Date and time is always written from the biggest to the smallest:
year - month - date - a day of the week - the time of day - hours - minutes.
Time is described slightly differently in Chinese than in Western languages.
For precise hours, you can say 点钟 instead of 点. This is the equivalent to “o'clock” in English.
“2 o'clock” is pronounced as 两点 , rarely as 二点 .
We can also use 差 to indicate “several minutes” to reach the next hour.
It’s ten minutes to two, 1:50
liǎng diǎn chà shí fēn
Although we see 6:55 on the clock, in the sentence with 差 we name the number that is a few minutes short.
The parts of the construction with hours and with minutes can be interchanged.
It’s ten minutes to two, 1:50
chà shí fēn liǎng diǎn
There are some extra words for the denoting minutes. They should be put after the word 点.
These words are:
1) 刻 . We say it after the numeral:
sì diǎn sān kè
bā diǎn chà yí kè
2) 半 , 30 minutes. We don't need to name the numeral with it.
sì diǎn bàn
Saying the time of the day
China uses a 12-hour clock. So you can use 五点 to refer to the morning or afternoon.
Therefore, to specify the time of day, we should use special words at the beginning:
凌晨 3:00 - 6:00
早上 or 早晨 6:00 - 8:00
上午 8:00 - 11:00
中午 11:00 - 13:00
下午 13:00 - 17:00
傍晚 17:00 - 19:00
晚上 19:00 - 23:00
深夜 23:00 - 3:00
午夜 or 半夜
There are no exact boundaries between these time concepts, so the words 上午 as “morning” and 下午 as “afternoon” are most commonly used.
6 AM is 早上六点 or 上午六点;
6 PM is 下午六点, 傍晚六点 or 晚上六点.
It is not necessary to specify the boundaries of the day if it is clear from the context.
Duration of time
When expressing duration of time in minutes, we use the word 分钟 .
In three minutes
sān fēnzhōng yǐhòu
Twenty minutes have passed
guò le èrshí fēnzhōng
When we talk about hours as the duration of time, we use the word 小时 .
Three hours have passed
guò le sān ge xiǎoshí
The verb 是 in sentences about time
When we state the time, the verb 是 may be used or may be omitted.
It's half past nine
xiànzài bā diǎn bàn
It's ten o'clock
xiànzài shì shí diǎnzhōng
In a negative sentence, the verb 是 must be used and may not be omitted.
The negation is constructed as 不是 .
It's not half past nine
xiànzài bú shì bā diǎn bàn
How to ask “What time is it?”
To ask the question, we should use the interrogative pronoun 几 instead of a numeral:
What time is it?
xiànzài jǐ diǎn le
What time do you have classes?
nǐ jǐ diǎn shàngkè
In colloquial speech, there is one more form of this question:
What time is it now?
xiànzài shénme shíhou le
Where to put the time in a sentence
We can put the time before, after or within the subject. By changing the place of the subject in a sentence, you can refocus attention.
Today (what happened?) I woke up at 8 AM
jīntiān wǒ zǎoshang bā diǎn qǐchuáng
This morning I woke up (what time?) at 8 o'clock
jīntiān zǎoshang wǒ bā diǎn qǐchuáng
This morning at 8 o'clock (what happened?) I woke up
jīntiān zǎoshang bā diǎn wǒ qǐchuáng
If the sentence has time words (when?) and place words (where?), we first name the time. The subject can come before or after time words.