What does vor in for example Viertel vor eins mean? Is it before, or is it to?

  • 5
    What is the difference in your opinion in English between before and to? Jan 26, 2023 at 12:40
  • Do you know that it refers to a wallclock time? Without seeing the context or without additional information we don't know what your question is anbout.
    – Bodo
    Jan 26, 2023 at 13:40
  • 2
    @planetmaker: As far as I know "before" and "to" are identical in meaning in a phrase like "a quater (blank) one." So I'm pretty sure the question doesn't really have an answer other than "both" or "either".
    – RDBury
    Jan 27, 2023 at 7:30
  • I don't understand the question. What is the difference between "a quarter before one" and "a quarter to one"? As far as I know, both are 00:45 or 12:45, depending on whether it's in the night or in the early afternoon.
    – Alina
    Feb 9, 2023 at 8:51

2 Answers 2


The English translation of "viertel vor eins" is "a quarter to one". But of course the word to in this phrase has the meaning of before. See here:

#2. When to Use ‘a Quarter’ and ‘a Half’
Like we said, there are 60 minutes in an hour. We divide our time in quarters and halves. It’s confusing at first, but it does make expressing time easier. At minute 15, we say it’s “quarter past”. Or we say, it’s “quarter after”. Both “quarter past” and “quarter after” are equally correct. So, when it’s 7:15, we say it’s “quarter past seven”. Or when it’s 1:15, we say it’s “quarter after one”. At minute 45, we say it’s “quarter to” the next hour. For example, at 5:45, we say it’s “quarter to six” (or 15 minutes before 6:00). At minute 30, we say it’s “half past”. So at 9:30, we would say it’s “half past nine” (or half an hour after 9:00). Again, please remember that it’s okay to say “It’s 7:15”. Or “It’s 5:45”. But you will definitely hear people say “It’s quarter after seven”. Or “It’s a quarter to six”. So I encourage you to get comfortable and confident expressing time in quarters and halves.


What you heard is written as

Viertel vor eins

So 12:45.

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