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Grammar detail: telling the time in Japanese

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telling the time in Japanese
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Telling the time in Japanese is quite straightforward and regular.

Hours

To specify the hour, append the counter
to the number.
一時いちじone o'clock
二時にじtwo o'clock
三時さんじthree o'clock
四時よじfour o'clock
五時ごじfive o'clock
六時ろくじsix o'clock
七時しちじ (ななじ is also OK)seven o'clock
八時はちじeight o'clock
九時くじnine o'clock
十時じゅうじten o'clock
十一時じゅういちじeleven o'clock
十二時じゅうにじtwelve o'clock
Note: to specify the number of hours, we add
かん
meaning 'interval' after the hour. For example:
三時間さんじかん(for) three hours

Minutes

For minutes, we just add the counter
(read as ふん or ぷん following つ or ん).
一分いっぷんone minute
二分にふんtwo minutes
三分さんぷんthree minutes
四分よんぷんfour minutes
五分ごふんfive minutes
六分ろっぷんsix minutes
七分ななふんseven minutes
八分はっぷんeight minutes
九分きゅうふんnine minutes
十分じっぷんten minutes
十一分じゅういっぷんeleven minutes
Note that 十分 is officially read じっぷん. However, じゅっぷん is commonly encountered, and in most situations (except possibly exams!) would not be considered wrong.

Quarter past, half past, quarter to

(hour) +
はんhalf past
(hour) + 15分じゅうごふん15 minutes past (can be used as the equivalent of 'quarter past' the hour specified)
(hour) + 45分よんじゅうごふん45 minutes past (can be used as the equivalent of 'quarter to (the hour after the one specified)')
(hour) + 15分前じゅうごふんまえ15 minutes before (can be used as the equivalent of 'quarter to (the hour)', emphasizing the fact that it is not yet the hour specified)
Note that in Japanese, 'half past' is simply 'half'.
In the same way, there is no direct expression for 'quarter past', but rather the Japanese for '15 minutes' is used. In other words, in Japanese, there is nothing 'special' about 15 minutes past compared to say 14 minutes past, and there is no word for 'past'. So for example 'quarter past four' would simply be
よじ
4時
じゅうごふん
15分
(four hours fifteen minutes).
There is no expression for 'quarter to' - the expression translates to '15 minutes before'. Typically, rather than counting backwards from the later hour, in Japanese you would count forwards from the preceding hour.
For example:
3時半さんじはんhalf past three
4時15分 よじじゅうごふんfour fifteen = quarter past four
6時45分ろくじよんじゅうごふんsix forty five
7時15分前しちじじゅうごふんまえquarter to seven = six forty five

Times of day

朝にあさにin the morning
午後にごごにin the afternoon
夜によるにin the evening
正午しょうごmidday
'In the morning' is typically expressed using 朝に. However, it is also common to say
ごぜんちゅう
午前中
に, which means 'during the morning'. The term
ごぜん
午前
に is not incorrect, but less common.
'Midnight' does not have a direct equivalent in Japanese. The term
やはん
夜半
is commonly used to mean 'a time somewhere between around 11pm and 1am'. Also commonly used is
まよなか
真夜中
, which means literally 'the middle of the night', rather than midnight as it is understood in English. To refer specifically to 12 o'clock,
よろじゅうにじ
夜12時
or
よなか
夜中
じゅうにじ
12時
are more commonly used.

Other useful time-related expressions

何時ですかなんじですかWhat time is it?
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Kanji used in this grammar

ジ   とき time, occasion   
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イチ   イツ   ひと    ひと- one   
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ニ   ふた    ふた two   
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サン   み    みっ three   
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シ   four   よ    よ    よっ    よん    
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ゴ   いつ-    いつ five   
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ロク   むっ six   む    むい    む    
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シチ   なな    なな    なの seven   
1
ハチ   や    や    よう eight   
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ク   キュウ   ここの nine   
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ジュウ   ジッ   と    とお ten   
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カン   ケン   あいだ interval, between   ま space, room   
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ブン   ブ   フン   わける to divide, to distinguish   わかる to understand   わかれる to be divided   わかつ to share, distribute   
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ハン   なか half   
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ゼン   まえ before   
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チョウ   あさ morning   
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ゴ    noon   
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ゴ   コウ   のち    あと afterwards   うし behind   おくれる be late   
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ヤ   よる    よ night   
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セイ   ショウ   ただしい correct   ただ to correct   まさ precise, exact   
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チュウ   ジュウ   なか middle   
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シン   truth   ま exactly; deep   
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カ   なに    なん what?   
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