Hi there, nice to meet you again! In our previous lesson, we have learned how to tell clock time in Chinese. Next, let's go further to learn more about time periods in a day and how to express the date, month, and year in Chinese.
Chinese Time Vocabulary - From Day to Night
In ancient China, people did not have 24-hour clocks like we do, so they used some time period to represent time. Just a quick heads up--these words are a lot!
But in this article, let’s learn some common ones that are good enough for you in daily life.
Representative time period
Representative time period
Representative time period
around 5 a.m. to 8 or 9 a.m., it’s about dawn until the beginning of morning work hours.
around 8 or 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
around 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
around 1p.m. to 6 p.m., it’s about the time before dark, basically equivalent to “afternoon” in English.
around 5 a.m. to 6 p.m., basically equivalent to “daytime” in English. The word literally means the sky is bright.
around 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., the night time.
around 12 a.m. like “midnight” in English.
around 12 a.m. to 5 a.m., the time before dawn.
The ancient Chinese people started a day from 23 p.m. instead of 12 a.m., and divided a day into 12 Shichen（时辰）. Every Shichen has a specific name. But, this ancient time system has been abandoned by most modern Chinese, except one, 午（wǔ）. “午” in 12 Shichen refers to the time between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
I think the word “午” has continued to be used by modern Chinese people, probably because the lunch break time is very important for everyone. And, literally, “上午” means “the time before 午”.
“中午” means “right at the 午”,and “下午” means “the time after 午”.
Chinese Time Vocabulary – Specific Date
The words below are just the same as vocabulary “year” “month” and “date” in English. It should be noted that the “日” and “号” can both be used to describe the date.
“日” is more commonly used for written language, and “号” is more commonly used for spoken language.
Unlike English, fortunately, you don't need to remember particular words for each month, just add the number before the character “月”. Both Chinese characters or Arabic numbers are okay to use.For example, “3月” or “三月”. And this also works for years and dates, like“2006年” or “二零零六年”, “3月23日” or “三月二十三日”.
shí yī yuè
shí èr yuè
nóng lì / yīn lì
gong lì / yang lì
Traditional Chinese festivals, like the Spring Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival, are based on the lunar calendar.
When you ask your Chinese friends’ birthday, maybe some of them will tell you a lunar date; you’d better ask if it is a lunar or a Gregorian one, to avoid giving them gifts on a wrong date.
Chinese Time Vocabulary – Weeks
In Chinese, there are three words that can represent week, “星期” “周” or “礼拜”.
From Monday to Saturday, like months in Chinese, you don’t need to memorize specific words to indicate each day. You just need to put a number before the words that represent “week” in Chinese, and this number can only be used in Chinese one.Sunday is a little bit different, we say “星期日” or “星期天”. Please see the table below.
xīng qī yī /zhōu yī /lǐ bài yī
xīng qī èr /zhōu èr / lǐ bài èr
xīng qī sān/ zhōu sān / lǐ bài sān
xīng qī sì /zhōu sì / lǐ bài sì
xīng qī wǔ/ zhōu wǔ / lǐ bài wǔ
xīng qī liù /zhōu liù /lǐ bài liù
xīng qī rì /zhōu rì /lǐ bài rì
xīng qī tiān /zhōu tiān/ lǐ bài tiān
Chinese Time Vocabulary – Other Expressions You Should Know
There are also some important expressions that will be used when talking about time. Here are some lists for your reference.
Chinese Vocabulary for Dates
…… days ago
dà qián tiān
2 days before yesterday
the day before yesterday
the day after tomorrow
dà hòu tiān
two days after tomorrow
…… days later
Chinese Vocabulary for Weeks
number + (个) 星期/周/礼拜 + 前
……(gè) xīng qī / zhōu /lǐ bài qián
…… weeks ago
shàng shàng (gè) xīng qī /zhōu /lǐ bài
two weeks ago
shàng (gè) xīng qī
/zhōu/ lǐ bài
a week ago
这（个） + 星期/周/礼拜
zhè (ge) xīng qī / zhōu / lǐ bài
本 + 星期/周
běn xīng qī / zhōu
xià (gè) xīng qī / zhōu /lǐ bài
xià xià (gè) xīng qī / zhōu / lǐ bài
two weeks later
number +（个）星期/礼拜/周 + 后
…… (gè) xīng qī /zhōu /lǐ bài hòu
gong zuò rì
Chinese Vocabulary for Months
number + 个月前
……gè yuè qián
…… months ago
shàng shàng gè yuè
two months ago
shàng gè yuè
a month ago
zhè ge yuè
xià gè yuè
xià xià gè yuè
two months later
……gè yuè hòu
…… months later
the first few days of a month
yuè mò /yuè dǐ
the last few days of a month
1st to 10th of a month
11th to 20th of a month
days after 20th of a month
Chinese Vocabulary for Years
number + 年前
…… years ago
dà qián nián
two years before last year
a year before last year
the year after next year
dà hòu nián
two years after next year
number + 年后
…… years later
the first few days of a year
nián mò / nián dǐ / nián zhōng
the last few days of a year
shàng bàn nián / qián bàn nián
first half of a year
xià bàn nián / hòu bàn nián
second half of a year
How to ask date in Chinese?
After learning words above, you may have a question in mind: how to ask the date in Chinese? Here are some common sentence patterns for you to ask.
…… shì jǐ yuè jǐ hào?
What is the date for something (some day)?
jīn tiān shì jǐ yuè jǐ hào?
今天 是 几 月 几 号?
today is which month which date
what is the date today?
……shì shén me shí hòu
When is something (some day)?
huì yì shì shén me shí hòu?
会议 是 什么 时候?
meeting is what time
When is the meeting?
……shì nǎ tiān /nà gè zhōu /nǎ ge yuè /nǎ nián……?
Which date / week/ month / year will (was) something(somebody) do (did)？
hánjià shì nǎ tiān kāishǐ
寒假 是 哪 天 开始?
winter holiday is which date start
Which date will the winter holiday start?
……shì xīngqí jǐ ?
Which day of the week……?/What day is ……?
liù yuè yī rì shì lǐbài jǐ
6 月 1日是 礼拜 几？
June 1st is week which
What day is June 1st?
Try to read and understand the following sentences.
nǐ de sheng rì shì shén me shí hòu
When is your birthday?
wǒ de sheng rì shì qī yuè liù rì
My birthday is July 6th.
nǐ jǐ hào qù zhōng guó
Which date will you go to China?
zhè ge yuè shí sān hào
The 13th of this month.
wǒ shàng zhōu wǔ qù zhōng guó chū chāi le
I went China for a business trip on last Friday.
nián dù xiāo shòu mù biāo yù jì běn yuè zhōng xún wán chéng
The annual sales target is expected to be completed in the middle of this month.
nóng lì bā yuè shí wǔ rì shì zhōng qiū jié
The 15th August of Lunar calendar is the Mid-Autumn Festival.
wǒ míng tiān zǎo shang shí diǎn de huǒ chē qù shàng hǎi
I'll take the 10 o'clock train to Shanghai tomorrow morning
wǒ hé Steven jiàng zài èr líng èr líng nián sì yuè jiǔ rì jǔ xíng hūn lǐ.
Steven and I will have a wedding ceremony on April 9, 2020.
Whether you’ve struggled with telling time in Chinese or found it pretty easy, practicing it Chinese daily will help you get to grips with telling the time.
Every day we have to arrange schedules for ourselves or for others, and this is a good opportunity to practice speaking them in Chinese. So, the more you speak, the more perfect your Chinese will be! If you know any native Chinese-speakers, try and practice what you’ve learned with them.
Good luck and have fun!