Monthly Word / La palabra del mes

Spanish that Works Resources

  continued from front page...

Expressions of TimeLa palabra del mes

NOTE:  The “dd” in the pronunciation guide is a tapped “r,” similar to the fast “dd” of the word “buddy,” and the “th” in the guide is the voiced “th” of “brother.” The “eh” of the guide is like the Canadian “eh?”, similar to the “a” of “gate.”  You should stress the syllable written in all caps.

Translations of “time”

There are various ways to translate the English word “time” into Spanish.  One way is with the word tiempo / t’YEHM-poh (time), which refers to time as an entity (El tiempo lo cura todo /Time heals all) or a commodity (No tengo tiempo / I don’t have time).  The word tiempo is also used to mean “weather” (¿Qué tiempo hace? / What’s the weather like?) and verb “tense” (tiempo presente / present tense). 

A related word is temporada / tehm-pohDDAH-thah, which refers to general periods of time or “seasons,” such as “opera season” (la temporada de ópera).

To ask about clock time, Spanish uses the word hora / OH-ddah, which means “hour.”  So, “What time is it?” becomes “What hour is it?” (¿Qué hora es?).  “It’s nap time” becomes “It’s the hour of the nap”  (Es la hora de la siesta).

Note:  Spanish that Works teaches how to tell time in Spanish in Lesson Fourteen. You may also refer to the “Numbers, Time, Day, Date” reference sheet, which is available in pdf format on the freepage of the website.  

To talk about an instance or occurrence of time, Spanish use the word vez / behss.  For example, “I read it one time” is Lo leí una vez.  “I have called many times” is He llamado muchas veces or He llamado varias veces.  

To talk about periods of time such as those specified in contracts, you can use the word plazo / PLAH-soh.  For example, “to buy on time” (meaning to make payments) is comprar a plazo.  Another English translation of plazo is “term,” as in “long term” (a plazo largo) and “short term” (a plazo corto). 

To talk about being “on time” you can say “to be punctual” (ser puntual) or “to arrive on time” (llegar a tiempo, llegar puntual, llegar a la hora). 

Finally, if you want to talk about having a good “time,” you use the expressions divertirse (to amuse oneself) or pasarlo bien (to pass it – the time – well). 


Here are some words to express units or durations of time.

segundo – second
– minute
– hour
día (m.)
– day
– week
mes (m.)
– month
– year
– decade
– century

un momento – a moment
un rato
– a little while
mucho tiempo
– a long time

Remember that to talk about doing something “for” an amount of time, you use the word por / POHRR.  For example:

por un día – for a day
por un rato
– for a little while
por mucho tiempo – for a long time
¿Por cuánto tiempo? – For how long? (For how much time?)

You can also use the word durante / thooDDAHN-teh (during) to mean “for” a specified amount of time.  For example:

durante un año – during one year, for one year
durante todo el año
– for the whole year, throughout the whole year


Here are some expressions of frequency of time.

siempre – always
cada día
– each day
todo el día
 - all day
todos los días
– every day
– never
– never
nunca jamás
– never ever
una vez
– once, one time
muchas veces
– many times, often
con frecuencia
– often, frequently
a menudo - frequently
muy a menudo - quite frequently

de vez en cuando
– once in awhile
un día sí, un día no
– every other day

Time now

Here are some expressions for talking about actions happening today, usually, or in the present moment.

en este momento – at this moment
este momento
–this moment
esta semana
– this week
- today
- now
– right now, soon
ahora mismo
– right now, right this minute
- currently
– usually
por el momento
– for the time being, for now
al presente
– at this time

Time in the past

These expressions will help you to talk about time in the past.

en el pasado – in the past
- before
- yesterday
– last night
 - recently
la semana pasada
– last week
el año pasado
 - last year
hace un año
– a year ago
hace muchos años
– many years ago
en aquel entonces
– at that time (long ago in the past)
en aquella época
– during that era of time
en el año 2000 – in the year 2000
cuando era niño / niña – when I, s/he was a child, when You (polite) were a child

Future time

en el futuro – in the future
- soon
en quince minutos
– in fifteen minutes
 - tomorrow
pasado mañana
– the day after tomorrow
la semana que viene, la semana que entra
– next week (the coming week)
el año que viene, el año que entra
 - next year (the coming year)
la próxima semana
– the next week

el próximo año – the next year
la semana siguiente
the following week
el año siguiente
– the following year
dentro de poco
– in a little bit
dentro de una semana
– within a week
cuando sea
- whenever
para siempre
– forever

Relative time

These expressions are used to establish the relationship in time between two actions or the relationship of an action relative to the present moment.

a la vez – at the same time
- before
antes de
– before (something else)
- after
después de
– after (something else)
- while
 - during
mientras tanto
– in the meanwhile
– then
 - afterwards
ya – already
ya no
– no longer
todavía no
not yet
- until
hasta mañana
– until tomorrow (also used for “See you tomorrow.”)
hasta luego
– until later (also used for “See you later.”)

Outside time

Finally, these are words to describe the timeless, or that which is outside time.

eterno – eternal
infinito – infinite

Thoughts for the moment

The following expression is most often used when someone is healing from something, but if it helps, you can use it when you find yourself wishing you could learn Spanish quicker:

Hay que darle tiempo al tiempo. 

Literal translation:  It’s necessary to give time to time.
Meaning: You have to give it some time.

And if you feel overwhelmed by Spanish grammar, just think - without time, there is no need for all those pesky verb tenses!  So, one way to eliminate confusion in Spanish (as well as in your life) is to “live in the moment.” 

¡Coge el día! / COH-hay ehl THEE-ah (Seize the day! Carpe diem!)

¡Vive el momento! / BEE-beh ehl moh-MEHN-toh (Live the moment!)

return to newsletter

visit the freepage

©2005 Elizabeth Almann - April, 2005 "Spanish that Works Review"

other lessons

learning on your own  / group orders  / shop online

library  /  school  /  community  / customer service / court / church

classesfor instructors / newsletter / clients  /  FAQ  /  free materials

The Learning Light
333 Lewis Avenue, Billings, MT 59101 Toll free:  1-866-391-8901 
Images by Alexander Almann ©2002