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Here are my questions:

  1. Does it matter when to use each of the two?
  2. Is there any difference in the literal translation of them?
  3. Are both of them correct when you speak and write?
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Isn't this an exact duplicate of the other one @Takkat? – Gigili Jun 7 '12 at 15:22
@Gigili: not exactly - here it is asked for subtle differences in meaning or usage. That's o.k., I think. – Takkat Jun 7 '12 at 15:29
The first question, before asking "what is the difference" should be "is there a difference". – user unknown Jun 8 '12 at 11:16
up vote 20 down vote accepted
  1. No, not really. "Wie viel Uhr..." sounds a little bit more formal, and hence might indicate that you want a more exact time specification, but this is just a very slight nuance.
  2. I don't think so.
  3. Absolutely.
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Could you say "wie spät ist es?" even if its the morning? – John Jun 8 '12 at 5:36
Yes, John, absolutely. – elena Jun 8 '12 at 8:23
@John: Landei & elena already said it all, but just to spell it out - "spät" in this context has really nothing to do with "lateness"; "Wie spät ist es?" is just one of the idiomatic ways to say "What time is it?" – Mac Jun 8 '12 at 9:41
@John: So wie man "Wie warm ist es?" in Novosibirsk im Winter bei -50°C fragen kann. Ein Extrem polarisierender Attribute dient oft als der allgemeine Fall: Wie schnell kriecht die Schnecke? Wie farbig ist es auf dem Mond? – user unknown Jun 8 '12 at 11:15
@Tara: Of course you're right (see The_Fritz' answer), but they don't differ much either. – Landei Jun 8 '12 at 18:35

Both have the same meaning.

Wie spät ist es?

Literally translated: "How late is it?" This phrase is more common.

Wieviel Uhr ist es?

Literally translated: "What time is it?"

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I would suggest 'What o'clock is it?' as a literal translation of 'Wieviel Uhr ist es?' It isn't a standard phrase, but one wouldn't necessarily expect that of a literal translation. – Tara B Jun 8 '12 at 13:34
So, actually it would be "How much clock is it?". However, it's nonsense, same as "How late is it?". That's why the answer isn't meaningful at all. – Em1 Jun 8 '12 at 13:53
@Em1: I agree that the answer isn't particularly meaningful, but John did ask the question, so it was worth trying to give a better answer than Landei's 'I don't think so'. I don't think 'How late is it?' is nonsense. I can imagine someone asking that in English, although probably only if it was late in the day. – Tara B Jun 8 '12 at 20:14

"Wie viel Uhr ist es?" is colloquial as opposed to "Wie spät ist es?" which is more formal. "Wie viel Uhr ist es?" is also used only in certain areas of Germany especially in the south. The meaning however is exact the same.

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I love how Landei's answer lists the Wieviel Uhr ist es? as the more formal (sounding) variant, while you state the opposite. I do agree with your answer, though, Wieviel Uhr ist es? always feels somewhat awkward. – Chieron Feb 16 at 8:31

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