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  20.1 time data

The description of the hour follows an easy to understand logic in Italian. To the full hours of the day are added or subtracted parts of an hour. It is therefore, with some differences, as in English. In English for instance the quarter missing to an hour is added (a quarter to five) in Italian it is subtracted (cinque meno un quarto).

Sono le cinque e mezzo .
It is half past five.
Sono le due e un quarto.
It is a quarter past two.
Sono le quattro meno cinque.
It is five minutes to five.
È l'una e dieci.
It is ten minutes past ten.

If we have a look at the form of essere in the last example we see that it is third person singular and not plural. This is logical because in the first sentence we have several hours, but in the last sentence we have only one hour. The hours are neither written nor pronounced in Italian (unlike French, where they are written and pronounced) they had disappeared with time. Nevertheless the verb refers to the nowadays inexistent
/ ore.

Sono le otte (ore) meno (un) quarto.
It is a quarter to eight.
Sono le undici (ore) e mezzo .
It is half past eleven.
È l'una (ora) meno venti.
It is twenty minutes to one.

In English we use a.m for the time date between midnight and midday. For the time date between midday and midnight we use p.m.. In Italian we use adverbs to specify the part of the day a time date refers to.

di mattina or del mattino
(= morning), approximately between 4 o'clock in the morning until 12 o'clock.
di pomeriggio or del pomeriggio
(= afternoon), approximately between 12 o'clock until 18 o'clock int the evening.
di sera (= evening), approximately between 18 o'clock until 23 o'clock
di notte (= night), approximately between 23 o'clock until 4 o'clock

Instead of the feminine forms (mattina) we can use the masculine forms (mattino). If we use the masculine forms a definite article must be added.

le dieci di mattina (or le dieci del mattino) = 10 o'clock in the morning
le due di pomeriggio (or le due del pomeriggio) = 2 o'clock in the afternoon
le dieci di sera = 10 o'clock in the evening
le due di notte = 2 o'clock in the morning

The following table shows by example the formation of the time specification in Italian. Pay attention to the verb essere. If it is only one hour we use the third person singular (è) if there are several hours we use the third person plural (sono). If the time refers to the past we use the imperfetto. The article as well refers to the hour (sono le tre, but è la una).

Sono / É
Erano / Era
full hours + addition / substraction to the full hour
time in digital writing English first / second part of
the day
Sono le tredici meno quindici 12:45 a quarter to one -
É l' una e cinque 1:05 five past one di pomeriggio
Sono le tre meno cinque 14:45 a quarter to three di pomeriggio
Erano le cinque meno venitcinque 4:35 twenty-five to 5 di mattina / del mattino
Era l'una e venti 1:20 twenty past one di mattina / del mattino
Sono le tre e un quarto 3:15 fifteen past three di pomeriggio
Sono le quattro e mezzo 16:30 half past four di pomeriggio
Sono le nove e mezzo 21:30 half past nine di sera
Sono le dieci e un quarto 10:15 a quarter past ten di mattina / del mattino

We see that the verb to be (è / sono, era / erano, etc.) as well as the article (le / l') refers to the hours, nowadays neither written nor spelled. For the same reason we have to use the feminine form of uno ("Era l'una e mezzo ").

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