Time, translated into Japanese is 時間 (jikan), made up of the kanji for hour and interval. This post discusses how to tell the time in Japanese.
The kanji for hour is 時, pronounced ji. Hours are indicated by using the number as the word’s root, then adding 時 as the suffix.
There are two ways to show whether it is am or pm. The literal translation is午前 (gozen) for am, and午後 (gogo) for pm. These go before the number, for example: 午後八時 (gogo hachiji) is eight pm.
Another way to indicate the time of day is to say “in the morning/afternoon/night”. In Japanese, this is 朝の (asa no) = in the morning, 昼の (hiru no) = at noon, 夜の (yoru no) = at night.
Again, this is put before the number, for example: 朝の六時 (asa no rokuji) is six in the morning.
When talking about minutes, the number is also used as the root. The kanji for minute is 分, and pronounced as either pun or fun. 分 is added onto the number as a suffix.
These follow the same numerical pattern as regular numbers. However, to say it is half past the hour, the word for half, 半 (han) is used after the hour, for example: 三時半 is half past three.
Asking the time
To ask what time it is, the phrase is 今何時ですか？ (Ima nanji desu ka). This is literally translated as “Right now, what time is it?”.
To respond to the question, the sentence structure is hour + minutes + desu.
Ima nanji desu ka?
What time is it?
Niji gofun desu.
It’s five minutes past two.
*Any native Japanese speakers, please feel free to make any corrections. This information is based on studying from the Genki series of textbooks (Genki I, 2nd edition).*
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