Learn New Words FAST with this Lesson’s Vocab Review List

Get this lesson’s key vocab, their translations and pronunciations. Sign up for your Free Lifetime Account Now and get 7 Days of Premium Access including this feature.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript


Michael: How do you ask for the time in Cantonese?
Siuling: And how do you tell the time?
Michael: At CantoneseClass101.com, we hear these questions often. The following situation is typical. During a school break, Sasha Lee asks her classmate Lynn Lo about the time. They don't want to be late for their next class. Sasha asks, "What time is it?"
李麗莎: 幾點呀? (gei2 dim2 aa3?)
李麗莎: 幾點呀? (gei2 dim2 aa3?)
盧曉玫: 三點三。 (saam1 dim2 saam1.)
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
李麗莎: 幾點呀? (gei2 dim2 aa3?)
Michael: "What time is it?"
盧曉玫: 三點三。 (saam1 dim2 saam1.)
Michael: "It’s a quarter past three."

Lesson focus

Michael: Asking for the time is one of the most fundamental things in Cantonese language. In today’s lesson, we will teach you how to ask for the time and how to answer a question about time.
Siuling: To ask “what time is it?”, we say 幾點呀? (gei2 dim2 aa3?)
Michael: Literally, “how many o’clock?”
Siuling: If we omit the ending particle, and just say 幾點? (gei2 dim2?), it has the same meaning. Adding the ending particle 呀 (aa3) makes the question sound more friendly and natural.
Michael: Ok, then how do we answer the question?
Siuling: Simply put, to say what time it is, use the number between one and twelve, followed by 點 (dim2). For example, 四點 (sei3 dim2) is “4 o’clock.”
Michael: Very straightforward. And how about “half past”?
Siuling: We just add 半 (bun3), the word for “half”. For example, 四點半 (sei3 dim2 bun3),
Michael: “Half past 4.” Now, in the lesson dialogue, we see an interesting combination of numbers,
Siuling: 三點三 (saam1 dim2 saam1),
Michael: literally “three o’clock three”.
Siuling: It’s a very unique feature in Cantonese time-telling, we split up the clock into 5-minute segments, and then add the segment number after “o’clock”. So, in 三點三 (saam1 dim2 saam1), the second 三 (saam1) after 點 (dim2) indicates "fifteen minutes."
Michael: It means “3:15”, or “quarter past 3.”
Siuling: We use this system a lot to express the approximate time, so here’s a breakdown of the segments for easy reference.
Michael: Let’s start with the first one, what’s “3:05” (5 minutes past 3)?
Siuling: 三點一 (saam1 dim2 jat1). Because it’s the first 5-minute segment, we say 一 (jat1) after 點 (dim2). 三點一 (saam1 dim2 jat1).
Michael: “3:05” (5 minutes past 3). Next is “10 minutes past”, so “3:10” would be...
Siuling: 三點二 (saam1 dim2 ji6).
Michael: And “quarter past three”, “3:15” is...
Siuling: 三點三 (saam1 dim2 saam1).
Michael: "3:20".
Siuling: 三點四 (saam1 dim2 sei3).
Michael: "3:25".
Siuling: 三點五 (saam1 dim2 ng5).
Michael: “Half past 3”, “3:30”. Remember, it doesn’t follow the numerical order, but just use 半 (bun3).
Siuling: 三點半 (saam1 dim2 bun3).
Michael: “3:35”.
Siuling: 三點七 (saam1 dim2 cat1).
Michael: “3:40”.
Siuling: 三點八 (saam1 dim2 baat3).
Michael: “3:45”.
Siuling: 三點九 (saam1 dim2 gau2).
Michael: “3:50”.
Siuling: 三點十 (saam1 dim2 sap6).
Michael: Last but not least, “3:55”.
Siuling: 三點十一 (saam1 dim2 sap6 jat1).
Practice Section
Michael: Let's review. Respond to the prompts by speaking aloud. Then, repeat after Siuling focusing on pronunciation.
Do you remember how Sasha says "What time is it?"
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Siuling: 幾點呀? (gei2 dim2 aa3?)
Michael: Listen again and repeat.
Siuling: 幾點呀? (gei2 dim2 aa3?)
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Siuling: 幾點呀? (gei2 dim2 aa3?)
Michael: And do you remember how Lynn says "It’s a quarter past three"?
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Siuling: 三點三。 (saam1 dim2 saam1.)
Michael: Listen again and repeat.
Siuling: 三點三。 (saam1 dim2 saam1.)
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Siuling: 三點三。 (saam1 dim2 saam1.)
Cultural Expansion
Michael: Before we go, let’s talk about the Cantonese terms for different parts of the day. They are placed before the time to emphasize the part of the day.
Siuling: Generally, we split up the day into four main timeframes.
Michael: Let’s start with AM,
Siuling: 上晝 (soeng6 zau3),
Michael: literally meaning “upper day,” typically referring to the time from sunrise to noon. And, after that, “afternoon,”
Siuling: 下晝 (haa6 zau3),
Michael: literally meaning “lower day.” And, next, between sunset and midnight, it’s...
Siuling: 夜晚 (je6 maan5),
Michael: literally “nighttime.”
Siuling: And that’s not all! We also use 半夜 (bun3 je2),
Michael: literally “midnight,”
Siuling: or 凌晨 (ling4 san4),
Michael: to indicate the time between midnight and the early hours before dawn.
Most of the time, people recognize the actual time from the context of the statement, so these terms for the different parts of the day can be omitted. For instance,
Siuling: 我哋三點見, (ngo5 dei6 saam1 dim2 gin3,)
Michael: meaning “We’ll meet at 3.” People won’t assume that you will wait at the meeting spot in the middle of the night, but, if you’re not sure, you can always help clarify things by adding the terms we just talked about, and ask,
Siuling: 下晝三點 ? (haa6 zau3 saam1 dim2?)
Michael: “3 PM?”
Siuling: 凌晨三點 ? (ling4 san4 saam1 dim2?)
Michael: meaning “3 AM?”


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We’re here to answer them!
Siuling: 拜拜! (baai1 baai3!)
Michael: See you soon!

1 Comment

Please to leave a comment.
😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍

CantoneseClass101.com Verified
Monday at 06:30 PM
Pinned Comment
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

What Cantonese language questions do you have?