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Aspects of time, with an emphasis on adverbs and prepositions

Aspects of time, with an emphasis on adverbs and prepositions

This unit discusses many aspects of time, with an emphasis on adverbs and prepositions. Also, how to say the exact time if someone asks you in the street.   

Starting with some examples 

Gisteren gingen we naar de film. De film begon om acht uur. Daarna dronken we een biertje. Zaterdagavond gaan we naar een concert. En volgende week naar Amsterdam! 

Yesterday, we went to a movie. It started at eight. Afterwards, we had a beer. Saturday evening, we will go to a concert. And next week, to Amsterdam!

The week 

  • eergisteren the day before yesterday 
  • gisteren yesterday 
  • vandaag today 
  • morgen tomorrow 
  • overmorgen the day after tomorrow 
  • maandag Monday 
  • dinsdag Tuesday 
  • woensdag Wednesday 
  • donderdag Thursday 
  • vrijdag Friday 
  • zaterdag Saturday 
  • zondag Sunday

The day

  • vanmorgen this morning 
  • vanmiddag this afternoon 
  • vanavond this evening 
  • vannacht tonight 
  • ’s morgens every morning, in the morning 
  • ’s middags every afternoon, in the afternoon 
  • ’s avonds every evening, in the evening 
  • ’s nachts every night, at night

It's critical to be able to tell the time in the local tongue wherever you go. Knowing how to tell the time in Dutch is a crucial ability that is applicable to practically anything you'll do if you intend to travel to the Netherlands. You don't want to be late for your visit of the Centraal Museum in Utrecht or your canal boat in Amsterdam. And if you want to impress your Dutch friends with a dinner party, you definitely don't want to notify them at the incorrect moment.

You'll need to use your Dutch counting abilities to tell the time in Dutch. Do you know how to count to 60?

You’ll also need the word uur, which translates to “hour” but in this context means “o’clock.” When used after the expression het is (“it is”), you can say the hour of the day.

  • Het is een uur. — It is one o’clock.
  • Het is twee uur. — It is two o’clock.
  • Het is vijf uur. — It is five o’clock.

Dutch speakers use the word half to refer to a half-hour, but be careful: when you say half before the number of an hour, it means half an hour before that upcoming hour.

  • Het is half vier. — It is half (before) four. (3:30)
  • Het is half zeven. — It is half (before) seven. (6:30)
Dutch time uses somewhat different arithmetic than English time. When discussing a time in relation to the forthcoming hour or half-hour, you use the phrase voor, which you might think of as meaning "before," together with a minute value. Alternatively, you may use over with a minute number to denote "after" or "past" if the most recent nearest hour or half-hour recently occurred. Kwart is used exactly like any other number and denotes "quarter (of an hour)."

  • Het is drie voor acht uur. — It is three (minutes) before eight o’clock. (7:57)
  • Het is vijf over half zes. — It is five (minutes) past half (before) six. (5:35)
  • Het is kwart voor twee. — It is a quarter before two. (1:45)
  • Het is kwart over negen. — It is a quarter past nine. (9:15)
Remember that the 24-hour clock is frequently used in writing by many Europeans, including the Dutch, so you could find a time written in this notation on a railway ticket or on the showtimes at a movie theater. The following time-specific terms can be used to give context and make it clear what time of day you are referring to if you use the 12-hour format, which is more typical in spoken Dutch (Dutch doesn't contain words for "a.m." and "p.m.").

So now you have two ways of expressing the same time (remember, though, that it’s rare to use 24-hour notation in spoken Dutch).

  • Het is negentien uur. — It is nineteen o’clock. (19:00, or 7 p.m.)
  • Het is zeven uur ‘s avonds. — It is seven o’clock in the evening. (7 p.m.)
  • Het is half eenentwintig. — It is half (before) twenty-one. (20:30, or 8:30 p.m.)
  • Het is half negen ‘s nachts. — It is half (before) nine at night. (8:30 p.m.)


  • Hoe laat is het? Het is kwart over vijf. What time is it? It is a quarter past five. 
  • Hoe laat begint de les? Om twee uur. What time does the class start? At two o’clock. 
  • Hoe laat ga je meestal naar bed? Ik ga meestal om half twaalf naar bed. What time do you usually go to bed? I usually go to bed at eleven thirty. 
  • Hoe laat kom je vanavond? Ik kom vanavond tegen acht uur. What time will you come tonight? I will come around eight tonight.

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