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Dutch: Grammar > Telling time & date

Knowing some of the Dutch grammar will help you understand how the language is build up, and it will also help you to understand the basic phrases better. The Dutch grammar guide presented at LanguageTrav.com should in no way be considered as complete, and if you would like to acquire an in-depth understanding we recomment you to purchase books or DVDs for further learning.

The good news is that especially when you are traveling to The Netherlands, virtually everyone will speak English as a second language. However, it is a polite gesture to ask first.

Telling the time:

If you would like to ask someone what the time is, you might say

Hoe laat is het?
(What time is it?)

In the case of exact hours, the sentence Het is ... uur. is used, where on the dotted lines the appropriate number is filled in. For example:

Het is twee uur = It's two o'clock.
Het is zes uur = It's six o'clock.
Het is tien uur = It's ten o'clock.
Het is twaalf uur = It's twelve o'clock.

In spoken Dutch, times are told on a 12-hour basis, meaning that "zes uur" can mean either six o'clock in the morning or six o'clock in the evening. If a specification needs to be made in order to avoid misunderstandings, the following might be added:

's ochtends (zes uur 's ochtends) in the morning (six o'clock in the morning)
's middags (twee uur 's middags) at noon / in the afternoon (two o'clock in the afternoon)
's avonds (zes uur 's avonds) in the evening (six o'clock in the evening)
's nachts (twaalf uur 's nachts) at night (twelve o'clock at night)

In written Dutch, however, times are listed on a 24-hour basis. The clock starts counting at 0:00 o'clock at midnight, until 23:59 hours in the evening. Then it jumps over to 0:00 as the next day starts. Thus, 6:00 is six o'clock in the morning, 12:00 is twelve o'clock at noon, 18:00 is six o'clock in the evening, and so on.

If the hours are not exact, the following might be used:

kwart voor a quarter to
kwart over a quarter after
half half to (note: "half zes" would mean "half to six", thus half past five)
tien voor half ten to half (40 to)
tien over half ten after half (20 to)

Telling the date:

If you would like to ask someone what the date is, you might say

Welke datum is het vandaag?
(What date is it today?)

or

De hoeveelste is het vandaag?
(Lit.: the how many-eth is it today?)

You might reply this sentence by saying Het is + number + month. For example:

Het is zes maart. It's the 6th of March.
Het is tien april. It's the 10th of April.
Het zesentwintig november. It's the 26th of November.
Het is veertien augustus. It's August the 14th.

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