next full hour, you put 差 (chà) in front of the time expression.


Minutes to the hour use this structure:

差 + Minutes + 分 + Hour + 点


Hour + 点 + 差 + Minutes + 分


  • 五 分 三 chà wǔ fēn sān diǎnfive minutes til 3 o'clock
  • 十二 三 分 shí'èr diǎn chà sān fēn three minutes til 12 o'clock
  • 五 分 八 chà wǔ fēn bā diǎn bànfive minutes til 8:30
  • 两 分 shí diǎn chà liǎng fēn two minutes til 10:00

HSK Notes

Only the basic 分 (fēn) usage is tested on HSK1. The others are not tested until HSK3.

See also

Sources and further reading