To Tell the Time

In telling time, normally the 12-hour set is used, not the 24-hour set. The 24-hour set is used in the Army and the media news broadcast. The cardinal numbers 1 to 12 are used for this purpose.

ساعت چند است؟
sā’at cand ast?
“What time is it?”

Remember that the word ساعت means ‘watch, clock, time, hour.’

The phrase in replying to asking the time is ساعت number است:

.ساعت یک است
sā’at yek ast
It is one o’clock.
.ساعت دو است
sā’at do ast
It is two o’clock.
.ساعت ده است
sā’at dah ast
It is ten o’clock.
.ساعت دوازده است
sā’at davāzda ast
It is twelve o’clock.

Usually the word ربع rob ‘a quarter’ and نیم nim ‘a half’ are used; but the words دقیقه daqiqe ‘minute’ and ثانیّه sāniyye ‘second’ are also used profusely:

ساعت یک و ربع است
sā’at yek-o rob’ ast
“It is one-fifteen.” (literally, ‘one and a quarter’)

ساعت دو و نیم است
sā’at do-vo nim ast
“It is two-thirty.” (literally, ‘ten and a half’)

ساعت ده و پانزده دقیقه است
sā’at dah-o pānzdah daqiqe ast
“It is ten-fifteen.”

ساعت دوازده و سی دقیقه است.
sā’at davāzdah-o si daqiqe ast
“It is twelve-thirty.”

ساعت نه و بیست و سه دقیقه و چهار ثانیّه است
sā’at noh-o bist-o se daqiqe-ve cahār sāniyye ast
“It is nine-twenty-three minutes and four seconds”

As we can see, between the hour and the fraction the linking –o- (‘and’) intervenes. However, if the time said is before the hour, the link is dropped and the word کم kam ‘less, short, shy’ follows the fraction:

ساعت هشت٬ ربع کم است
sa’at hašt, rob’ kam ast
“It is quarter to eight.” (literally, ‘it is eight, a quarter shy’)

ساعت شش٬ هفده دقیقه کم است
sa’at šeš, hefdah daqiqe kam ast
“It is seventeen minutes before/to six.”

A.M. is صبح sobh ‘morning, A.M.’ and P.M. is بعد از ظهر ba’d az zohr ‘afternoon, P.M.’, both of which follow the number, linked by ezāfe:

ساعت چهارِ بعد از ظهر است
sā’at cahār-e ba’d az zohr ast
“It is four P.M.”

ساعت ششِ صبح است
sā’at šeš-e sobh ast
“It is six A.M.”

In Persian the word for “midnight” doesn’t exclusively refer to 12 A.M., but to all the hours between twelve A.M. and the sunrise. Therefore, if the time is between twelve and the sunrise (including twelve itself), it is referred to as نصف شب nesf-e šab or (formally) نیمه شب nime šab ‘midnight’:

ساعت سه و نیم نصف شب است
sā’at se-vo nim-e nesf-e šab ast
“It is three-thirty A.M.”

The word for ‘noon’ is ظهر zohr. Between ظهر and four or five P.M. (depending on the season and how soon or late the sun sets) is usually referred to as بعد از ظهر ba’d az zohr . Between those hours and the sunset, while the sky is still bright enough is usually referred to as عصر asr. The word for ‘sunset’ is غروب γorub or مغرب maγreb, which also means ‘dusk.’ A word for ‘dawn’ as بامداد bāmdād is used exclusively formally. The spoken word is almost always صبح sobh ‘morning’.

The words for an ambiguous time span between the sunrise and noon is قبل از ظهر qabl az zohr, or پیش از ظهر piš az zohr. Therefore, قبل از ظهر می بینمت qabl az zohr mi binamat means “I’ll see you some time before noon,” but it is normally closer to noon than to the sunrise. Normally the time between the sunrise and ten o’clock is referred to as صبح sobh ‘morning.’