In Spanish there are several words to use to say “time”; tiempo, hora and vez. They are not interchangeable, you use each one in a different context which makes learning them somewhat tricky. To further complicate matters, the word “tiempo” also can mean “weather”!
In this blog post you will learn how to know when to use each word for “time” whether it is talking about time in general, the time of the day or a time as in an occasion.
When you hear or see the word “tiempo” used, it can be confusing as to whether it means “time” or “weather”. The tip is to look at the rest of the sentence. If the verb “hacer” has been used, it probably is being used as “weather”.
e.g. Hace buen tiempo – It is good weather.
e.g. Hizo mal tiempo ayer – It was bad weather yesterday.
The best way to learn these words to use in the right situations is to think of each one as follows:
a) Tiempo – amount of time
This is used to talk about time in general or as an amount of time. Let’s look at some examples:
No tengo suficiente tiempo. – I don’t have enough time.
Hace mucho tiempo que no nos vemos. – It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other.
b) A tiempo – On time
You can use “tiempo” as part of the phrase “a tiempo” which means “on time”.
Siempre llega a tiempo. – He always arrives on time.
c) Tiempo – a time period
You can use “tiempo” to talk about an era or a period of time in history. Often you use the word in the plural.
Eran tiempos difíciles para los españoles. – They were difficult times for Spanish people.
The word “hora” is used to describe the clock time.
¿Qué hora es? – What time is it?
¿A qué hora vienen? – What time are they coming?
The best way to think of this word is to see it as an “occasion”.
¿Cuándo es la última vez que fuiste a España? – When is the last time you went to Spain?
Vamos a la playa muchas veces durante el verano – We go to the beach many times in summer.
Whilst we are on the subject of talking about time in Spanish, it would be a good idea to learn a few time phrases:
Al mismo tiempo – At the same time
Me gustó el argumento de la película pero al mismo tiempo no me gustó el fin de la película.
I liked the film plot but at the same time I didn’t like the ending of the film.
Siempre hablan al mismo tiempo así que no puedo entenderlos.
They always talk at the same time so I cannot understand them.
Part-time / Full-time
A tiempo parcial – part-time
A tiempo completo – full-time
María trabaja como secretaria a tiempo parcial.
Maria works as a secretary part-time.
Mi amigo trabaja a tiempo completo.
My friend works full-time.