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?
  • related: german.stackexchange.com/questions/3962/what-time-is-it
    – Takkat
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 15:18
  • Isn't this an exact duplicate of the other one @Takkat?
    – Gigili
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 15:22
  • @Gigili: not exactly - here it is asked for subtle differences in meaning or usage. That's o.k., I think.
    – Takkat
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 15:29
  • 1
    The first question, before asking "what is the difference" should be "is there a difference". Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 11:16
  • For the frequency of the use see Google Ngram Viewer. Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 18:26

4 Answers 4

  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.
  • 2
    Could you say "wie spät ist es?" even if its the morning?
    – John
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 5:36
  • 5
    Yes, John, absolutely.
    – elena
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 8:23
  • 1
    @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
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 9:41
  • 3
    @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? Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 11:15
  • 1
    @Tara: Of course you're right (see The_Fritz' answer), but they don't differ much either.
    – Landei
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 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?"

  • 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
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 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
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 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
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 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.

  • 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
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 8:31

I had a look at usage and (unless I am v mistaken) "Wie viel Uhr" hardly figures in usage. I never thought it was more "formal"... but I defer on that.

Here is the link

enter image description here

  • This may be due to the fact that it's spelled "wieviel Uhr", not "wie viel Uhr". As your diagram shows, even case seems to matter here.
    – Robert
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 22:13
  • All I can say is d'oh - what is the German equivalent?
    – BeNice
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 22:07

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