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Hvað er klukkan? If you’re not sure how to answer that question, this beginner post should get you started. Telling time in Icelandic is fairly straightforward, provided you’ve learned some numbers first. At the very least you’ll need to be able to count up to 59 🙂 One thing that is nice about telling time is that you don’t have to worry about any of the declensions of the numbers 1 through 4, since the accusative case is the same as the nominative for the neuter forms. Just remember to use the neuter forms when telling time, as shown in the table. Let’s review:

Icelandic Numbers (1 – 59)
1 eitt 11 ellefu 30 þrjátíu
2 tvö 12 tólf 40 fjörutíu
3 þrjú 13 þrettán 50 fimmtíu
4 fjögur 14 fjórtán
5 fimm 15 fimmtán
6 sex 16 sextán
7 sjö 17 sautján
8 átta 18 átján
9 níu 19 nítján
10 tíu 20 tuttugu

And for good measure let’s throw in zero (0) – núll n (-s, -)

In response to the question:

Hvað er klukkan? – What time is it?

let’s take the case where we are at the top of the hour. A few responses could be:

Klukkan er tvö. – It is two o’clock. (2:00)
Klukkan er ellefu. – It is eleven o’clock. (11:00)
Klukkan er fimm. – It is five o’clock. (5:00)

Here we are seeing the feminine noun klukka with the definite article:

klukka (f) – clock
singular plural
nom klukka klukkur
acc klukku klukkur
dat klukku klukkum
gen klukku klukkna

You can also respond using just the feminine pronoun:

Hún er fjögur. – It is 4 o’clock. (4:00)

For talking about a certain number of minutes before or after the hour, we use the prepositions yfir or í.

Hún er tíu mínútur yfir sex. – It is ten past six. (6:10)
Hún er tuttugu og sjö yfir tólf. – It is twenty seven past twelve. (12:27)

Hún er fimm mínútur í þrjú. – It is five before three. (2:55)
Hún er tuttugu í níu. – It is twenty before 9. (8:40)

Mínúta is declined just like klukka:

mínúta (f) – minute
singular plural
nom mínúta mínútur
acc mínútu mínútur
dat mínútu mínútum
gen mínútu mínútna

You can also use the words kórter and hálf:

Klukkan er kórter í sjö. – It is a quarter to seven. (6:45)
Hún er kórter yfir átta. – It is a quarter past eight. (8:15)

In English you typically hear half used in the sense of 30 minutes past the hour. In Icelandic it actually means 30 minutes before the hour:

Klukkan er hálf tíu. – It is 9:30. (i.e. half before 10)
Hún er hálf eitt. – It is 12:30. (half before 1)

There is also a more formal expression that you may sometimes hear on the radio or other news media:

Klukkan er tíu mínútur gengin í þrjú. – It is 2:10.

In this case what is being expressed is that ten minutes have elapsed since 2 o’clock, going toward 3 o’clock 🙂 Similarly you can have:

Klukkuna vantar tíu mínútur í þrjú. – It is 2:50.

Here we see the impersonal expression with vantar being applied to the time, literally the clock needs/lacks/is missing 10 minutes to get to 3.

This should be enough to get you started; picking random times and figuring out how to say them in Icelandic is not only good for learning how to tell time, but also for drilling numbers. If you prefer using a 24-hour clock, you can do that as well 🙂